Since Reason began publishing two summers ago, the editor has received sample broadsides from campus and political groups around the country. Some are good; some bad. This month we display one of the best. Mrs. Litzenberger is no stranger to these pages—this is her third contribution in a year. Concerning the sell-the-schools movement that seems to be gaining some ground in California, Cheri reports two interesting occurrences: The offer of an insurance combine to buy the whole system outright, and the statement of a prominent San Diego New Leftist professor (and admirer of Ayn Rand's novels!) that the government should sell the system in order to "get politics out of education." —Ed.
I was shocked, at first, to hear SDS'ers, Black Panthers and our other self-proclaimed revolutionaries quote Chairman Mao's wisdom on politics: 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.' I was shocked because, for once, Mao had said something about politics which was absolutely correct.
Political power, as the dictator should know, is power over people. It is the power to restrain people from acting as they may wish to act, and/or to force people into actions they may not wish to take. It is the power to keep me from smoking pot, or to make you pay taxes for the Vietnam War or the Poverty War, or to stop both of us if we decide to rob the local bank, or to conscript us for national service. In the final analysis, political power is the power of the jail cell or the gun.
Government, which holds political power, differs from any other institution because it has a legal monopoly on that jail cell and that gun, a legal monopoly on the use of force. (For example: if someone stole my stereo and hid it in his house, I could not rush into his living room, point a gun at his head and demand my stereo back. Nor can I drag him down to the police station and force him to appear in court—only a policeman and a judge can do that. And that's a good thing—because not being Sherlock Holmes, I could be wrong about the poor guy.) The only justification for granting an institution such a monopoly is that it could then prevent anyone from arbitrarily initiating force against someone else. It could protect those who gave it the gun, and could serve as an arbiter in any dispute which arose between them. So long as government acted only as a protector and arbiter, it could perform a valuable service; it would be restricted to using its gun only against those who had already initiated force against one of its citizens, restricted, that is, to defense and retaliation. If you're going to set up a political gun, however, you'd better make damn sure that that's the only way it can be used.
Which brings us, by the way, to Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan's government, like all other governments in the United States (and the world), functions as considerably more than a protector and an arbiter. For example, it runs the University of California. Which should be none of its business—a university is for learning, not target practice. For in order to run the University of California, Ronald Reagan (and others before him) have employed the political gun not in protection, but in aggression against the citizens of California. They have been forced, by the California government's political power, to give up some of their earnings to support UC. (Anyone who did not give up that $$ would have it forcibly extracted from his bank account or would be detained behind bars.)
Notice: when one man takes something from another man at gunpoint, it's called theft or extortion. When a bunch of men get together and call themselves a government and do the same thing, it's called performing a public service. When one man works for another but has nothing to say about the product of his effort, and is not paid for his work, he's called a slave or an extortion victim. When the same man works and has part of the product of his effort taken away from him by a government, under threat of being jailed, he's called a useful citizen.
Anyway, so here's Ronald Reagan with all of his 'legally' extorted money for the University of California. Ronald Reagan says he believes (and I agree) that if you earn a dollar you should be able to say how it's spent. So he thinks the University of California, paid for by 'the public,' should be run in the manner 'the public' desires (except that they can't desire not to run it at all). But who, pray tell, is 'the public'? After long and arduous search, no being called 'the public' could be found. It seems that 'the public' is a fictitious personage, a general name for all sorts of different individuals. And, predictably, they have all sorts of varied opinions on what should be done with the University of California.
So here's poor Ronnie with all that loot, and all sorts of people—taxpayers, UC administrators, professors, and students, politicos of all colors, pressure groups of all shapes—fighting over who should spend it on what.
Which brings us to Angela Davis. It seems that Ronnie found a Communist (sigh—another one under the bed) teaching at UC. It also seems that Ronnie and the majority of people who are paying for UC, and for Miss Davis' salary and use of facilities, do not desire to pay her salary or permit her to use those facilities (they did, after all, elect Ronald Reagan). But Miss Davis, along with the remaining minority, want her to teach at UC; and they don't think Ronald Reagan should have anything to say about it. However, Ronald Reagan, a democrat at heart, believes in majority rule—and the majority, at present, has given him the political gun. He and his predecessors used that gun on the taxpayers to finance UC; members of the University thought that was just fine. Now he wants to use it on the UC faculty to keep them 'politically pure'—and my, how they squawk. Someone should have told them that guns can be pointed in a variety of directions.
Which brings us back to Mao Tse-tung.
Let's pretend, for a moment, that all schools were 'publically owned,' as they are in the communist countries Miss Davis finds so attractive. There, only people with Miss Davis' views can teach. Anyone else is prevented from teaching (or speaking, or writing) by Mao's political gun. If all schools were 'publically owned' in Ronald Reagan's California, then Miss Davis and those like her would be prevented from teaching by Ronald Reagan's political gun.
Now let's suppose that no schools were publicly owned. In other words, let's take the political gun entirely out of Ronald Reagan's hand, for a moment, and suppose that he was thereby forbidden to use it against the taxpayers to support UC, and consequently forbidden to interfere in any way with UC business. In that case, all schools would be private institutions. Miss Davis would probably not be hired at many of them, because her views are unpopular—many people object to supporting someone they believe is working to destroy them. But those who do not consider Miss Davis a threat, consider her a good teacher, and want to learn from her, would have the money they are now forced to spend on UC to pay Miss Davis. She could, in essence, start her own school, and no one, including Ronald Reagan, could do anything about that. (Of course Miss Davis could start her own school today, too, but since she and her supporters already pay taxes for UC, she should be able to use its facilities and they probably have damn little money left, like the rest of us, to start their own school.)
Now suppose, today, Miss Davis were teaching at a private school—only Ronald Reagan became the school's president. And suppose he was going to fire her for her political beliefs and affiliations. And suppose further that the students at that school wanted Miss Davis for a teacher, or objected to RR's policies. Those students could quickly put RR out of business—by withdrawing their tuition money and refusing to attend and therefore support such a funky school; by launching an anti-Reagan campaign with the school's financiers as well as with potential students. It would be possible, in short, to organize an effective boycott. The threat of such action might scare Ronald Reagan into submission (all of this assuming that RR is not open to rational persuasion on the Commie issue, but is open to rational persuasion on the matter of his economic solvency); but if it didn't, he would either have to go out of business or face a huge loss. Or even face the threat of competition from the new school the students built with their withdrawn tuition money.
Even if a minority of students disagreed with School President Reagan, and couldn't convince enough others to make him capitulate, at least then their money wouldn't go to support his highly questionable academic policies.
Today, UC students can do absolutely nothing. Even if they did boycott today, it wouldn't make any difference; because all RR has to do to keep his university running is to turn the political gun back on the taxpayers for more money.
So now what?
The people who quote Mao Tse-tung have one solution: take the gun away from Ronald Reagan and give it to someone like Mao Tse-tung, who agrees with them. Take over the university. "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun"—so grab it. This is, of course, what Mao had in mind all along.
Some people who don't think a whole lot of Mao Tse-tung but don't think much of Ronald Reagan either have another solution: take the gun away from Ronald Reagan and give it (peacefully and democratically of course) to them—give it to teachers and students at UC to use for "the good of everybody"—with them deciding what is good for everybody.
These aren't very radical—or satisfactory—solutions. Instead of just taking the gun from one person and giving it to someone else, why not take the gun out of the UC picture altogether. Don't let Ronald Reagan have it—don't let SDS have it—don't let Donald Kalish have it—don't let faculty "liberals" have it—don't let students have it. Throw it away. Liberate the university. If you want to keep politics out of education, you're going to have to make education politically free—to make it a private enterprise.
But what if then, you say, Miss Davis didn't have enough money to start her own school? Well, if she didn't, it would be because no one wanted to pay her to teach them. And surely you wouldn't advocate Miss Davis' forcing people to pay her to teach them or to listen to her, as is the case in the communist countries she admires. Besides, there are lots of things I want that I don't have the money for, and lots of things you want that you can't afford either. So what. So earn it. Just because you, or I, or Miss Davis wants it doesn't make it right for us to force someone else (with a regular gun or a political gun) to provide it.
Which brings us back to Ronald Reagan, who is seeing that we are provided with UC. Today, UC is public, and it's not likely to change right away (though someone has offered to buy it—can you imagine that? the whole bloody system). As long as it's a public institution, Miss Davis—and any other member of "the public"—should not be prevented from teaching in it, regardless of his or her political views. That is horribly unjust to all those who do not want to support Miss Davis and are forced to do so; and it is horribly unjust to all like Miss Davis who don't want to support people like me, a laissez-faire capitalist. That, unfortunately, is the way it goes when the system is inherently unjust—when its whole existence depends upon depriving innocent people, by force, of what they have earned.
Which brings us back to Mao Tse-tung.
We could throw away the gun, you know, someday.
Wouldn't it be nice to be learning in a school instead of a firing range?
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Mao, Reagan, Davis, and the Gun, the Gun, the Gun".