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October 2006



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All Maine Matters

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Vol. 1, No. 10      October 2006 FREE

The Professors Pitch In
by John Frary

Various professors are being heard from this campaign season and almost all of them are engaged in attacking conservative positions.

Let us take note, first, of Pseudoprof. St. John, Executive Director of the Maine Economic Policy Center. Christopher St. John is not exactly a professor, but he likes to present himself in professorial guise as an analyst of Maine’s economic conditions and policies. It is not obvious how his law degree and study of African history suit him to deliver judgements on economic policies, but his habitual response to the work of conservative economists is to dismiss them as conservative economists. He imagines this to be a debate-winning tactic---what you might call assassination by classification.

His habit is to represent himself as a detached and pragmatic analyst—an ideological capon as innocent of partisan allegiances as a mushroom. Speaking frankly, he is a phony. His personal record from college on identifies him as a product of the Left-wing Robot factory. I’d guess that he has never had an idea in his life that was inconsistent with whatever enthusiasms are occupying the left-lurchers’ minds at a given time. Read over his writings for any suggestion that such a thing as left-wing ideology even exists. You will find none. Does he expect us to believe that the economic debate is between conservative ideologues and the Truth. That fraud, alone, gives his little game away.

In truth, all debate over economic policy proceeds from either conservative or “progressive” assumptions. There is no ideologically detached position. St. John’s pretense that there is, and that he occupies it, shows him to be a crude and obvious propagandist. I do not argue that leftish assumptions are automatically false simply because they are leftish. Nor do I claim that calling an idea conservative validates it. Neither assertion can be logically justified. I do assert that it is silly to try to make debating points by claiming that your opponents are ideologically tainted while you dwell in the Never-never-land of detached Truth.

I certainly make no such claim for myself. I am a conservative---philosophically, temperamentally and genetically. This is not the same as saying that I believe there are no objective truths in the debate over economics. Consider Prof. Robert Heilbronner’s judgement on the planned economy. Heilbronner spent his entire career advocating economic coercion by central governments. Then the collapse of the Soviet Union forced him to conclude that the free market economy had, after all, proven its superiority in producing abundance. Mind you, he preserved his socialist faith by advocating government controls as a means of containing abundance. He ended by arguing that socialism was environmentally correct, i.e, it was suited to managing scarcity. That remains debatable, but the failure of the planned economy to deliver abundance may be taken as an objective truth when its most eloquent advocate concedes the point.

So much for the pseudoprofessor, now let’s take a look at Prof. Christian Potholm. This member of the Bowdoin faculty wrote a letter to the Brunswick Times Record denouncing Chandler Woodcock as a dangerous extreme right-winger with a hidden agenda. When the press revealed that he is in the pay of the Baldacci campaign, he protested that he was offering his opinion as a concerned professor, not as a hireling. Can the fact that his professorial opinion exactly fits the Baldaccianisti effort to depict Sen. Woodcock as the Mad Mullah of Franklin County be a mere coincidence? Well, no need to belabor the point. Nobody believes in Potholmian objectivity anyway.

Then we have Professors Vail and Hilliard with their column in the Portland daily defending Democratic legislators against the Maine Economic Research Institute’s (MERI) low ratings for support of small business. These two identify themselves as “economists working on Maine policy issues and as citizens wanting our fellow voters to be well-informed.” It appears that they don’t think that well-informed voters need to know that they are leftist in their sympathies.

Google around a bit and you discover that Professor Vail describes himself as a “progressive economist.” This adjective has been widely adopted by liberals, socialists and even communists to obscure their beliefs. I judge this pair to be socialists. Prof. Vail specializes in “socialist and post-socialist economic systems”. Prof. Hilliard was a member of a commune dedicated to living socialist and feminist ideals in his younger years. Whatever their exact beliefs, we can take it as given that they are not merely economists eager to inform their fellow citizens. They are volunteer propagandists.

Susan Feiner writes her own attack on MERI’s objectivity in the Lewiston Sun Journal. She too advertises herself as an objective spokesperson for the science of economics. This from a specialist in “feminist economics.” This from the co-editor of Radical Economics and co-author of Liberating Economics. Both works follow the time-honored Marxist tradition of denouncing the existing economic system while advocating vast statist interventions for the purpose of foggy, ill-defined transformations.

I have no objection to professors having their say, I used to be a professor myself But I do object to this pretense of detached objectivity. Let the debaters come to the forum flying their true colors.

Apart from the virtues of full disclosure, it’s instructive to find socialist economists springing to the defense of Maine’s Democrats

John Frary was born in Farmington, where he now resides. He graduated from U of M, Orono. He did graduate work in Political Science and in Ancient, Medieval, Byzantine and modern history at U of M., Rutgers and Princeton, completing his Masters degree along with all courses and examinations for the PhD. He worked in administration and as a professor of history and political science at Middlesex County College in Edison, NJ for 32 years. He is associate editor of The International Military Encyclopedia, has been assistant editor of Continuity: A Journal of History as well as editor and publisher The LU/English Newsletter. After returning to Maine he was chosen to be the conservative columnist for The Kennebec Journal and The Morning Sentinel. He was dismissed from this position in December for refusing to drop his criticism of the Dirigo Health Plan. He is currently chairman of the Franklin County Republican Committee.

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