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Open Letter to Imprimis / Larry P. Arnn, President

Hillsdale College

Re: The Way Out

By Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.


While listing off various ways that a country can fall into despotism, Dr. Arnn claims to have found a solution, and I, for one, question the methods he lists by example as being insufficient because they do not get to the root of the problem. And I will claim that both examples he gives have the same solution, but I will get to that in a moment.

Let’s take a look at what he claims has made America close to becoming a despotism.

“To establish despotism in a nation like ours, you might begin, if you were smart, by building a bureaucracy of great complexity that commands a large percentage of the resources of the nation. You might give it rule-making powers, distributed across many agencies and centers inside the cabinet departments of government, as well as in 20 or more “independent” agencies—meaning independent of elected officials, and thus independent of the people.”

Fair enough, and I agree: Putting bureaucracies in charge of a country would make for too many laws or rules by which the citizens would have to follow under threat of force with fines or imprisonment for disobedience. But the question he does not raise is why should the government rule over the country in the first place; in other words, my words, should a country be one of free men sans force or fraud, or should it be ruled over by those who think they are better than others, and thus the others must be put down? The closest Dr. Arnn states as to the inappropriateness of so many busy bodies ruling over us is that he claims it is Unconstitutional, though he doesn’t state why. He didn’t even point out that such meddling bureaucrats violate the Bill of Rights, but he implies that so long as one’s rulers are elected, they can boss away and I disagree with this. The Bill of Rights was set up to protect our individual rights, which Dr. Arnn does not mention. Here is what I wrote in my opening paragraph of my essay on individual rights:

“Individual rights is a moral concept, the transitional concept between how an individual ought to live morally in the face of reality and how men ought to be treated in a social context. As Ayn Rand states it, a code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality. A code of morality sets the principles upon which a man will act in order to sustain his own life whether he is dealing with reality on his own or he is living in a society of other men. If a man has a personal code of values – those things which he thinks he ought to pursue to further his own life – he needs to extend that code to how he ought to treat others and how he thinks others ought to treat him. A code of morality applied to a social context is the basis for the Objectivist concept of individual rights. There is a sense in which morality is between man and reality, what he decides to do with his life in the face of alternatives that life offers; and other men as an aspect of reality needs to be taken into account or the process of being moral is incomplete.”

Without a rational moral code and no basis for what rights even are (as far as this one essay is concerned) Dr. Arnn goes on to blame the move to despotism on higher education with the help of Big Business and the media, which, in my view are simply scapegoating, especially since he is the President of a prestigious college and has numerous papers he has written and not the least of which is Imprimis. I think this leads him astray, as he is focused on the scapegoats as opposed to the real trouble spot and how to correct it. He goes on to give two examples of what can be done about this growing despotism:

“The first took place in the small town of Jonesville, Michigan, five miles north of Hillsdale College. In our state, as in most places where the lockdowns were enforced, businesses were crippled or destroyed en masse. Restaurants were chief among them. One of our local restaurants is a 30-year-old diner called Spanglers Family Restaurant. Mitch Spangler is the proprietor. The business was founded by his late father, and Mitch was purchasing the business from his mother. The payments to his mother depended upon the revenues of the business, and his mother’s retirement depended upon the payments. The life’s work of two generations was at stake. Mitch was also helping to support a daughter in college.”

He goes on to point out that this particular business (and many others) were caught up in the Covid-19 lockdowns and the business nearly went bankrupt until relief was found by the lifting of the first lockdown. However, when the second set of lockdowns hit, Mr. Spangler did not just shut his doors, but took health precautions (including a static fogger to kill germs and viruses) and told the world he had to remain open because he loved the business and had employees he was concerned about. Though he was visited by many health bureaucrats who threatened to shut him down, he persevered and his civil disobedience kept the restaurant open.

This reminds me of another heroic business which was faced with the same set of facts and reacted likewise following the latest CDC recommendations. Quent and Linda Cordair had been running a romantic realism gallery of sculptures and paintings for numerous years when they were locked down; but when the second set of lockdown orders came, Cordair Fine Art remained open in civil disobedience and campaigning against the lockdowns. They are still open.

Dr. Arnn’s second example of how to deal with overriding bureaucracy was basically parents versus local education after the daughter of one of the parents was raped by a transgender (who was permitted to use the girl’s bathroom):

“In schools throughout Virginia, including in Loudoun County, children are being subjected to critical race theory (CRT). This involves lecturing children, especially those belonging to the non-preferred races, about the “structural evils” of which they are told they are part. Being taught alongside CRT is a distorted view of the history of our country, which true enough has its warts, but which surely has its glories as well—including glories about equal rights regardless of race. Between fighting the armies of the English monarch, the Confederacy, the Nazis, the communists, and Islamic terrorists, something nearing a million Americans have died for the cause of equal rights. These Americans have come in all colors.

“Amidst statewide controversy over the teaching of CRT, the Loudoun County School Board also adopted a broad policy of recognizing “transgender” students in preference to their “biological sex” (excuse the redundancy).”

The parent of the child who was raped and after seeing that another girl had been raped by the same transgender decided to take up the issue before the school board; he was beaten up for speaking out against an obvious injustice, but persevered and saved his school from offering the same course and kept the transgenders out of the girl’s bathroom.

But what do these two examples from Dr. Arnn have in common? And since he mentions Aristotle, I will affirm that and also mention Ayn Rand and ask – what logical connection is there between these two examples besides standing up to government appropriately? Had Dr. Arnn gone into the issue of individual rights and the proper role of government, he might have discovered that government had greatly overstepped its grounds in both cases. Government is controlled force (counter-force against those who initiate force) so government has no business being involved in businesses or schools sans force or fraud. And that is the real solution – get the government out of education and get the government out of the market place, and that is the tie-in between government and a properly thought through Constitution. Had there been a separation of State and education and State and economics, these things would never have happened.