"Shimer must craft a charter to establish the mission and practice of the College as an institution that embraces the great books of western civilization, uses the Socratic method of open dialogue, and continues its adherence to the Hutchins plan."
Thus reads the key statement from the agreement made between Shimer College, Patrick Parker, and the Aequus Institute, an agreement which has the status of a legal contract. This agreement was fundamental to the deliberations at the Special Assembly on Sunday 28 February. Although a copy of the agreement was not available, former president Bill Rice is said to have accepted a contribution from the Aequus Institute and agreed to the stipulations as stated.
Having served as a major gifts fundraiser since leaving Shimer in 2000, let me first point out that a cardinal rule of fundraising is not to accept money that comes with strings attached. Since it was stated at the Assembly that this agreement exists and that it was signed by Rice, his action in doing so is both regretable and censurable. His Shimer legacy will include his major responsibility for the college’s current plight.
But since it is unlikely that the $190,000 can be returned and the agreement renounced, Shimer is in fact contractually obligated to meet its terms.
Reports from the Board of Trustees meeting on Saturday 20 February indicate that Parker disclosed this agreement for the first time, three years after it was made. That this was done in order to compel passage by the trustees of Lindsay’s proposed mission statement constituted legalized blackmail (whether or not Lindsay’s mission statement itself satisfies the contract).
The principle point I want to present here is that such a move on Parker’s part is both reprehensible and part of the zeitgeist. Our current national politics are dominated by a widening chasm between what is moral or ethical and what is legal. The corporate state, under the nominal control of the dysfunctional two-party system, determines the major initiatives of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. As Gore Vidal has pointed out, without much exaggeration, what the US and England have in common is one political party with two right wings.
Since the corporatists are a minority, central to their system of control is the need to legalize their own depredations while criminalizing those who oppose them. Here is a short list by way of illustration:
- Bush and many in his administration plunge us into war in Iraq and Afghanistan based on lies. They are war criminals, but the war is legal.
- Clinton passes NAFTA, legalizing the systematic immiseration of Mexico’s peasant farmers by American agribusiness and then declares that those who come to the US seeking their basic human rights to food, shelter, and work are illegal immigrants.
- Banks and financial institutions arrange for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, thereby making legal our present economic debacle. The consequent suffering, degradation, and misery visited on our country and worldwide will result, we may assume, in none of those responsible being incarcerated. Bernie Madoff serves as a scapegoat. Those who cannot pay their mortgages or become homeless are criminalized.
- The long-pursued objective of the right wing to repeal Roosevelt’s New Deal is being implemented as state legislatures from Springfield to Sacramento are forced to make draconian cuts due to the legal requirment to balance their budgets. (Recommended reading: Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.)
- Health care companies and insurers are permitted legally to deprive millions of citizens of the basic right to healthcare, cause suffering and death, and enjoy their profits.