Thursday, April 7, 2016

Kvelling in the Mises Library

Guatemala, via Pedrovisión.
Where did National Review's Jay Nordlinger go for his spring break?
When you see Adam Smith Plaza, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. You also see Ludwig von Mises Library. And Friedrich Hayek Auditorium. And, for good measure, Milton Friedman Auditorium. 
UFM has not forgotten Professor Friedman’s better half: There is a Rose Friedman Terrace.
Certainly wouldn't be all that surprised to see such things in Kansas nowadays, when I think about it. But it's Guatemala, of course, where else? And its rightwing wonks' paradise, the Universidad Francisco Marroquín:
The university was founded in 1971 by Manuel Ayau and a group of like-minded partners. They were Guatemalan entrepreneurs, and they called themselves “rebel improvisers.” They were fed up with the persistent socialism and poverty in their part of the world. They wanted to create at least an island of liberalism (for which Americans, with our peculiar vocabulary, can read “conservatism,” or “Reaganism”).
Socialism was so persistent in Guatemala, after the 1954 CIA-sponsored coup again President Jacobo Árbenz, that even the "White Terror" of the presidencies of Julio César Méndez (1966-70) and Colonel Carlos Arana (1970-74), massive US military assistance, paramilitary death squads, and the forced disappearance of students and labor activists (which was kind of invented in Guatemala) were unable to eradicate it completely. You can imagine how lonely and frightened Ayau and his fellow rebel entrepreneur jammers must have felt with all that socialism somewhere around, in the air.

So now in Guatemala City there is this academy of Reaganism:
As you can imagine, free enterprise is stressed at UFM. Stressed, taught, celebrated, and encouraged. Students get involved in start-ups. Also, there is a mock trading pit. It looks pretty real to me. (Not that I have spent much time in trading pits.)
Nordlinger's so infatuated with the place he's filed not only a more or less formal article on it but what looks like all of the notes he took for it, in four installments at the Corner, under the runninghed "Impromptus", speaking of rebel improvisers. He loves it because of its freedom, of course, as captured in the stirring words of the founder Manuel Ayau:
Peace becomes impossible to obtain when someone tries to impose common beliefs on all. It is sometimes said that differences of opinion are in themselves the cause of conflict and must be eliminated, by force if necessary, in order to preserve peace. I believe that the reverse is true. Conflicts occur where diversity of ideas is not tolerated …
Isn't that great? No obsession with political correctness there! Then again, elsewhere online, I found the university's policy on academic freedom:
The Board of Trustees, the highest authority of the University, evaluates the faculty from time to time in order to ascertain if that which the University teaches is in accordance with what the Trustees wish to offer to those who choose to enroll.
Professors are free to teach or not what the University requests. Those professors who agree to teach what the University wishes become members of the faculty.
Francisco Marroquin University recognizes the academic freedom of any faculty member to teach that which is contrary to the University's philosophy or its policies, as long as this is done elsewhere and under someone else's auspices. Consequently, only those professors who choose to teach what the University requires of them become and remain members of its faculty.
Oh, um, well. I'm pretty sure the most devastatingly politically correct institutions in the States don't lay it out quite like that. Actually I have a feeling Jay hasn't seen this text. "But look," he says, apropos,
But look: If our universities, thousands and thousands of them, are going to be dominated by the Left, what’s wrong with one classical-liberal university in all the world? How about ten? Even 20?
Fuck yeah! And in any case, every man is free to dictate the standards of political correctness in any university he owns, that's only fair. And if you don't own a university, whose fault is that?

the place is “ecumenical.” You have the Austrian school, the Chicago school, the public-choice people, the Objectivists, or Randians … For most of the world, that would be all the points of view from A to B, or A and a half. But, as you can imagine, the fights between these factions are ferocious.
I'll bet they are.

There are conversion narratives:
“There are two names that explain why I think what I think,” says Javier [Fernández-Lasquetty, the university's vice president]: “Thatcher and Reagan.” Javier was 13 when Margaret Thatcher came to power in Britain. “On TV, I saw this lady standing in the door of 10 Downing Street. I heard what she was saying. I thought, ‘Wow.’” The next year, Ronald Reagan was elected. That was another wow.
The 1980s were momentous, of course. Javier says, “Reagan’s clear position of not surrendering to the Soviet Union was very important. Very, very important.”
All other American presidents from Wilson onward had been so oddly ambiguous about not surrendering to the Soviet Union, so it was really special. "Yes."

OK, so the most interesting fact I was able to uncover about Universidad Francisco Marroquín is the annual tuition they charge, which ranges from $2,700 to $3,600, depending on the program.

Which may not sound like a lot, but contrast it, if you will, to the Guatemalan poverty line, an income of about $1,300 a year (10,218 quetzales), or less than half of the lowest UFM tuition. That, or less, is the total annual income of almost 60% of Guatemalans, because that's how many are below the national poverty line (defined as ability to purchase adequate nutrition but challenged for everything else). I can't really put the numbers I want together on this, because they don't seem to entirely exist, but given that the country is at a kind of extreme for income inequality as well as for poverty (it's like the Mississippi of Central America on both counts, with an extraordinarily high GINI of over 0.55 and an extreme poverty rate of almost 36%), it's pretty clear that almost nobody can afford to go there.

(There's a bit of a claim that they offer financial assistance, as far as I can tell strictly loans—crédito educativo—but they also live by the Magic Market principle that every unit of the school has to pay for itself, according to Nordlinger: "each department of the university must pay its own way — must earn its keep. Must stand on its two feet, financially.")

This place, in other words, makes NYU and Bennington College look like proletarian charity outfits. Its student body is as one-percent as its philosophy. No wonder Nordlinger likes it so much!

Toward the end, he offers
a little autobiographical note (as I do so often):
When I was growing up, I think I was led to believe that the capitalists — the free-marketeers, the classical liberals — were selfish, materialistic, and greedy. They preached a gospel of dog-eat-dog. Every man for himself. Survival of the fittest. “You’re on your own,” as our president, Obama, says (caricaturing the Republican party).

In due course, I realized that these people were among the most caring people on earth. They want people to be prosperous, free, fulfilled, and well.
That Obama is a piece of work, isn’t he?
That's Jay's autobiography. The story of how Obama is a piece of work. Obama is literally the central object in his experience of life.

But wanting people to be prosperous and free, fulfilled and well, isn't the same as caring, in the sense that the most caring are probably people who make an effort to do something about it, as opposed to those who dream of living in a tiny gated community of people who aren't suffering, even if surrounded immediately outside the bubble-skin by the most extreme want and distress. In the lushest tropical scenery, and with the most advanced police protection.

Foreign medical students at UFM ($10,800 annual tuition), via the University.

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