Here on our lovely campus I receive as a front-page feature story in my intranet page:
STUDENT was President of STUDENT GROUP last year the dining rep since her freshman year. STUDENT aims to “convert people through food.”
Let’s rewrite that. Wintercow was Director of the Classical Liberal Foundation and the Property Rights advocate since his rookie year, Wintercow aims “to convert people through economics.” I actually like the idea of everyone running around a campus trying to “convert” people to their cause. But of course, what is acceptable on our post-modern campuses is to convert people only to some particularly favored causes. I don’t think my job as a professor, by the way, is to help convert people to “my” cause. Why? Well, if it is easy for me to “convert” people, it is going to be just as easy for someone who is taller, better looking and more articulate than me to persuade people to join their tribe. I’m far better off trying to have folks understand just what it is that they are saying and hearing and let them have their own intellectual battle, all the while being clear where my own preferences lie. Second, many folks on campus are trying to convert people to their cause, they just aren’t willing to admit it, and dress it up as something other than what it really is. But, imagine the pushback or even outrage folks on campus feel when they think about “the economic way of thinking.” We’re evil devils for teaching people about scarcity and its implications. We’re evil devils, corporate lackeys, and so on for daring to draw out the lines of logic that follow from the idea of scarcity. And we’re certainly evil devils for encouraging people to apply these lines of logic to all manner of social phenomenon – it’s just not polite to do so.
None of this is to say that someone having a particular food choice is “right” or “wrong.” That is merely the exercise of a preference. As economists and environmental researchers we might be able to address whether particular food choices actually do what folks claim they do, or at least encourage people to ask that question. But here on college campuses, all preferences are created equal except some are more equal than others.