By Howard Kunstler
A very brave law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, named Amy Wax has published the astounding argument that human beings in America would benefit from adopting “bourgeois values” and behaving accordingly. Bourgeois (Boozh-wah, for the underspeeched) may be an unfortunate term-of-art, since it came to be used as a pejorative back in the old hippie days — something that Ms. Wax might remember, since she is a Baby Boomer — but what else might you call this bundle of traditional values: honesty, fidelity, thrift, temperance, punctuality, fortitude, gratitude, dedication, kindness, loyalty, et cetera?
A glance at Amy Wax’s credentials might induce a head-snap.
Amy Laura Wax received a B.S. summa cum laude in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale in 1975. She was then a Marshall Scholar in Philosophy, Physiology, and Psychology at Somerville College at Oxford University. She earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1981, training as a neurologist, and received a J.D. from Columbia in 1987, where she was an editor of the Law Review. She was a Law Clerk to the Honorable Abner J. Mikva, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1987-88. From 1988-94, she served as Assistant to the Office of the Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice, where she argued 15 cases before the United States Supreme Court. Wax was a member of the Legal Affairs Committee, American Academy of Neurology from 1986-1992. In 1994, she joined the faculty of UVA [U. of Virginia]. She taught courses in civil procedure, labor law, and poverty law and welfare policy. She became Class of 1948 Professor of Scholarly Research in Law from 2000-01. After becoming a visiting professor to Penn Law School in 2000, she joined its faculty in 2001.
By some miracle, she didn’t end up a professor of Intersectional Gender Justice. Of course, the Social Justice commissars around the country regard her as just another neo-Nazi punk committing violence-through-speech against the ethno-sexual minorities who seek to throw off the shackles of Cis-White Privilege oppression. In an op-ed essay in the Philadelphia Inquirer (co-authored with Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego School of Law) titled Paying the Price for Breakdown of the Country’s Bourgeois Culture, Wax argued that “the single-parent, anti-social habits, prevalent among some working-class whites, the anti ‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks” and the “anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants” are not suited to a First-World 21st Century Environment.
The casual observer (from Mars) might take all that as self-evident, but it’s a hard sell nowadays, especially in Ivory Towerville, where, supposedly, the rectified essences of abiding human intelligence are said to dwell. That super-refined scholarly nation-within–a-nation is also mostly walled off from the more unappetizing realities of what an American-style First-World 21st Century Environment actually is. In fact, that very “environment” is mostly characterized by a breakdown of just about everything that might promote the formerly eternal verities. It has been accompanied move-for-move by a breakdown in economic relations that leaves a big chunk of the national demographic peon-ized, bereft of work that is either meaningful or pays enough to support a family, and places them at the mercy (actually, there is no mercy) of gigantic, dishonest, avaricious companies and public institutions driven by stupid crypto-religious ideologies.
Oddly, the personal economic calamity represented by that trend is mirrored on the Ivy League campuses where a tiny elite cadre of tenured professors enjoys immunity from both impoverishment and real critical thinking, while an ever-expanding corps of serf-like adjunct teachers does all the heavy-lifting in the classrooms and struggles to pay the light bill — and a new breed of diversity deans and other administrative hierophants feeds gluttonously at the trough of the college loan racket.
The main criticism of Amy Wax’s prescription for cultural improvement is that it’s simply not possible to go back to the economically stable world of the 1950s that supported the roster of human virtues she wants to bring back online. It may be so, alas, but that still doesn’t obviate the basic value of behavioral norms. And deep down in their dark Gnostic hearts, the Social Justice Commissariat must agree. Otherwise, why would they be promoting so strenuously the exemplary earnest behavior of the DACA “Dreamers.”
Amy Wax was hammered by her colleagues at the Penn Law School for daring to express these ideas. More than half of the law faculty signed an “open letter” of censorious opprobrium against her. They “categorically rejected” her arguments without offering any counter-arguments. The law school’s chapter of the Lawyer’s Guild is maneuvering to get her fired from her teaching duties. That’s how we roll now in Witch Hunt Nation. I think Amy Wax has the fortitude to get through this. But will the universities ever recover?
Liberals have loyalty only to their orthodoxy. – The Liberator