Harvard’s grad students have launched a union campaign, and Harvard’s administration has launched its response. Internal documents from the administration to the faculty, which were leaked to me, reveal some fascinating developments in these increasingly common anti-union drives of elite Ivy League universities.

First, university administrations have grown highly sensitized to any perception that they or their faculty are using intimidation and coercion to bust unions of academic workers. So sensitized that they’ve drafted a set of four rules, replete with a handy acronym, just in case the faculty can’t remember to keep things cool.

The basic rule is: No “TIPS”

No Threats

No Interrogation

No Promises

No Surveillance

You have to appreciate the hilarity. Like most elite faculty, Harvard’s professor probably oppose a union of graduate students because they think it will sully the intellectual virtues of America’s most prestigious university. Yet here they are being instructed by that most prestigious university to oppose that union with the help of slogans and acronyms.

And believe or not: that’s the good news. The use of fear and favor can be fatal to a union drive, and it’s good that at least some portion of the faculty are being told not to go there. (Whether that message sticks once the drive really gets going is another matter.) What’s more, it shows how conscious Harvard’s administrators—really, lawyers (and probably not even in-house lawyers; there are firms that specialize in this stuff)—are that the law and the courts may not be on their side on this issue.

Second, and even more interesting , is how, having explained to the world’s leading luminaries of light and reason that they should not terrorize the workers and students with whom they work (and don’t assume these luminaries don’t need that explained to them), the administration proceeds to instruct the faculty in what they should do. [click to continue…]

David Brooks is fed up with the GOP. Today’s conservative, he says, is not yesterday’s conservative. What happened?

Basically, the party abandoned traditional conservatism for right-wing radicalism. Republicans came to see themselves as insurgents and revolutionaries, and every revolution tends toward anarchy and ends up devouring its own.

I’ve been trying to combat this argument by amnesia for years. As he has done before, Krugman valiantly takes up my cause today in his response to Brooks. Yet the argument keeps popping back up.

So let’s take it apart, piece by piece. Brooks says the rot set in 30 years ago, in the wake of Reagan. Let’s see how today’s conservatism compares to those loamy vintages of more than three decades past. The bolded passages are all from Brooks’ column.

By traditional definitions, conservatism stands for intellectual humility,

“The conservative principle has been defended, the past hundred and fifty years, by men of learning and genius.” (Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind)

“A successful defence of freedom must therefore be dogmatic and make no concessions to expediency….Utopia, like ideology, is a bad word today…But an ideal picture of a society which may not be wholly achievable, or a guiding conception of the overall order to be aimed at, is nevertheless not only the indispensable precondition of any rational policy, but also the chief contribution that science can make to the solution of the problems of practical policy.” (Friedrich von Hayek, Law, Legislation, Liberty, Vol. 1)

“Conservatism is in general the intuition of genius, whereas liberalism is the efficiency of talent.” (Elmer More, “Disraeli and Conservatism”)

a belief in steady, incremental change,

“Every little measure is a great errour.” (Edmund Burke, Letters on a Regicide Peace)

“The American people now want us to act and not in half-measures. They demand and they’ve earned a full and comprehensive effort.” (Ronald Reagan, Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on the Program for Economic Recovery)

[click to continue…]