Comments on When Values Clash

Thank you all for your comments. Four of them cry out to be
shared. The first is from Kelly Young, a long time friend here in DC, who is a
lawyer. The second is from Steve Paliwoda, who was an ATO fraternity brother at
UC Berkeley in the mid 60s and now lives in Alaska. The third and four—which
landed in my in-tray next to each other and both have things to say about the
Mormon Church are respectively from Diana Paskett, my cousin and the most
loving person on the planet, and Steve Lang, my English/Russian interpreter in
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova in 1992 – 96. Steve was such a good
interpreter that when translating my frequently given Monetary Policy 101
lecture, he sometimes translated statements before I made them. He later became
the personal interpreter of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oligarch who
built up Lukos Oil before being imprisoned (where he remains today) for gaining
Putin’s disfavor by becoming somewhat political. Putin’s friends have managed
to steal Khodorkovsky’s companies as the government bankrupted it with phony
tax claims. Steve remained in that position even after Khodorkovsky was put in
jail, but has now moved to Canada after the Russian government banned him from
entering Russia.

*****************

Warren,

Yep.  You hit the nail on the head:  the
fundamental problem here is the unnecessary involvement of government in
running universities, which necessitates political resolution rather than
private, market-based, and diverse solution-making.

Another problem, which you didn’t touch directly, is that
Hastings, like nearly all universities, levels a head tax in the form of a
“student activity” fee on all enrollees and uses.  It then uses monies to
fund such recognized groups, which it naturally has to define.  Hence, a
First Amendment problem akin.

Consistent with your argument, private institutions ought to
be free to decide whether to organize themselves by imposing such fees and
using them however they please.  The market will decide which systems work
and which don’t.  But there is a strong argument that even private
organization – especially one as large and diverse as a university — ought not
to do such a thing, as Berkshire Hathaway approximates in allowing each
shareholder to decide how the company spends his share-based portion of the
company’s allocation of charitable contributions.  Of course, as Friedman
argued years ago, corporations ought not even try to make truly charitable
gifts but simply return profits to shareholders to let them spend, save, or
give away as they see fit.  Unless the organization has a comparative
advantage in making such decisions or can reduce transactions by doing so, the
economic – but not political – argument is quite strong:  focus on your
mission, whether profit maximization, education, or national defense – and
avoid taxing, spending, and other actions that don’t advance THAT mission.

I made this very argument in the late 1980s when I was an
undergrad at UVA.  I wrote a bi-weekly column for one of the newspapers
and called for repeal of the student activity fee as an inefficient and often
unfair “tax.”  As you might suspect, I was roundly…ignored.

Thanks for making and sharing your points.

Kelly

******************

Warren:

Public universities represent our Government, and
our Government says there can’t be discrimination; therefore, all groups
associated with public universities must adhere to the values of the
university, which in turn must adhere to the values of the Government. 
It makes no sense whatever for a public university to provide on-campus
meeting facilities for (1) A local wing of the American Nazi
Party — which advocates, among other things, discrimination
against Jews, or (2) A local section of the Ku Klux
Klan — which advocates, among other things, white supremacy,
or (3) A meeting of NAMBA — the North American Man-Boy
Association — which advocates pederasty.

It is an easy trap for parochial organizations to fall into,
that they claim they have the "right" to bar from membership all
non-believers (and gays — even if they are believers).  Today,
such groups are dealing with questions that are not yet fully resolved by
the law.  For example, the law, as well as general public
opinion, are pretty clear and unified regarding such issues as
racial discrimination, poll taxes, women suffrage, child labor, vigilante
justice, state secession, and slavery.  However, we have yet to clarify
and come to terms with such issues as sexual discrimination, abortion,
terrorism security, and illegal immigration.  And before too
long, we will have to deal with such issues
as diminishing available funding for social security, medicare and
national defense.

While the above "laggard" issues are being
resolved in the courts, the law must be obeyed.  This means that parochial
groups that discriminate cannot, and should not, have the use of public
facilities, or receive public funding or backing. 

Steve Paliwoda     

******************

Warren,

I so completely AGREE with you, it is late so I shouldn’t comment
further, however I will briefly say that as my Christian Church, the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, AKA the Mormons, will one day, if we
have not already, come head to head on this very issue.  The several BYU
campuses, many campus organizations, our Temples which even our membership must
meet very specific requirements to attend are all at risk.  Many of our
students depend on federal financing – grants etc., we are told which holidays
we MUST celebrate, and HOW we must celebrate them etc. I am not well
versed on the subject, but I hear people who are – discussing the issues
with great concern.  I am afraid we are sleeping through the loss of most
of our freedoms.

Have a good night,

Diana

******************

Hi Warren,

Hope this finds you well.  Thought I’d toss in my two
cents’ worth on this one for a change.  But before I do, some sad news
from Kyrgyzstan.  I don’t know if you recall one of the housekeepers on
the foreigners-only floor of the old Dostuk hotel.  Her name was Olga, and
she was tall and statuesque and looked like a cross between Geena Davis and
Whitney Houston.  She was the only non-Kyrgyz among the housekeepers.
 Anyway, I know Dave Lindsey would remember her (I am ashamed to admit
that I still haven’t written to him as I’ve been intending for several years),
as would Isaac Svartsman.  Anyway, Olga had one son, whom she was raising
alone, his father having been a Cuban exchange student who had long ago
returned to Castro’s paradise, and she absolutely worshipped the kid.  He
was around 21-22 years old this year.  I’ve been in touch with Olga all
these years, and last week I called her to find out if she was okay because of
the recent disturbances there, as I had called during the previous ones, since
she lives only a few blocks from the central square and, being so obviously
non-Kyrgyz, would be a natural target for any racist violence.  She was in
tears within seconds, saying that the disturbances are nothing compared to the
fact that in December, her son was one of the passengers in a car being driven
by a kid his age, very fast, and it lost control on a bridge, rolled over
several times, and smashed into a concrete wall, killing everybody instantly.
 I can’t imagine what her life must be like now, after having invested so
much of her life energy into her son.  I then did a bit of internet
research on the accident, and learned that it was a new BMW, registered to a
humble 23 year old clerk in the city court (the chairman of which is Marat
Sultanov), who had loaned it to his buddies for their joy ride to oblivion, and
that he had been fined a whopping 300 som for having given them the keys
without having first drawn up the necessary documents for the transfer with the
road police, so he was in a way responsible for the accident, see…  In
the former Soviet states, you have to draw up the equivalent of a power of
attorney to allow someone else to drive your car without you.  By the way,
have you got a valid email address for Isaac?  I found some old aol or
hotmail address for him and wrote him about the accident but he didn’t respond,
so I suspect it’s an address he doesn’t use any more.

Okay, let’s talk about clashing values…

When I was a student at Cal State Long Beach, I remember
there being all sorts of special-interest clubs registered on campus, with the
right to hold meetings on campus property, post notices about events on campus
property, and hold these events on campus property, provided they followed all
the rules.

These organizations included all sorts of narrow groups that
one would think discriminated:  there were definitely Christian
"fellowships" and probably a Catholic society, GLBT
"alliances", young Democrat and Republican groups and probably
various socialist-leaning ones as well, a black student "association"
and comparable groups for latinos and the several varieties of orientals who
had big representation in the student body, etc.

I remember once attending some event and being given one of
those "HELLO" stickers to write my name and affiliation on, and I
wrote that I was with the Lesbian Buddhist Student Association, and ended up
getting some very angry looks from another attendee who, I suspect, was
probably a lesbian Buddhist student and was not amused.

But actually, my choice of fake affiliation illustrates an
important point that made all these groups legal:  membership was
technically open to everybody.  You didn’t have to be lesbian or Buddhist
to belong to my LBSA.  You didn’t need to be black to belong to the BSA or
pro-gun/anti-abortion to belong to the Republicans, or a Christian to belong to
the Christian "fellowship".  The question is, why would you WANT
to join a group of people you didn’t have anything in common with?
  But there were pragmatic answers to this question:  I know for
a fact that there were, for example, white guys who happened to be into
oriental girls who purposely joined the Asian Student Association or the like
just to get to meet lots of slant-eyed chicks.

The Mormons were different.  They like to be in control
of their own organizations, not beholden to the rules of an overseeing secular
institution.  They had a building off campus for all of their
extracurricular activities, where young Mormons could hang out in the safety of
their own kind and do all kinds of safe things together.  But even they
were open to outsiders!  I was actually a card-carrying member of the LDS
"institute" just off the CSULB campus and took Book of Mormon courses
there, and used their computer and printer, and their parking lot (which ended
up being cheaper than using the school lot).  And nobody kept me from
joining.

As an aside, in Utah, the Mormons have an
"Academy" building adjacent to every public school, where Mormon kids
go for an hour before or after secular schooling for some religious
instruction.  In Poland, there’s a priest teaching Catechism in most
public schools, but of course in the US that would be a no-no, so the Mormons
just build their own parallel schools right next to the public schools.

And, as another aside, one of the reasons the Boy Scouts are
as despicably reactionary an organization as they are is precisely because
they’ve been taken over (I mean this quite literally, at least in the US) by
the Mormons!  Every Mormon boy is a Boy Scout, the church sinks massive money
into the organization, and in return holds the majority of the executive and
board seats at the top of the BSA pyramid, where it sets the agenda for the
organization.  Mormon girls, however, do not join that dangerously rad-fem
lezbo-commie organization known as the Girl Scouts, because GSA categorically
told the nearly-dead old white men who run the LDS in Salt Lake City they could
go to hell when they came to the organization with an offer to richly fund it
in return for being given control.  And the Mormons are so misogynistic
that they wouldn’t let their docile and obedient matrons do the job in their
name – no, it had to be the MEN.

Okay, let’s get ourselves out of Utah already.  The
best way to diffuse a potentially dangerous campus organization is to flood its
membership with dissenters.  How dangerous would the Christian Legal
Society be if a whole bunch of leftist (sorry, like you, I find leftists to be
quite dangerous too, albeit less so than Christians) gay-tolerant agnostics
surreptitiously joined it, ultimately creating a large and vocal minority, if
not an outright majority, in the organization?  The only criterion for a
student organization (besides not engaging in criminal activity) ought to be a
firm insistence on open membership.

Such organizations are, indeed, discriminatory by their very
nature, and, as you correctly point out, that’s all fine out in the world of
private societies, as long as they don’t violate the rights of other people
outside their organizations.  But a public university campus would be a
far poorer place without its special-interest societies. Essentially,
prohibiting all these groups would create something no better than Jim Jones
University or Oral Roberts University or whatever Pat Robertson’s university is
called.  These schools also tightly control what kind of organizations are
allowed on campus, and permit only ones the administration deems to be
politically correct.  There’s no difference between that and a public
university only allowing pantheistic rainbow-coalition groups to exist on
campus!

Another aside:  How come White Student Associations
come under such fire at universities whenever somebody tries to form one?
 Why is it wrong for white students to associate AS SUCH?  Why is
"black pride" (or "gay pride", or whatever) okay, but
"white pride" is instantly labelled fascist/racist?  Why is it
okay to be proud of anything except being white (and male), and if you DO
express your pride in one of these two things you are, once again, a racist or
a sexist and very dangerous and probably another Timothy McVeigh?  And
even if these white groups DO believe whites are superior to others, how does
this differ from, oh, I don’t know… Black Muslims, or Muslims in general (who
are something entirely different from Black Muslims, who actually believe Allah
walked the earth seventy years ago), or CHRISTIANS (of all flavors!), who
believe they’ve got a monopoly on the truth and everybody else is destined to
roast in hell for eternity, and are not ashamed to let you know this?

Returning to the Boy Scouts for a moment, I find the
organization’s homophobia amusing, given that a) there is ample circumstantial
evidence to strongly suggest that its founder, Baden-Powell, was a repressed
homosexual himself (every Victorian was sexually repressed, regardless of
orientation…), and b) its real fear and concern ought to be the pedophelia
that I’m sure has always quietly existed in its ranks.  And if you really
don’t want testosterone-fuelled teenage boys to "turn gay" (I’m using
terminology the Boy Scouts leadership might use, which, naturally, does not
reflect my own views in the least), then it’s probably not a very good idea to
toss them together into close collective quarters running around naked together
and sharing tents together and what-not…

Back to the Christians…  You write that one of the
problems these days in distinguishing between private organizations (who can
deny membership to anyone they please) and public ones these days is the fact
that that evil big government has crept into more and more areas that used to
be the exclusive domain of the private sector through the evil of
"funding" (socialism creeping in through the back door?).
 Indeed.  While those super-fundamentalist universities in the south
(and Brigham Young in Utah) don’t take a dime of government money precisely
because they want to retain the right to bar negroes and homosexuals and
(gasp!) liberals, you’ve got plenty of mainstream schools (Georgetown,
American, etc.) that come from distinctly religious traditions but have long
ago sold out to the almighty dollar and become as secular as any public
university.

Which isn’t nearly as bad as the opposite trend, which we’ve
seen develop during the glorious reign of W.:  the government actually
seeking out and encouraging the formation of "faith-based"
organizations to give federal money to (but only approved faiths – I don’t
think they gave a dime to, say, Sikh or Shinto organizations).  When the
state actually starts giving money to organizations that are discriminatory by
definition (remember, any Christian organization, by definition, believes I am
inferior, whether they act on it or not, although, of course, there is a
fundamental difference between "prejudice", a belief, and "discrimination",
a behavior that acts upon this belief), it loses a lot of its moral right to
prohibit discriminatory organizations from asking for and expecting to get
money from the state, which brings us right back to the Christian Legal
Society.

And finally, a thought on school vouchers.  An idea any
true libertarian ought to champion, except, of course, that we then open up
another pandora’s box – who will determine which schools qualify?  Why,
the state of course.  This is already an acute issue in the US and
elsewhere in the modern world, when fundamentalist religious schools (of any
religion) fight to get accreditation.  Under a voucher system, they’d be
fighting for the accreditation in order to qualify to get state money, and here
we go again…

The knowledge that there are actually schools in Amerika
today that are teaching children creationism instead of science, and these
kids’ education is recognized as perfectly valid by the relevant government
agencies, simply scares me to death.  A former girlfriend of mine, who
always was into Jesus, has really gone off the deep end in her old age.
 She and her husband, both born-again musicians, have actually
home-schooled their five kids, and this is apparently a very big trend amongst
the fundamentalist crowd.  There’s a whole industry of teaching aids for
bible-based home-schooling.  One of this particular couple’s money-making
projects is making CDs of bible verses set to catchy music (think Sesame Street
or Electric Company songs, but with bible verses instead), as performed by
their kids.  These disks are then sold through the above-mentioned
teaching aids industry to help Christian kids learn their mantras, in between
learning about how Ezekiel begat Bathsheba and how first there was light and
then the sun and the moon were created a couple of days later.

Once again, I’m seriously scared when I contemplate that
there’s a whole generation of kids being home-schooled or Christian-schooled
today in an entirely different value system from the shared one you and I were
raised in a continent and a decade apart.  What will happen when this army
of reborn zombies has graduated from Christian colleges and begins to
infiltrate American society in ways that make today’s already alarming
infiltration by Christians seem like chicken feed?  And what will happen
when they clash with upwardly mobile young Muslim professionals, who will have
their own equally strong, but irreconcileably contrary views on who has a
monopoly on the truth?  I don’t want to be there when it happens!  And
it WILL happen…

And on that apocalyptic note, I bid you good night!

Steve

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About wcoats

Dr. Warren L. Coats specializes in advising central banks on monetary policy, and in the development of their capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy. He is retired from the International Monetary Fund, where, as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department, he led missions to over twenty countries. Before then, he served as Visiting Economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and to the World Bank, and was Assistant Prof of Economics at the Univ. of Virginia from 1970-75. Most recently he was Senior Monetary Policy Advisor to the Central Bank of Iraq; an IMF consultant to the central banks of Afghanistan, Kenya and Zimbabwe; and a Deloitte/USAID advisor to the Government of South Sudan. He is currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Cayman Financial Review and until the end of 2013 was a member of the IMF program team for Afghanistan. His most recent book is entitled "One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
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