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September 18, 1984 - Image 4

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-09-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

4

OPINION
Tuesday, September 18, 1984

Page 4

The Michigan Daily

Picking the lesser of two evils

4

By Brian Leiter
, Everyone knows that elections in-
volve the choice of the lesser of two
evils. Of course, in practice this simple
proposition often gets quite con-
fused-evils are sometimes hidden,
they turn up under goods, and they
don't fit neatly on any scale. Just as an
example, consider the following
hypothetical problem.
:Imagine that candidates X and Y are
running for the highest office in your
land. The following information is
made available to you:
CANDIDATE X regularly asserts
that he is the candidate of freedom and
individualism. In fact, Y makes a
similar claim: that he is concerned only
with freedom and the welfare of in-
dividuals.
Both X and Y support large military

budgets and in the past have used
military forces for imperialistic
operations in other countries. Both,
however, say these operations are
designed for the benefit of the
inhabitants of the lands in question.
Both X and Y support fascist gover-
nments in other countries.
BOTH X AND Y have questionable
stances on matters of political liberty.
X has made a number of attempts,
some successful, to restrict the access
to government files and at the same
time to give secret police forces more
freedom. Many of X's ideological pred-
ecessors are known to have used
secret police to subvert and persecute
select political groups. There is little
reason to think X opposes this. X has
made, in the past, concerted efforts to
keep politically undesirable people,
films and literature out of his land. X

has also made common cause with cer-
tain ideological groups and sects of the
supernatural within his society calling
into question his commitment to
pluralistic ideals.
Y'S RECORD is probably worse: he
is known to have put many people in
jail because of their political views
(some have alleged that X did the same
in an earlier public office). Y's com-
mitment to pluralism-in particular,
political pluralism-is highly suspect.
Both X and Y use dogmatic rhetoric
to justify their positions.
X has made it his policy to allow
widespread poverty, malnutrition, and
poor health care to exist. He has also at-
tacked public support for both
education and culture. The upper
classes have generally thrived under
his policies.
Y HAS MADE it his central goal to

eliminate poverty, malnutrition, and
inadequate health care. Y has also ad-
vocated considerable public support for
education and cultural activities. Y,
himself, is known to be a cultured man,
well-read and a friend of many artists
and lover of the arts. In a previous
public office, most of the people benefit-
ted enormously from his policies, quite
different from those of his predecessor.
He is thought to have overcome con-
siderable backwardness in his area,
though it is thought due to excessive
centralization. Under Y's previous rule,
the upper classes generally went
elsewhere.
Candidate X is Ronald Reagan.
Candidate Y is Fidel Castro.
Your choice.
Leiter is a graduate student in law
and philosophy.

A

4

Reagan Castro
...candidate X. . . . candidate Y.

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:

4

Substance lacks in campaign '84

Vol. XCV, No. 11

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

Not a noble business deal

THE University Cellar bookstore
celebrates its fifteenth anniversary
next week continuing to aspire to the
goal set for itself in 1969: providing
discounted books for students used to
paying excessively high prices. In con-
trast, the Michigan Union, which was
the U-Cellar's original home, is pur-
suing a very different set of
goals-goals which place the students
iterest "is secondary. U-Cellar has a
history of saving students money, the
Union management is concerned only
with making more money for the
Union..
The bookstore and Union have an in-
timate and stormy past. Two years ago
U-Cellar was forced to move from the
location it had inhabited for over a
decade when Union Director Frank
Cianciola slapped a 65 percent rent in-
crease and demand for $350,000 in
renovation costs on the store and
refused to allow the sale of Michigan
insignia items-holding the rights ex-
clusively for the Emblem Shop. Had
Cianciola allowed the sale of insignia
items, the bookstore would have been
able to offset the rent increase and
renovation costs.
The Union's charter defines it as a
center for the enhancement of student
life, so how could Cianciola have
refused to allow a student-cooperative
bookstore to remain in so ideal a

location? The convenience and low-
cost of such a bookstore was the per-
fect way to fulfill the Union's purpose.
Profit concerns, however, motivated
the management to take a hard line
and U-Cellar had to move.
At the time, Cianciola was "not in-
terested in getting into competition
with the U-Cellar" and saw the in-
signia income as "revenue necessary
for the overall operation of the Union."
But last week the Union announced
that Barnes and Noble, a nationwide
book firm, will be moving into the
building's basement later this fall and
that the rights to sell insignia items
would be turned over to the firm and
the Union's Emblem Shop closed.
What strange force compelled Cian-
ciola to change his mind? The power of
the purse. It is clear that Barnes and
Noble is offering a lot of money to be a
part of the Union complex, but that is
in the interest of the Union, not of the
students.
Instead of having a Union with a
cooperative bookstore, students now
have a Union with a nationwide chain
that cares little for the student's
pocketbook. The Union for students
should have the student's interest
more at heart and should respond to
something more than profit. The Union
should serve students first and make
money second.

To the Daily:
James McKee's letter, "The
fanatical basis of 'Leiterism' ",
(Daily, September 16) stands out
as boorish. McKee uses ad
hominem attacks rather than ad-
dressing the issue. Terms such as
"fanatic" and "pathological" do
not aid in discussing the issue but
rather influence readers suscep-
tible to accepting character
assassinations as valid inquiry.
Instead of Leiter trotting off to
the Gargoyle, McKee shouldz
write for the more laughably,
lame Michigan Review, where he
could perfect his William F.
Buckley mannerisms to the mirth
of his readers.
Easy isn't it? Instead of
duplicating McKee's tactics, I
prefer to discuss the three points
McKee himself raised. McKee
quotes Leiter: ". ..the elec-
torate could be fooled into em-
bracing an ideology counter to
their interests." Greater men
than I, most prominently the
members of the national media,
have noted the vast com-
munication skills of Ronald
Reagan.
Despite his many mispronoun-
cements (check the record), a
poll showed many Americans feel
that "he means well." So, it
seems that the issue is Reagan's
appeal based on personality
rather than ideology or issues.
Quite frankly, students on this
campus may be less sympathetic
towards Ronald Reagan if they
saw past gloss and realized that
he endorsed efforts to totally
eliminate National Direct
Student Loans (NDSL).
Similarly, minorities and other
concerned citizens might realize
that Reagan's signing of the Civil
Rights Act extension was a farce.
Although he had the gall to
proclaim the signing "a great
day for this Administration" in
front of Coretta Scott King, he
initially supported two conser-
vative amendments that would
have effectively gutted the bill.

McKee contends that Leiter
believes that most American
voters are "largely ignorant,
brainwashed, and functionally
illiterate. . . apathetic." Such
connotations again obscure the
issue. When McKee does quote
Leiter, the passage reads that
most Americans "lack the
ability and resources for a
critical understanding of political
policies." Strangely enough,
many political science professors
say the same thing. Surely,
McKee, it is not purely egotistical

elitism to suggest this when the,
majority of people in polls cannot
name their incumbent
congressman. You should be
glad, McKee, simply because the
ignorance of issues helps
President Reagan, who remains
strong on personal appeal rather
than substance.
As for the lost point, perhaps
Leiter did not offer a prescription
for the current situation. I will:
elect Walter Mondale and
Geraldine Ferraro on November
6th. If you want to learn about the

issues, call the local Democratic
office and ask. You'll have to
penetrate the Republicans'
glamour to see why they'd rather
not discuss issues.
McKee, you typify the
Republican rhetoric of this cam-
paign. Feel free to crawl back.
under your upper-class, white,
Protestant rock. If 'I want mere
propaganda, I'd rather go to the
top of your ticket and listen to
Reagan. He does it far better
than you. -Steven Kaminski
September 16

Criticism omits an explanation

.4

The author replies:
It is certainly gratifying to
receive thoughtful feedback from
one's readers. Unfortunately, it is
also rare as James McKee's let-
ter "The fanatical basis of
'Leiterism'," (Daily, September
16) demonstrates.
In the first paragraph of this
letter, I learn that my views are
not "enlightening," that they
resemble "the simplistic but ab-
surd views of a fanatic," and that
a more appropriate forum would
be the Gargoyle. Missing from all
this, regrettably, is a discussion
of the substantive claim of my ar-
ticle-that conservatism is the
ideology of the capitalist elite. All
we learn is that McKee finds the
whole thing "most unconvin-
cing." This sort of ap-
proach-writing off the whole ar-
ticle as "fanatical" without a
word of explanation-is sur-
prisingly elitist and condescen-
ding coming from a great anti-
elitist like McKee.
So what does McKee regard as
worthy of talking about? He
chooses, instead, to focus on the
last fifth of the article. The cen-
tral issue and argument here
were fairly straightforward. The
issue was how conservatism
could be a popular political
ideology if it really caters to such
narrow interests. Part of the

argument was that the electorate
on the whole is not very well-
informed or thoughtful in the
choices it makes. This claim
should not be confused with the
claim that people don't know what
their real interests are. Several
noted "fanatics" have held this
view-notably Herbert Marcuse,
Jurgen Habermas-and no doubt
McKee has accorded them the
same thoughtful attention he has
accorded me.
Nowdthe claim that the elec-
torate is neither well-informed
nor thoughtful is, I think, clearly
implicit in many of the familiar
complaints about American elec-
tions: e.g. thatnthey focus on per-
sonalities and not issues. McKee,
however, a worshipper in the cult
of mediocrity, is aghast!
"Elitism," he cries! But if it is
elitism then it is the same sort we
find in Plato'snRepublic and
which consists in holding that
some may know more about cer-
tain matters than some others,
that it is nonsensical to think that
everyone is equally well-
informed on all matters.
Perhaps McKee's real objec-
tion, however, is that he does not
think I know more about these
matters than others do. Maybe
this is so-but to prove this it
would be helpful to critique my
account of conservatism trying to
illustrate its ignorance. Of cour-
se, as I already have said, McKee

considers this task beneath hin
so once again his charges rest
only on the fact that he finds my
view "most inconvincing."
Finally, McKee objects to the
absence of prescriptions for our
society in my article. Their ab-
sence is attributable to space
limitations and to the fact that
the article in question was not
dealing with that issue. It has
nothing to do with anyone being
"reprehensible" since I do not
know, nor did I asseert, that
anyone is. But for McKee's
edification, I will offer a few now:
Democratize the economy. In-
crease public support for
housing, skills, training, cultural
activities, and, perhaps most im-
portantly, education. This
last-real educational progress
and reform-is, however, the
least likely because it poses the
greatest threat to America's
ruling classes. A populaton with
higher-order thinking skills
would see past the conservative
mythology to what lies beyond:
the,institutionalized perpetuation.
of inequality which has charac-
terized capitalistic society since
its birth.
On a somewhat lighter note:
although the content of McKee s4
letter is "nil", the style ais
humorous. He would do well to
take his own advice and submit
his next piece to the Gargoyle.
-Brian Leitei
September 16

Government has no rights

To the Daily:
About Brian Leiter's article,
"That malaise called conser-
vatism", (Daily, September 13):
Amid typical expression and
encouragement of class hatred
("rich, white Christian men"
versus the world, indeed!), cheap
political sarcasm (Republican
successes stemming from voter
illiteracy? C'mon! Besides, it is
not the poor-the supposed
Democrats-who are mostly
illiterate?), and classic self-
rightousness (the American
people are too stupid to know, as
Brian does, that they are being
duped by Ronnie)-opinions, I
might note, which are merely
irritable-amid all this, Mr.
Leiter makes one statement I
find intolerable and, quite
frankly, terrifying.
He says that government has
the "right to tax and regulate
himi Q" .(Good TLord.Mr.

that what you want, Mr. Leiter?
An autonomous state?
Please, be careful in your sen-
timents. I'd really like my gover-
nment to remain subordinate to
my People.
-David Skinner
September 13
BLOOM COUNTY

Letters and columns represent the opinions
of the individual author(s) and do not
necessarily reflect the attitudes or beliefs of the
Daily.

4

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