Social & Domestic Issues

HE LEGACY: William F. Buckley, 1951, ‘Harvard Hogs the Headlines’

Conservatives have just celebrated the 30th anniversary of the publication of William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale. Many might be interested to learn that this classic was presaged by“Harvard Hogs the Headlines” the first article that Bill wrote for Human Events after he began working here briefly before founding National Review  in 1955. Here from our archives is William F. Buckley’s “Harvard Hogs the Headlines” which first appeared in the May 16,1951 issue of Human Events.

As a Yale man, I think I have a legitimate gripe. Harvard saw the light of day 75 years before my alma mater, and has capitalized on this ever since. Yale has never lost the inferiority complex she got from Harvard’s abortive arrival on the educational scene. This must be the explanation of why Harvard gets most of the credit for nourishing the new, irresistible, mid-century liberalism—collectivism. 

Yale deserves just as much credit for it.

It’s true that Harvard does things more flamboyantly. Most of this country’s collectivists, admittedly, have been comforted and inspired, at one time or another, by the highly publicized speeches and writings of Alvin Hansen, Seymour Harris, Felix Frankfurter and the rest. Yale hasn’t counterparts of such notoriety.

It is also true that Washington has been inundated over the past 15 years by precocious statists who received their enlightenment in Cambridge, and that these men have signally influenced national policy. Yale lags behind in the infiltration of the bureaucracy.

But Yale goes about her task differently. She doesn’t make so many headlines, she doesn’t contribute so much grist for Westbrook Pegler’s columns, so many clerks for Supreme Court justices, or so many articles for the New Republic. But in a very real sense, Yale is more systematic. She goes about her task of collectivizing less ostentatiously. But let no one say that Yale is not pulling her oar, that she is shirking her responsibility to persuade her young men as to the merits of the Leviathan State.

Yale recognizes that the most important single springboard from which to launch collectivism is the basic economics course. Approximately half of her undergraduates enroll in “Elementary Economics” before leaving New Haven. And so it is here that much of the work can be done.

To that end, in the past five years, books by Samuelson (Economics: An Introductory Analysis), Bowman and Bach (Economic Analysis and Public Policy), Morgan (Income and Employment), and Tarshis (The Elements of Economics) have been used as basic texts.

Now all of these books profess respect for the institution and achievements of free enterprise, a tactic indispensable, at the present, to successful collectivizing. Socialism still has to be subtle. So it is only after calculated enthusiasm for our economic system that these text writers proceed to undermine the free market place. This approach is far more effective, in my opinion, than a hundred lectures at Harvard by Harold Laski. For he bore the label “socialist,” and his straightforwardness put many of his students on their guard.

Not so with the text writers of Yale economics (whose approach is adopted by most of the instructors). For it is under the banner of “the preservation of capitalism” that they teach the unwary student to forsake every tenet of free enterprise.

For example: economic equilibrium cannot result from an unmolested free market, and capitalism, accordingly, must be modified. “To set the responsibility for attaining and maintaining full employment on the shoulders of individual consumers or individual businessmen, is absurd” (Morgan). Individualism “is giving way to changing concepts of what is meant by true equality of opportunity in economic affairs” (Bowman and Bach).

Since we’ve seen that the American economy has got to change, some of its traditional superstitions have got to go. There is no “right” of private property, and the freedom to engage in business for one’s self “is not a basic freedom” (Morgan). And since there is no right of private property, the State must remedy the appalling inequality of income which “most Americans regard as inequitable” (Bowman and Bach).

Such income inequality, which seriously vitiates “maximum social well-being” (Tarshis) must and will be abolished by State intervention through taxation. This is a “generally accepted objective” of modern economics (Morgan).

Nor shall inheritance escape the egalitarian ax; everyone, after all, is “curious about the workings of an economic society that enables a few individuals to amass such large accumulations of wealth and power and to perpetuate them by inheritance” (Samuelson). So, by plugging loopholes and raising the rates, “there is no reason why we should not achieve at least the level of success of the British in increasing the productivity of death taxes” (Morgan).

Once the government has seen to equalization, it is only fair that it should also assume the burden of guaranteeing security to all its citizens. This is democracy at work, for “cradle-to-grave security has great popularity. If the private economy cannot supply it [which it cannot, the students are repeatedly told], naturally people will insist upon getting it artificially from governments” (Samuelson).

Thus we must have more and more social security, force separation wages, and a government guarantee of full employment (Morgan).

Unemployment can, of course, be offset by government spending—and it doesn’t much matter how the government spends just so it spends: “Wise domestic investment is no more powerful than ultimately foolish investment” (Samuelson). Morgan quotes the god of all our enlightened economists, Lord Keynes, who wrote that “Pyramid buildings, earthquakes, and even wars may serve to increase wealth.”

Those students who object to limitless government spending are quickly disabused of such reactionary objections. “The fear that increasing the public debt will make the nation go bankrupt is almost completely fallacious” (Bowman and Bach). “In the last analysis there is no problem, for the simple reason that the government controls the Federal Reserve Banks and can always compel them to buy government bonds” (Tarshis). Besides, the government “has complete power to issue new currency” (Samuelson).

So it goes, and the student is pretty well convinced, after the year’s work, that he can at last visualize a program for fortifying free enterprise. He doesn’t realize that this program involves destroying everything basic to the free economy—private property, production by private enterprise, production for profit and regulation by free competition.

Our economy is already mixed (i.e., the post office, education); we need only mix it some more. We can go as far as England—and even further, and still be a capitalistic nation, for even “when the British Labor Government completes the socialization program underway . . . some 80 percent of national production will still be in private hands, only 20 percent in the hands of the government” (Morgan).

There is not a deficiency in our society—social or even ethical—that remedial action by the government cannot cure. And we all know that there is no surer way to sensitize man’s mind to collectivism than to teach him to turn instinctively to Government as the agent through which all good is accomplished.

In more advanced courses in economics, although they are not as important because the attendance is smaller, Yale sticks pretty close to the same line—the “mixed economy” line, which is really bearing fruit. The Department of Economics is slightly troubled by three or four oldtimers who keep ranting about such things as “limited government” (anarchists, the lot of them), “the gold standard” (does Tarshish put them in their place! He compares the gold standard to a limburger-cheese standard!), the threat of authoritarianism in the planned economy (these boys never heard of economic democracy), and other such archaisms.

But they’re pretty old men. One has already retired. Another goes this year, and the other two within a few years. Their juniors know a good deal better than they.

To get back to Harvard: I’d pit the average Yale graduate of basic economics against the average Harvard man confident that my alma mater has turned out the more efficacious collectivist. For one thing, when the boy goes to Harvard, he is made aware, if not by George Sokolsky, then by his father, or uncle, that he is entering a hotbed of radicalism, with the result that many entering freshmen and graduating seniors are more critical of the theories passed on to them in the classroom.

But when a student goes to Yale, all of his friends and relations relax, because Old Yale is so conservative. The student falls for it, and readily swallows his economics lessons, and others, as the point of view of the right. If he is intellectually restless, he is more prone to move to the left than to the right, because so far as he knows, there is nothing to the right of Yale economics.

Occasionally, some Yale alumni do a little spade work, read some of the texts, get riled up and write in letters protesting the promulgation of socialist values. These few objectors can be easily dismissed as “fascists.” They certainly are not typical Yale men—the kind who remain Yale men under all circumstances, who never fail to come to the aid of Yale when called upon.

Only this year the alumni have launched an endowment drive of $80 million to meet its annual deficit. Assuming that Yale men are committed to maintaining individualism in America, this drive is like asking them to furnish the rods with which the next generation shall whip them. But, I don’t look at it this way. I prefer to think that Yale fundraising drives show evidence of genuine and disinterested altruism—typical of the man with the Yale degree.

Nevertheless, in this business of spreading socialist ideas, we do sit around and let Harvard hog the headlines.

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