All Rights, But No Freedom

Professor Judith Blau doesn’t like the U.S. Constitution. She has even written a book called Justice in the United States: Human Rights and the Constitution, detailing its shortcomings in light of the supposedly superior documents in the rest of the world. She is certainly within her rights as a citizen to criticize the Constitution.

She also doesn’t like capitalism. She has long declared her preference for societies with a collective emphasis that stress equality over individual opportunity.

And she doesn’t seem to like the United States very much. For example, she recently said, “I’m ashamed to be a citizen of the country with the highest incarceration rates in the world [meaning the U.S.].” That opinion is also not a problem. This is a free country; people have the right to speak their minds.

The question is whether it’s within the scope of her position as a sociology professor at UNC-Chapel Hill to have her students hold a mock constitutional convention based on her assumption that our constitution is an inferior document. And whether she should suggest that they can improve the Constitution by eliminating many guarantees to individual freedom while incorporating what appears to be a radical left agenda? The convention featured speakers representing a wide spectrum of left-wing academics, politicians and activists, some of whom are actively seeking recruits for their causes.

And is it ethical for her to proselytize her own radical beliefs with no rebuttal or opposing opinions presented? In this endeavor, she does not appear to be teaching academic sociology as much as guiding her students toward a particular political ideology.

This constitutional convention took place on December 1 in Manning Hall on the UNC campus. Approximately 50 or 60 students were involved; they were either enrolled in Sociology 131: Social Relations in the Workplace or Sociology 273: Social and Economic Justice. Both classes are taught by Blau. The students’ constitution was written “based on their analysis of other countries’ constitutions and close study of international human rights law and doctrine.”

The constitution’s preamble reveals the convention’s collectivist agenda, with clauses stating “all humans are interconnected and have a responsibility to act for the common good of all people,” and “working for collective rights will create a more harmonious society.”

The main body of the constitution consisted of 46 articles or basic rights, many with more specific rights included. They were presented ceremoniously at the convention; a student would solemnly approach the stage and then read a single article from the podium. Ten or twelve articles were presented at a time, in between speakers.

These proclaimed rights formed a litany of liberal causes, including abolition of the death penalty and the promotion of multiculturalism, gay marriage, and environmentalism. Some were quite far out on the fringes of the political spectrum, such as a right to euthanasia: “[E]lderly will have the right to choose life/death.” Others seemed frivolous, even silly, such as the “Right to Leisure” or the “Rights to Sports and Art.”

But embedded throughout the constitution was the belief that the government should pay, and the government should decide. For instance, the students’ constitution grants the right to “affordable housing,” “affordable contraception and abortion,” universal health care insurance, free health care for children, and so on.

To a young mind not trained to think deeply about the inevitable trade-offs implied by various policies, the concept of making everything “affordable” might seem logical and compassionate. Yet the only way to implement “affordable” in this manner is through taxation of citizens and redistribution of wealth by a greatly expanded government. Unfortunately, no speaker was on hand to explain that the taxation required to support all these rights reduces incentives for people to be productive, that the redistribution needed causes the economy to be less efficient, and that everybody will have less in the long run.

This emphasis on government control is best illustrated in the article entitled “Farmer’s [sic] Rights.” One clause states, “[L]ocal resources should be distributed according to need.” Not only does the phrase bear an eerie resemblance to the classic thumbnail definition of communism, “From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs,” but it suggests that there must be an authority to decide how to allocate according to need. The authority will therefore be able to decide who gets the resources necessary to produce. This leads to an enormous concentration of power, one that lends itself well to dictatorship and totalitarianism.

Farmers will also have the “right to just agricultural prices and public support for sustainable agriculture.” This clause wipes away the last vestige of the free market. A producer is no longer subject to supply and demand through the price mechanism. Government will control the “just” price producers are to be paid, a mechanism that has historically led to large-scale famines. And inefficiency will be rewarded with “public support” (ostensibly through the mechanism of taxation and redistribution).

With the end of the free market comes the end of freedom itself. Notably absent from the students’ constitution are other safeguards of liberty, such as the right to bear arms, and freedom of the press. The right to free speech is included, but it is constrained by the phrase “as long as it does not publicly threaten or disrespect an ethnic group or similar group regarding their race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, faith or sexual orientation.”

The students produced the constitution Blau wanted them to. She offered effusive praise for their efforts: “If the determination of the students in these two classes were realized, the United States would be a good citizen in the world of nations, and would live up to international human rights standards.”

The students at the convention were probably not politically sophisticated upon their arrival at Chapel Hill. They likely were not acquainted with the complexities of the market economy, nor were they knowledgeable about their own country’s constitution and its underlying theory. Most are probably slow to challenge professors, who seemingly hold the students’ futures in their grade books. As such, they are ripe for indoctrination.

They need not adopt the entire socialist system of thought with their first exposure, but can be gradually moved in that direction over the course of their college careers. Professor Blau does not appear to bludgeon them with heavy Marxist theory, but instead leads her students incrementally to a body of specific opinions, many of which appear benign on the surface or individually; in total, however, they sum to socialism of the kind found in Mao Tse Tung’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union.”

The university system recently invested considerable time and money in the UNC Tomorrow Commission to see how the system can “best meet the needs of the state and its people over the next 20 years.” The commission placed particular emphasis on how to provide for the future prosperity of North Carolina. Meanwhile, Blau and many other professors employed by the state are pushing a doctrine that has been a proven path, in country after country, to poverty and the political disenfranchisement of the great majority of people. Nothing the UNC system can do would be better for securing the state’s future economic and political well-being than to end the indoctrination of impressionable young people to believe in this horrible philosophy.

Editor’s Note: Jay Schalin is a writer/researcher for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh.