Economics, Democracy

Stanley on Free Market Ideology

UPDATE: Make sure to read the comments posted below from Stanley, who claims I’ve misunderstood the thesis of this essay. His comments are entirely reasonable. In re-reading his essay after seeing his clarifying comments, the original essay comes across to me as more polemical than he intended.

Stanley provides a nice summary of what he’s doing here:

Here is the structure of the essay. Paragraphs 2 and 3 are about *what is to be explained*. What is to be explained are (a) why the policy preferences of elites are generally what are addressed by congress and the major parties (see not only Gilens and Page, also Lessig) and (b) the *rhetoric and propaganda used by politicians when they run for office* – this is what paragraph 3 is about. Here, in paragraph 3, I give three examples; Rick Snyder’s use of managerial vocabulary to justify the emergency manager laws, and Clinton’s policy wonkery, and Trump’s deal making lingo (I also, in previous versions, discussed the fact that we have ‘royal families’ like the Clintons and Bushes). Paragraph 4 says ‘why is there so little reaction to these anti-democratic features of our political culture?’ One reaction is that it’s all about power; citizens seethe against it, but plutocrats have the power. The essay argues that ideology and propaganda have traditionally some role as well. I begin the argument by presenting an example. The example is not supposed to be about democratic vocabulary. It is rather just supposed to be an example that demonstrates *how ideology can invert political vocabulary*; I don’t consider the vocabulary of law and order to be democratic vocabulary and was presupposing that as obvious (probably a mistake as I now see, as it led to misunderstanding). The example I give, at length, of how ideology can invert the meaning of political vocabulary has to do with mass incarceration. The vocabulary of “law and order” was applied through the filter of anti-Black racism, and what resulted was a misapplication of this vocabulary. It’s inconsistent with law and order to differentially apply it to heroin problems among Blacks and whites. In this entire discussion, democratic vocabulary *isn’t at issue at all*. “Law and order* is not democratic vocabulary, it’s vocabulary shared by many political systems and not specific to democracy. Paragraph 8 is where I turn to the specific issues I set up in paragraphs 2 and 3 (that’s why paragraph 8 begins with “But what is the flawed ideology masking the misapplication of democratic ideals?” – in other words, this is a topic I begin addressing in paragraph 8 and not before; hence, nothing in the discussion of mass incarceration involves this). I use free market ideology to explain distortions in our political culture. The main examples are things like “politicians targeting government rather than business as the main ways of restricting freedom”, “running for office like a CEO”, and defending education systems as efficient systems for producing job skills. Then I end up saying that in this election, we see I think citizens not being sucked in by that vocabulary, that they are turning against “free” trade agreements and the like, and we are now seeing a strong broad based reaction to free market policies. Is that more clear? In other words, there is hardly any disagreement between me and Brennan on the points he makes against this essay. Sorry for the unclarity in writing that led to these confusion

 

 

At Aeon.co, Jason Stanley published an essay called “How Free Market Ideology Corrupts the Language of Democracy.” This essay continues themes from Stanley’s recent book How Propaganda Works.

There’s a great deal wrong with Stanley’s essay. Here I’ll focus on just two problems, one minor, one major.

The minor flaw: Stanley begins:

Citizens of the United States are quite taken with the vocabulary of liberal democracy, with words such as ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, which conjure key democratic values and distance the nation from the Old World taint of oligarchy and aristocracy. It is much less clear, however, that Americans are guided by democratic ideals. Or that ideology and propaganda play a crucial role in concealing the large gap between rhetoric and reality.

In truth, the Old World systems have proved extremely difficult to shrug off. In their 2014 paper, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page argue that, as in an oligarchy, ordinary US citizens have no ‘substantial power over policy decisions [and] little or no independent influence on policy at all’.

Stanley should be careful with hanging his hat on this one study. The paper is quite controversial among political scientists, and there are a number of powerful critiques of it from equally prominent authors. See the Vox article here for a review of the controversy. Personally, I suspect Gilens’s earlier work, which makes less dramatic claims, is correct. But if, as Gilens thinks, elites have extra influence, that’s probably a good thing, as I briefly explain here and argue at greater length here. (Gilens himself appears to a bit torn about this. He wants to be a small d democrat, but at the same time, he thinks that elite policy preferences are superior to the policy preferences of average and low-income voters.)

The major/fatal flaw: Here’s Stanley again:

Voters concerned about government – as opposed to corporate – constraints on freedom are under the grip of what I will call a free market ideology. According to that ideology, the world of capital is by its nature free. All other substantial freedoms, including political freedom and personal freedom, are made possible by the freedom of markets.

Stanley goes on to blame this free market ideology for things like the War on Drugs, mass incarceration, and other bad stuff. (Wait, aren’t free market ideologues against the war on drugs and against mass incarceration?) One little problem is he doesn’t provide a plausible causal mechanism for how free market ideology leads to these things, either in the essay or in his book.
But the fatal flaw is that hardly any American voters accept a free market ideology. On the contrary, a large body of empirical work shows that voters are, well, mercantilists.  They don’t favor free markets. They favor protectionism, significant government regulation of the economy, strong welfare programs, restrictions on immigration, and the like. See, e.g., here, here, and again here. Or take a look at the General Social Survey, and note that Americans believe free trade robs them of jobs. While economists think immigration is awesome, Americans believe free immigration robs them of jobs, and that immigration does not fuel economic growth. While economists think import quotas suck, American favor them. Most American voters believe industrial pollution is dangerous, and they tend to trust the government when it talks about causes of pollution. Most believe international bodies should have the right to control and enforce environmental regulations. They’re slightly miffed about economic inequality, and they think we should increase taxes on the rich. It does look, at least, like Americans tend to think the economy is over regulated right now, but that doesn’t mean they think we should have a free market. (NB: If you click on the links to the GSS above, you’ll get an error page. But if you right-click, copy the link, and then paste it, it will bring you to the survey result.)

The irony is that the stuff Stanley complains about–the war on drugs, mass incarceration, etc.–are things that are popular with voters because they aren’t free market ideologues. If only they were! These kinds of policies are in fact popular with the median voter (or, rather, were popular until recently). Yet one thing we know is that if voters were better informed than they in fact are, they would simultaneously be 1) more in favor of free trade, 2) less supportive of mass incarceration and more in favor of progressive solutions to crime, and 3) less in favor of the war on drugs.

 

  • urstoff

    Stanley seems to have become the poster boy for vulgar progressivism as of late.

    • Jason Brennan

      He ran an ideology conference at Yale in which he only invited people with hard-left ideologies.

      • Jason Stanley

        I am excited and enthusiastic to engage with you. Others have suggested it as well. I think you have misinterpreted me here in this post in the ways I suggest. I think you and I have differences, but there is a wide swath of agreement. I’m eager to make that clear and eager to include you in subsequent conferences and discussions. Didn’t know you would be interested when we set up that conference.

  • IEIUNUS

    “Yet one thing we know is that if voters were better informed than they in fact are,
    they would simultaneously be 1) more in favor of free trade, 2) less
    supportive of mass incarceration and more in favor of progressive
    solutions to crime, and 3) less in favor of the war on drugs.”

    By “better informed,” what do you mean? How much better? Do you mean simply more information, or exposure to more data? Higher quality information? What about preferences from subjective interpretation of the information? I may be well informed of the facts, but I may also be dogmatic toward those facts.

    Suppose you’re right. If certain people were somehow exposed to better information, they would be more susceptible to enlightenment. Who would listen? There is a cost to information gathering, and more especially defeating information.

    What induces you to believe that from better information dispersed to the lay people, we end with better informed, less dogmatic free-market sympathizers?

    • Jason Brennan

      The particular study I link to examines how knowledge of basic political information–the kind of information tested by the American National Election Studies–correlates with policy preferences, while controlling for the effect of demographics.

      If we want to know how information affects policy preferences on a large scale, we can administer surveys where we track 1. what people want, 2. what they know, and 3. who they are. With that data in place, we can statistically simulate what people would want if their demographics remain the same but they were fully informed. Multiple studies using different data sets find that better informed people become more free market, if not libertarian. Gilens’s own work finds that too.

      • IEIUNUS

        Jason,

        Thanks for the reply. I really admire, and hope one day to aspire to, your type of work. Though, I am given pause when I think about Huemer’s webpage on publishing in philosophy, and your recent post on the usefulness of philosophy as opposed to, say, hard science.

        I wonder how many well informed political scientists, economists uphold libertarian or libertarian-esque belief systems. The latter more so I suspect.

        Perhaps economists are better informed than political scientists, and perhaps they are more likely to be libertarian or libertarian-esque as a result. And, further, maybe economists are even more better informed than most philosophers, than they are against political scientists. But philosophers like Anomaly, Zwolinsky, Brennan, Huemer, Schmidtz, and the rest of the philosophical Liberatii, who seem to have better understanding of contemporary economics than other philosophers.

        And, maybe people who are not disposed to critically thinking about these sorts of things (big box store retail workers, coal miners) , when given better and relevant information, will tend toward libertarian-esqueness. While, people who are disposed to critically thinking about these sort of things (poly-sci and economic PhDs), already exposed to the better information, will tend toward whatever developed positions they already obtain. PhDs tend to be more intelligent, and highly intelligent people tend to articulate away defeating systems of beliefs much better than less intelligent people.

        If what you claim sticks, we should find the best way to get poorly informed individuals, better informed.

        I suggest we use the mighty airforce of the United States to deploy airborne leaflets of Gregory Mankiw’s “Principles of Economics” over cities everywhere in the U.S.

  • Jason Stanley

    Thank you for the engagement Jason. But you have misunderstood my argument. First, I am *certainly* not blaming mass incarceration on free market ideology. My god. I mean, that would be crazy. I fully agree with your view that free market ideology has little or nothing to do with racialized mass incarceration. I am simply using Michelle Alexander’s analysis of mass incarceration to illustrate my theory of propaganda. In this case, the ideal is law and order, and the flawed ideology is *racism*. Definitely not free market ideology. I then proceed to give an analogous argument for the relation between freedom, and free market ideology. No claim about the relation between mass incarceration and free market ideology is made. Fully agree that libertarians should be opposed to mass incarceration, my goodness. Some have led on this issue.

  • Jason Stanley

    Secondly, the original piece was about a shift from earlier eras to this one. The whole point of this essay (see the final paragraph) is that voters seem less amenable to free market ideology than previous generations. I fully agree it’s an empirical issue how successful free market ideology has been over the decades. It’s enough for me that a sufficient number of elites present these arguments for them to be addressed. There is of course a long history of the ideology I’m discussing and its relation to democracy. I’m working from a lot of that history (like Sutton, Harris, Kaysen, and Tobin’s *The American Business Creed* from the 1950s, and the rest of the literature I use in the final chapter of my book). What I most care about is that if you attach free market ideology to the democratic concepts, you get the distortions of the democratic concepts I describe. I am saying that in this election there are a sufficient number of voters who reject that ideology that these old arguments aren’t working. This is the whole point of the essay. Originally, it was 2000 words, but I figured if I ended on this point people would get that (they made me take a lot of that out).

  • Jason Stanley

    Third, I am fully aware of the critical literature on Gilens and Page. One could also draw on Lessig here. Or one could draw on the specific examples I give, of rhetorical strategies that should not be democratically persuasive, from Rick Snyder to the present elections. Or that we seem to have royal families, the Bushes and the Clintons. There are a myriad number of ways to provide evidence that there are seriously non-democratic features of our political culture. I doubt you disagree.

  • Jason Stanley

    I hope you see now that the title of your post is unnecessarily provocative. There are many ways to argue that we have a non-democratic culture. I give many examples, of differing sorts – the existence of ruling families, the rhetoric politicians employ, etc. The point of my essay is that these strategies aren’t working anymore, so we agree with that as well. This was even more strongly brought out in the original version. And I certainly am not blaming mass incarceration on libertarianism. My goodness.

    • Justyn Ess

      @Jason Stanley – not to be dense, but I want to be clear about your thesis. I *think* it’s “The best explanation of our currently non-democratic culture is that citizens consent to policies which actually limit democratic freedoms. That consent is produced using democratic vocabulary that masks corporate interests.” Please correct as necessary.

      • Jason Stanley

        Here is the structure of the essay. Paragraphs 2 and 3 are about *what is to be explained*. What is to be explained are (a) why the policy preferences of elites are generally what are addressed by congress and the major parties (see not only Gilens and Page, also Lessig) and (b) the *rhetoric and propaganda used by politicians when they run for office* – this is what paragraph 3 is about. Here, in paragraph 3, I give three examples; Rick Snyder’s use of managerial vocabulary to justify the emergency manager laws, and Clinton’s policy wonkery, and Trump’s deal making lingo (I also, in previous versions, discussed the fact that we have ‘royal families’ like the Clintons and Bushes). Paragraph 4 says ‘why is there so little reaction to these anti-democratic features of our political culture?’ One reaction is that it’s all about power; citizens seethe against it, but plutocrats have the power. The essay argues that ideology and propaganda have traditionally some role as well. I begin the argument by presenting an example. The example is not supposed to be about democratic vocabulary. It is rather just supposed to be an example that demonstrates *how ideology can invert political vocabulary*; I don’t consider the vocabulary of law and order to be democratic vocabulary and was presupposing that as obvious (probably a mistake as I now see, as it led to misunderstanding). The example I give, at length, of how ideology can invert the meaning of political vocabulary has to do with mass incarceration. The vocabulary of “law and order” was applied through the filter of anti-Black racism, and what resulted was a misapplication of this vocabulary. It’s inconsistent with law and order to differentially apply it to heroin problems among Blacks and whites. In this entire discussion, democratic vocabulary *isn’t at issue at all*. “Law and order* is not democratic vocabulary, it’s vocabulary shared by many political systems and not specific to democracy. Paragraph 8 is where I turn to the specific issues I set up in paragraphs 2 and 3 (that’s why paragraph 8 begins with “But what is the flawed ideology masking the misapplication of democratic ideals?” – in other words, this is a topic I begin addressing in paragraph 8 and not before; hence, nothing in the discussion of mass incarceration involves this). I use free market ideology to explain distortions in our political culture. The main examples are things like “politicians targeting government rather than business as the main ways of restricting freedom”, “running for office like a CEO”, and defending education systems as efficient systems for producing job skills. Then I end up saying that in this election, we see I think citizens not being sucked in by that vocabulary, that they are turning against “free” trade agreements and the like, and we are now seeing a strong broad based reaction to free market policies. Is that more clear? In other words, there is hardly any disagreement between me and Brennan on the points he makes against this essay. Sorry for the unclarity in writing that led to these confusions.

        • Jason Brennan

          Thanks, Stanley, this was very helpful. I posted this and some comments above directing readers to look at your comments here.

          I did re-read your original piece with all this in mind. Perhaps I should have emailed you for clarification first. Still, even with your intended meaning in mind, the original piece comes across as insinuating a bunch of things you don’t mean to insinuate.

          • Jason Stanley

            That’s annoying. Just FYI, I have never argued, that free market ideology, or neoliberalism, underlies racialized mass incarceration. Racist attitudes are at fault, not free market ideology. Anyhow, the original essay was 2000 words. It was submitted in March, when it looked quite likely that the presidential election would pit Sanders against Trump. It was about how in the past, political rhetoric would emphasize efficiency, free markets, the positive role of wealth, and expertise, and how this was anti-democratic, but now voters have seen through this and are no longer attracted to free market ideology, and no longer taken in by such appeals. They wanted the essay to be a maximum of 1000 words but together we managed to cut it down to 1200. Mainly, I’m saying that a certain kind of political strategy presupposes free market ideology, and that strategy isn’t working anymore because voters are no longer advocates of free market ideology. But I agree, in the cut down it got too terse (and also Clinton won, Wall Street ties and all).

          • Jason Brennan

            Okay, very good.

            I read your essay as polemical and responded in a polemical way, and I regret that now.

          • Goose

            I dunno, his essay still seems rather polemical to me. Stanley engages in massive question-begging when he rails against the typical leftist boogeymen – Citizens United, free trade, “curtailing” collective bargaining, etc… – as obvious examples of corporations “curtailing” freedom, without really explaining how (or really defining “freedom” at all). Not only that, but the complete absence of immigration shows a catering to a certain subset of leftism: Those same neoliberal, libertarian, free-markerters are generally in favor of increased immigration, yet I don’t expect any forthcoming essay from Stanley entitled “How Pro-Immigration Ideology Undermines Democracy” wherein he argues that policy elites have shifted the discourse to associate border security as the sole limit on freedom. By the logic presented in his article, I can argue that immigrants also restrict the freedom of the working class.

            At a broader level, the point he’s making seems trivially true in democratic systems: Of course differing political parties are going to try and frame issues in ways that help them sway the populace to their policy goals. Just because you don’t like the outcome, doesn’t make it “undemocratic”.

          • Jason Stanley

            Thank you for raising the case of immigration, “Goose”. It’s a great one to think about. Yes, immigration restricts the freedom of the working class of a country. And your question raises the issue of the relationship between states and liberal democracy. It’s not clear that nationhood and statehood have a liberal democratic justification. So immigration is a really hard case. I just doubt that one can have a liberal democratic grounding for nationhood and borders.

          • Puppet

            That’s because it was polemical. Jason Stanley is a very good philosopher, but frankly if this essay is any indication he’s not a very good political philosopher. The essay was not systematically argued in anything you would expect from a philosopher; it did not have, all in all, the whiff of philosophy being practiced so much as of a highly intelligent author (perhaps a philosopher not presently wearing that hat) acting completely out of his wheelhouse as a political essayist/activist. It read, in other words, like Chomsky.

          • Jason Stanley

            I am sorry you feel that way. It’s a condensed version of the analysis of propaganda I give in Chapter 2 of my book. I think it’s a novel analysis.

  • Jason Stanley

    If I were a free market ideologue, i.e. a certain kind of free market libertarian, I wouldn’t be a fan of the system of democracy. My essay is devoted to bringing out the tension. I would instead favor a system in which efficient elites were leaders and ran things like CEOs. But this isn’t democracy. Explaining all this is the goal of my essay.

    • Jason Brennan

      Ah, got it.

      As it turns out, I’m pushing anti-democratic thought myself (or, more precisely, I’m pushing for us to be purely instrumentalist about democracy vs. epistocracy): http://www.amazon.com/Against-Democracy-Jason-Brennan/dp/0691162603?tag=bleedheartlib-20 I don’t see this new book as libertarian. As I say in the book, if you’re a social democrat, I’m trying to convince you to be open to being social epistocrat. If you’re a neorepublican, I’m trying to convince you to be an epistocratic neorepublican.

      I suspect the libertarianism just makes me less inclined to accept symbolic arguments for democracy and more inclined to be an instrumentalist about government. So, psychologically, I’m open to exploring this issue in a way others might not be, though the arguments and conclusions in the book are not libertarian.

      • Jason Stanley

        I’m very eager to read the new book. I’m a fan of your work, very interested in it. I get very often asked about the relation between our views. Obviously we come to diametrically opposing conclusions, but we seem to see the structure of political reality in similar ways. I suspect we just place normative weight in different places. I place the most normative weight on political equality, and am willing to make large sacrifices in efficiency (for example). But as far as abstract structure goes, we see things similarly (I think). Hopefully we will get to hash this out in interchanges in future years (I hope to write something about your new book).

      • Puppet

        This is a sideshow to the weaknesses of Jason Stanley’s essay.

        If “democracy” refers to the wielding of ultimate political power by the citizenry through some sort of collective, egalitarian method of decision making (Jason Stanley, like many, seems to include some sense of liberalism in the mix in an unspecified way), then of course no libertarian will have anything more than a instrumentalist value for democracy. If you can make the case that another system has better prospects for the peaceful endurance of a liberal regime, then go for it!

        This is not the crux of your disagreement with Jason Stanley, however. He does repeatedly speak of “democracy.” And he does, at one point, discuss the political decisionmaking process in the context of wealthy and corporate influence on it. And, since he is speaking of the influence that various types of rhetoric have on the democratic decisionmaking process, the whole discussion takes place under the presupposition of a democratic political system. But he doesn’t really pay much attention to the demands of justice on the distribution of political power per se. Instead he focuses on the justice of the ends to which that power is wielded–on whether citizens qua subjects are free or fairly and equally treated and so forth, rather than whether qua voters they are wielding appropriate amounts of political power. He’s mostly talking about liberalism, in other words, whether or not he calls it “democracy.”

        It’s in this light that we should focus squarely on the fact that Jason Stanley utterly fails to make much of any sense of his claim that “the free market ideology” is “the flawed ideology masking the misapplication of democratic ideals.” There are many things to say about this failure, but one is singled out by the very comment he made to you here. There is, in fact, utterly no reason for a libertarian to want his government run by its leader as a CEO runs a corporation. The fact that this would ever occur to him shows how little Jason Stanley knows about libertarianism. And, in fact, the subsuming of this sort of ridiculous thing into his toy “free market ideology” (“The world of capital is by nature free”) forms a substantial part of his essay’s argument, insofar as it is discernible.

        • Jason Stanley

          Being a libertarian myself, I found this comment kinda weird.

          • Puppet

            Maybe it is indeed weird, but I highly doubt you find it so because you are surprised to find yourself excluded from the extension of “libertarian” in some context. Your comments here put you miles outside the realm of libertarianism as commonly conceived in your native country, the United States; your comments on the Yale situation put you miles outside the realm of liberalism as commonly conceived.

            I do understand that certain political philosophies are in some sense foundationally libertarian despite being even further from functional libertarianism than you. The Marxist principle of “exploitation,” for example, has certain foundational libertarian elements. And as you probably know Chomsky, while not particularly accurate on his history, has a whole spiel he goes into about how Anglo-American libertarianism is a sham and an anomaly and not proper heir to the historical libertarian tradition on the continent. However weird this may strike better-informed people, he can rest assured it will never appear as weird as a self-described “anarchist” who sees the bourgeois state as the greatest extant ally of anarchist desiderata and wishes to enhance its strength and scope of action. Leninists are less statist than that.

            So in short, if that is the type of “libertarian” you are, then so be it. But I highly doubt we had an honest failure of contextual disambiguation here; I highly doubt you were honestly surprised to hear someone exclude your views from that term. And, I should point out, we are not talking right- versus left- libertarianism here. You are commenting on a left-libertarian website; you can take a look around for examples of what they believe. Two of your own comments, for example, “The weaker a government is, the more power corporations have over it…In liberal democratic theory, it is government that is regarded as the protector of such rights,” could scarcely cut closer to the joint on the distinction between libertarians (commonly conceived) of all stripes and their opponents. I’m not even a libertarian myself–just an ordinary left-liberal–and I consider the rejection of that claim to be central to my own political philosophy.

            I can explain a few further weaknesses of your paper if you want, but since you didn’t really reply to my above objections–you just called them “weird”–I’ll assume you’re not particularly interested. Who could blame you? My name is “Puppet.”

          • Jason Stanley

            I’m confused about what you mean by my “comments on the Yale situation”. I think that the vocabulary of free speech should not be used to suppress student protests, i.e. the vocabulary of free speech should not be used hypocritically, to suppress free speech. That’s a defense of liberalism, a defense of free speech, specifically.

          • Puppet

            Well, to reply directly to what you’ve just said right here with that…

            Speech itself does not have the ability, in and of itself, to “suppress” other speech (except by auditorily drowning it out, as has of course been done many times to “objectionable” speakers over the years). It can only be said to do so as part of a credible threat to commit a direct violation of another’s freedom of speech. Thus, if you say “Jets suck,” and I tell you I will hit you if you say that again in my presence, my speech is suppressing yours, because hitting people as a consequence of their trashtalking the Jets is a violation of your speech rights. If, on the other hand, I react to your “Jets suck” with “No, Bills suck, and so does your old man; you people are subhuman to me,” or whatever, I have not “suppressed” anything. Likewise if I say, “Your opinion is worthless and you should really shut up,” if there is no reason to think that this carries the threat of a fist to the face, I am also in the clear.

            College administrators hold the power to set and enforce campus codes of conduct, including to punish their violation. It is from this font that the potential of their speech to “suppress” that of others flows. When administrators draw up “speech codes,” when they contrast “free speech” with “hate speech,” when they set up systems of “bias incident reporting,” when they fail to immediately and decisively shoot down protester demands for any of the above, or even when they say things like “hate has no place on our campus” without explicitly clarifying that they are saying something benign like “boo hate” or “we will protect our students from actual violence and harassment, regardless of motivation” while being clear that they will, indeed, tolerate hate speech–under all these circumstances they can be said to be using their speech to suppress speech.

            Let’s take three things that have been said about the protesters: (1) That they are a bunch of spoiled, pathetic babies; (2) that they should shut the hell up and go back to studying; and (3) that their demands are outrageous and disgusting, and that they must be thunderously rejected out of hand by authority figures and society as a whole. I would say that (3), when applied to the “violent hate speech” and “we don’t feel safe” talk, is absolutely true; and everyone, administrators most of all, are not only permitted but morally obligated to varying degrees to say so publicly and loudly. I would say that (1) is true when they demand that the administration indulge their sensitivities by actually infringing on the rights of other students to spew hatred or wear blackface. To the extent that they just want to demonstrate their moral opposition to such practices, discuss their hurtful nature, and so forth, then (1) is false. But if a person, or even an administrator, falsely says that (1) is true in such a context, she may be guilty of gross insensitivity or even racism, but she is not guilty of “suppressing speech” in any manner. (I should point out that in point of fact, (1) is true of the Yale Halloween incident because none of the costumes worn there nowadays are offensive. But that’s not particularly relevant here.)

            Finally, (2) is both decidedly false and itself dangerous and repugnant. But the only party that can be said to “suppress speech” by the act of asserting (1) is the administration. National Review, let alone the commenters on their website or your Uncle Joe at the Thanksgiving table, does not do so with their abhorrent rhetoric; they merely reveal themselves to be un-American. When I myself denounce the campus atmospheres across the country, I am always careful to focus my ire on the administrators who indulge these demands when they have the obligation to reject them loudly out of hand. Being foolish and making outrageous demands is a bit of a rite of passage for young college students, I try to say; it’s the administrators who need to act like adults. However, again, Uncle Joe and White Victimization Commenter are no inherent threats to anyone’s speech; they are merely exercising their own freedom of speech to express illiberal and disgusting sentiments–just like the protesters!

            As you know, to make an idle claim of “free speech violation”–to declare that someone is being “silenced,” “suppressed,” “intimidated,” “denied a supportive atmosphere,” or whatever, when all that is being done to them is to confront them with disagreeing speech–is itself a manifestation of anti-free-speech sentiment! It is, in fact, the central whine of the anti-free-speech campus activist; this was true when the Right was waving around their “Student Bill of Rights” to not be “indoctrinated” by “radical professors” during the Bush administration, and it’s true now that it’s the Left’s turn to be illiberal. That, it would appear, includes you.

            This has been long enough, so I won’t comment on further anti-speech things you’ve said, including your tweets, but I’ll just say this about your overall message: You have explicitly opposed the claim that “Free speech is currently threatened on campus.” You are a highly intelligent man who is obviously highly interested in this issue. For you to have observed what has been going on in universities all across the country lately and come to that conclusion would certainly make it a reasonable call to deny that you are a liberal in any sense I’d use the term. If someone had seen with their own eyes the widespread police brutality that black and brown men suffer in this country, and still opposed the claim that the rights of people of color are currently being violated, it would damn sure be reasonable of me to consider him to be no proponent of civil rights. You commit an analagous offense.

          • Jason Stanley

            I’m sorry, but you have no idea about what happened at Yale. And yet you patronize and demean students who are much more intelligent than you are. They are students I know and so I feel some pressure to defend against these, disgusting, horrendous misrepresentations. The students that formed Next Yale started meeting well before any email about Halloween was sent; in September in fact. Their core demand was that Calhoun College’s name get changed. They made other demands that are entirely reasonable; to increase faculty diversity, and have curricular changes that reflect more diversity. These are perfectly reasonable demands. They defended them with intelligence, and continue to do so. Via stuff that you don’t understand and hasn’t been made publicized, they were vilified in the national media as part of a political attack on campus left wing movements by an organization whose mission is to hire more Republicans on campus. I can’t go into more detail about what happened to our students on the basis of absurd misrepresentations and false beliefs spread by a right wing national media and crazed folks outside Yale prepared to believe anything about students of color. But you know, read Down Magazine. Read Karleh Wilson’s recent piece in Boston Review. Just don’t talk about what you don’t know. Maybe *read what the students write* in Down Magazine, or when the publish articles, rather than getting your info from clearly biased sources. You have literally no clue what you are talking about.

          • Jason Stanley

            You are the one who is anti-speech, bringing death threats down on our students heads, forcing them into hiding, by misrepresenting what they are saying and mocking them. I can’t go into the threatening violent nature of what was directed against our students as the result of a national media misrepresentation. It was horrifying and it was disgusting. And yes, when you have to have police protection, and go into hiding, even temporarily, it does chill your speech.

          • Jason Stanley

            My contributions were quite literally responding a national media narrative that sent some people into hiding for *their speech*. One of our students asked one of the student newspapers to delete their article because of the violent threats streaming their way. In other words, they published something, and out of fear for their physical safety, they had to expunge it. The right wing media, FIRE, etc,, used free speech rhetoric (“protect free speech!”) to open the gates of hell on our students, when our students had a bunch of different demands that fully deserved discussion (and, as we have seen, have not met – as in the Calhoun case). Speech codes were never central to Yale student demands I have no clue what you are talking about. No clue.

          • Jason Stanley

            I did not define the terms of the debate. I took myself to be defending the claim “Free speech is not threatened by the fall student protests”. Before the debate, I told the debate organizers and others that if the topic was broader than that, such as for example Israeli politics was mentioned, I would switch positions. If you look at my contributions, they are specifically only devoted to defending the view that the student protests in the Fall were not threats to free speech. I didn’t go near the more general claim; I just argued that it’s ridiculous to represent the fall student protests as threats to free speech, since protests are manifestations of free speech. I took our opponents and my team to be talking past each other.

          • Puppet

            Ah, so free speech is only under threat from those who complain about the anti-Israeli environment on campuses, not from those who complain about the anti-POC environment on campuses. Well, it certainly looks as though you have no trouble at all addressing the free speech issue according to abstract, content-neutral principles, abstracting away from the matter of whether you sympathize with the content of the speech or not. I do stand corrected.

            Seriously now, was that fact actually supposed to impress the reader as a sign of nuance and reasonableness in your position?

          • Puppet

            The media narrative did not send anyone into hiding, and it is abhorrent to liberalism to hold them responsible for such a thing.

            To address a more nuanced point: Sometimes the press does respond to requests of this kind, to protect privacy. Those considerations do not apply here. Perhaps your students needed better education on what it means to be an activist before it made that decision. It means, inescapably, to stick your neck up and speak out. It means, by its very nature, surrendering privacy and anonymity. Our Federal court system even formally recognizes this fact. Nobody has the right to threaten your safety, and a truly liberal society will take seriously its duty to physically protect those with unpopular opinions. But no, you don’t get to decide you want to undo this decision, or dictate the terms of your own publicity.

            If you’ll notice, the paragraph in which I mention speech codes was not in the latter 2/3 where I discuss your actual comments and the situation at Yale. It was in the first part, where I was just setting the stage by giving general examples. I did not mean to suggest that you had insulted the Jets, either. (Although, to be fair, the things I mentioned have been frequent occurrences elsewhere in America. So, yes, it was a bit of a transitional paragraph from the hypothetical to the actual, and I can see how it would be confusing…On the other hand, in my defense, your remarks were not limited to the particular situation at Yale. And, as explained above, you have been dismissing the presence of campus threats to free speech in general. And these things are rampant. So that’s the relevance.)

            I will give Next Yale this credit: Theirs have indeed been one of the most moderate lists of demands that have been going around the country. Which is so, so sad, but it is indeed unfair that they get so much attention compared with the other maniacs out there crawling around our campuses. They get even more attention than the bats–t Concerned Students 1950 or whatever they’re called, and Mizzou is one of the most famous campus unrest sites out there!

          • Puppet

            Excuse me, sir.

            (1) You are not the moderator; you’re a guest here like me. I have no intention of “backing off” here unless told to, nor anywhere else.

            (2) Up to this point I was actually a little ashamed of myself, because I suspected my tone had been a little harsh and you’d been a lot more civil. But…wow. Juvenile insults, keyboard-gangster posturing…I think we’re both a bit old for that stuff, don’t you think?

            (3) I have not threatened anyone’s life or forced anyone into hiding, and I wish to make that clear because those are serious allegations. You either are explicitly libeling me, or you are illustrating my point with more clarity than I ever could (with my limited intelligence) by taking up a position of cartoonish illiberalism. Once again, from the top: Speech–even offensive speech–does not have the power to do any of the things you characterize it as doing. This is precisely what separates the advocate of liberal free speech from its enemy. It really doesn’t take much to smoke you out, apparently. Libertarian, huh?

            (4) You’re right; I don’t know what it’s like to be at Yale right now, and I don’t know what has been going on behind the scenes with Next Yale. I don’t need to. I was merely addressing the content of their demands as they state them (and not just them, but other protesting groups or students who have made the news). Some of these were highly commendable (emergency funds for 1Gens, etc.; food during breaks; dental and optical; more shrinks of color). Some were merely idiotic (e.g. renaming “masters,” finaid counselors for foreign students and illegals). Some were horrible ideas (e.g. race studies distro requirement); and some were utterly repugnant (Christakis removal, racial objective training, class racial climate questionnaires, bias reporting). I do not care what the context for any of these last demands are. If it turned out that the Yale undergrads had been through unspeakable horrors, all I would do is stay my hand in my judgments of their characters (they wouldn’t deserved to be called “spoiled and pathetic” after all). It would not make their demands any less abhorrent, any more than the demand that a rapist be tortured to death without trial would if it were coming from his victim.

            (5) And, in point of fact, I do know what it is like to be a Yale undergrad of color (Latino, as it happens–excuse me, Latinx). That was many years ago, in the dark days when America only had white presidents. It was not always easy, which is why I firmly support all of my fellow POCs’ demands that are consonant with liberalism and common sense. But no, I have heard absolutely nothing to make me think it is worse now than it was back then, and so my “spoiled and pathetic babies” comment stands wrt the unreasonable demands until I find out otherwise. To think that I, a man who has been physically assaulted because of my skin color on several occasions, including by the police, would need my delicate little ears protected from “hate speech” is insulting; I won’t tolerate the suggestion from a white man or one of my own. We used to want to fight the Man; now we beg the Man to make the mean, mean people stop saying hurtful things to us. Malcolm would throw up if he saw these fools.

          • Puppet

            Addendum: I did not read far enough down on this, I’ll admit. I’ll be (relatively!) brief here. Did your students receive death threats? Unprotected. Criminal. May those who did it rot in prison. Is “national media misrepresentation” responsible for that violence? Hell, no, and talk about “chilling.” I get shivers just from reading those words. Still holding to that “libertarian” label there, chief?

          • Jason Stanley

            Greg Lukianoff, head of FIRE, took the video of our student who lost her temper. He dwelled on her face at the end of the video. He kept it squarely on her face for several seconds. Within an hour the video was on FIRE’s website and seen by 50,000 people. He could have taken the video and not shown her face. That would have avoided what she went through, which was unimaginable (as any of our students will tell you, regardless of political orientation). It was a set-up for a media narrative that did not fit what was occurring on our campus. As far the ‘demands’, the central issues the students had been meeting about since September were discussions about curricular changes to incorporate more perspectives in classes, greater faculty diversity, and changing the name of Calhoun college. All of that was sabotaged to fit into a pre-existing media narrative that some journalists were using to whip up a frenzy. And yes that imperiled and endangered our students. Speech codes were not central to our students’ demands. Nothing about free speech was central to their demands. Their message was hijacked by the Halloween fiasco, when the core of Next Yale had been meeting since September. So yes I think the media not engaging or reporting what was happening on our campus was problematic. Next Yale was not challenging free speech. Something weird happened when the media targeted our students. It is fully legitimate for students to raise issues about syllabi and intellectual content. They have been completely misrepresented. And some of them have gone through stuff that, quite frankly, would lead me to suicide. So yes that makes me very upset. I am a teacher at this university. Our students should not be used as pawns in someone else’s political projects, especially when that brings down on them the kind of extreme internet abuse that some of them have suffered (and I also feel for the two faculty involved in the Halloween thing). It was a misrepresentation of what was occurring on our campus. My articles were about that misrepresentation. That misrepresentation represented students whose demands were to change various syllabi to reflect questions that had been marginalized, to diversify the faculty, and to change the name of Calhoun College, as being threats to free speech. Actually, free speech has nothing to do with those issues. Free Speech allows students to raise issues in a variety of ways.

    • TracyW

      Out of interest, what do you think is free market about running “things” like CEOs? Your suggested approach sounds rather centrally planned to me.

      • Puppet

        There really isn’t anything free-market about it. You do, of course, often hear pro-privatization arguments from libertarians–why is the government in the business of providing such-and-such good or service, when we know that private enterprise could do so much better?, etc. But this isn’t at all because the libertarian is particularly enamored with the structures of governance that private firms tend to choose for themselves. It’s because he believes in the efficiency of open-market competition, and of the profit motive to drive such competition; and also because he values the public freedom that arises out of a release from centralized control. There is absolutely no inherent reason that a libertarian would thereby favor a particular organizational structure for government for the functions that it does fulfill. To the contrary, the analogy that Jason Stanley sets up in his essay is not that between the way corporate executives govern their underlings and the way politicians govern government employees; it is between the way corporate executives govern their underlings and the way politicians govern the citizenry–and the idea that a libertarian would not be the first to be utterly repulsed by this is of course insane.

        What is undeniably true, of course, is that the American voting public has been quite receptive to the “elect a CEO” argument. This is, quite simply, because Americans have a very high opinion of the effectiveness with which businesses are run and a very low opinion of the effectiveness with which governments are run. Even when scandals arise that specifically deal with corporate management enriching themselves at the expense of the shareholders they are paid to serve (e.g. Enron), the reputation of corporate internal efficiency rarely takes a hit; you merely get an uptick in the same sort of populist anticorporate moral outrage you get when corporations screw over nonshareholder parties. I reiterate, when libertarians say things like “private enterprise runs things better than government,” it is not because they believe that private enterprise has discovered some sort of magic formula to internal governance that government should emulate. But the dumb*ss American public does.

        It is also true, of course, that Americans like to think of ourselves as pro-freedom and pro-free-market. And politicians on the Right especially (and recently especially during the “Tea Party” period roughly coinciding with the first Obama Administration) have made an art out of taking up the “free market” banner and eliding the differences between pro-free-market and pro-business. Normally this is about the ends of implementing a corporate-welfare agenda, but it can also be about the means of getting elected by promising to bring the aforementioned “businesslike efficiency” to government. This is an especially inopportune time in history for Jason Stanley to be conflating corporate management culture with “free market rhetoric,” though, because the latest CEO savior of government to arrive on the scene has had a very different rhetorical modus operandi. Donald Trump, unlike Mitt Romney and the like, does not publicly preach the moral virtues of corporate America and the utopia of a free market unrestrained by a power-hungry government. He has found wider support than any other politician across all sectors of the Right-leaning electorate (including the erstwhile Tea Partiers) by publicly preaching a very different message that is in some ways its opposite. Trump, being the world’s best CEO, was supremely effective and utterly ruthless in his pursuit of profit; now, he’ll be taking this same unstoppable single-mindedness to serve the American people–starting with, unlike the weak amateurs who preceded him, putting some CEO balls through the ringer if they try screwing over the public.

        Jason Stanley, who is supposedly writing a book about propaganda, could have written of how Americans’ self-supposed love for freedom and profound dissatisfaction with their government’s ability to serve their interests is perverted and manipulated into a cult of business worship that enables a corporate welfare agenda and even authoritarian governance. But that is not his agenda. What he wants to do, either by design or lack of insight, is to smoosh everything mentioned above into something called “free market ideology” (“The world of capital is by nature free,” whatever the hell that is supposed to mean) and lay it squarely at the feet of those who dare to question his absurdly contentious claims that “The weaker a government is, the more power corporations have over it…In liberal democratic theory, it is government that is regarded as the protector of such rights.” We would call those people libertarians, left- and right-, and observe that they have been the only consistent enemies of the oppression Jason Stanley spends the irrelevant first third of his essay ranting about. But Jason Stanley, whose cartoonishly illiberal view of the power of speech to harm people is on display in the comments above and in his writings elsewhere, considers himself a “libertarian” in some presumably foundational way that I have not figured out yet, so he does not employ that terminology.

        All in all, I was very disappointed in Jason Stanley’s essay. He is a fine philosopher of language, but apparently when contemplating political matters he does not write like a philosopher at all, but more like a political activist–and, as seen in the comments above, occasionally a rather childish one at that. This may be why praise for his book has come solely from journalists and activists and not from philosophers.

        You’ve got the patience of Job if you read this far, but I thought I might reply because I think Jason Stanley has probably moved on and might not reply to you himself.

      • Puppet’s Puppet

        There really isn’t anything free-market about it. You do, of course, often hear pro-privatization arguments from libertarians–why is the government in the business of providing such-and-such good or service, when we know that private enterprise could do so much better?, etc. But this isn’t at all because the libertarian is particularly enamored with the structures of governance that private firms tend to choose for themselves. It’s because he believes in the efficiency of open-market competition, and of the profit motive to drive such competition; and also because he values the public freedom that arises out of a release from centralized control. There is absolutely no inherent reason that a libertarian would thereby favor a particular organizational structure for government for the functions that it does fulfill. To the contrary, the analogy that Jason Stanley sets up in his essay is not that between the way corporate executives govern their underlings and the way politicians govern government employees; it is between the way corporate executives govern their underlings and the way politicians govern the citizenry–and the idea that a libertarian would not be the first to be utterly repulsed by this is of course insane.

        In short, there is utterly no connection between “free market ideology” and CEO-style leadership; the idea is beyond crude to the point of near-leftfield randomness. Make no mistake about it, though, it is clearly what Jason Stanley believes. As he wrote in the comments above, “If I were a free market ideologue, i.e. a certain kind of free market libertarian, I wouldn’t be a fan of the system of democracy. My essay is devoted to bringing out the tension. I would instead favor a system in which efficient elites were leaders and ran things like CEOs.”

        What is undeniably true, of course, is that the American voting public has been quite receptive to the “elect a CEO” argument. This is, quite simply, because Americans have a very high opinion of the effectiveness with which businesses are run and a very low opinion of the effectiveness with which governments are run. Even when scandals arise that specifically deal with corporate management enriching themselves at the expense of the shareholders they are paid to serve (e.g. Enron), the reputation of corporate internal efficiency rarely takes a hit; you merely get an uptick in the same sort of populist anticorporate moral outrage you get when corporations screw over nonshareholder parties. I reiterate, when libertarians say things like “private enterprise runs things better than government,” it is not because they believe that private enterprise has discovered some sort of magic formula to internal governance that government should emulate. But the American public, all too often, does believe that.

        It is also true, of course, that Americans like to think of ourselves as pro-freedom and pro-free-market. And politicians on the Right especially (and recently especially during the “Tea Party” period roughly coinciding with the first Obama Administration) have made an art out of taking up the “free market” banner and eliding the differences between pro-free-market and pro-business. Normally this is about the ends of implementing a corporate-welfare agenda, but it can also be about the means of getting elected by promising to bring the aforementioned “businesslike efficiency” to government. This is an especially inopportune time in history for Jason Stanley to be conflating corporate management culture with “free market ideology,” though, because the latest CEO savior of government to arrive on the scene has had a very different rhetorical modus operandi. Donald Trump, unlike Mitt Romney and the like, does not publicly preach the moral virtues of corporate America and the utopia of a free market unrestrained by a power-hungry government. He has found wider support than any other politician across all sectors of the Right-leaning electorate (including the erstwhile Tea Partiers) by publicly preaching a very different message that is in some ways its opposite. Trump, being the world’s best CEO, was supremely effective and utterly ruthless in his pursuit of profit; now, he’ll be taking this same unstoppable single-mindedness to serve the American people–starting with, unlike the weak amateurs who preceded him, putting some CEO balls through the wringer if they try screwing over the public.

        Jason Stanley, who is supposedly writing a book about propaganda, could have written of how Americans’ self-supposed love for freedom and profound dissatisfaction with their government’s ability to serve their interests is perverted and manipulated into a cult of business worship that enables a corporate welfare agenda and even authoritarian governance. But that is not his agenda. What he wants to do, either by design or lack of insight, is to smoosh everything mentioned above into something called “free market ideology” (“The world of capital is by nature free,” whatever the hell that is supposed to mean) and lay it squarely at the feet of those who dare to question his absurdly contentious claims that “The weaker a government is, the more power corporations have over it…In liberal democratic theory, it is government that is regarded as the protector of such rights.” Among the people who have noticed that both history and present would beg to differ are those we call libertarians (left- and right-), and observe that they have been the only consistent enemies of the oppression Jason Stanley spends the irrelevant first third of his essay ranting about. But Jason Stanley, whose cartoonishly illiberal view of the power of speech to harm people is on display in the comments above and in his writings elsewhere, considers himself a “libertarian” in some presumably foundational way that I have not figured out yet, so he does not employ that terminology.

        All in all, I was very disappointed in Jason Stanley’s essay. He is a fine philosopher of language, but apparently when contemplating political matters he does not write like a philosopher at all, but more like a political activist–and, as seen in the comments above, occasionally a rather childish one at that. That may be why praise for his book has come solely from activists, journalists, and “writers,” and not from his fellow philosophers.

        You’ve got the patience of Job if you read this far, but I thought I might reply because I think Jason Stanley has probably moved on and might not reply to you himself.

        • Jason Stanley

          I now realize my article must have been terribly written. You write: “Jason Stanley…could have written of how Americans’ self-supposed love for freedom and profound dissatisfaction with their government’s ability to serve their interests is perverted and manipulated into a cult of business worship that enables a corporate welfare agenda and even authoritarian governance.” That is a perfect summary of what my article argues. In fact, reading your comment I found myself in deep agreement with you. I think I am guilty of poorly expressing my ideas, in too condensed a form, and choosing the wrong vocabulary. I should have chosen “the American business creed”, which is a title of the book from the 1950s that is one of the many works on the almost explicit development of this ideology starting in the early 20th century (see the final chapter in my book). I should not have named this ideology with the expression “free market ideology”. This comment, which nicely articulates all the central points of my article, shows that we agree. I suspect that I am partially at fault for poor choice of vocabulary. But I also think you may be reading me uncharitably; after all, what you say I should have argued is exactly what I am arguing. And you agree with me that Americans have made these conflations. I suspect that you read my article uncharitably because of my pieces about the Yale situation; my support for our students at Yale has you annoyed at me. Given our wide basis of agreement, I can only, perhaps in vain, predict that if you were in my position, you would also see that our students were misrepresented in a terribly unjust way. Protesting for a more diverse faculty, for a restructuring of syllabi to reflect more voices, and to change the name of Calhoun College, is not a violation of free speech. That was the point of my articles on the matter. Perhaps we can set aside our disagreements about Yale – the Halloween stuff was an irrelevant side show to the real issues, which continue – and focus on the article I wrote, which argues (perhaps too tersely, perhaps with misleading vocabulary) for precisely what you say I should be arguing for.

        • Jason Stanley

          I now realize I should have called it “business ideology”.

      • Jason Stanley

        Thank you for this question. I agree with your point. I think there is nothing free market about “running things like CEOs”. I can see that my use of “free market ideology” was a poor choice of terminology. The term “neo-liberalism” would be more apt. But my experience is that using the expression “neo-liberalism” is subject to misinterpretation. In a radio interview when I used the term “neo-liberalism”, people thought I was talking about socialism. Another expression that has been used in the long 20th century literature on this topic is “the American business creed”. The point of my article is that it’s not libertarianism; it’s because Americans have in the past (but less so now) adhered to it that the *language* of libertarianism has been distorted and ends up conveying something that runs against libertarianism. So the “free market” in “free market ideology” was supposed to be not genuine, but how that flawed ideology is sold. So, my definition of undermining propaganda is that it’s an argument that uses an ideal in favor of a goal that runs counter to that ideal. My book is an analysis of how undermining propaganda works. It requires a flawed ideology. My article is an explanation of how a worthy ideal, libertarianism, has been distorted by Americans being receptive to a flawed ideology that CEOs represent libertarian values. They don’t, that’s the point of my article (so I agree with you). If you filter libertarianism through the lense of an ideology that says ‘run things like CEOs’ you get something that runs counter to libertarianism. And so the language of libertarianism is used propagandistically. That’s the analysis I’m arguing for, and it relies on the assumption that running things like CEOs runs counter to any notion of freedom connected to libertarianism (which is why what results when libertarianism is filtered through this lense is something that isn’t libertarianism).