Phi Beta Cons

Protectionism in Goods and Protectionism in Ideas

Free trade in goods is unquestionably beneficial, yet we find many people yammering that we’ve got to stop it and instead “protect the country” from bad and unfair foreign competition. Similarly, on college campuses, we find a lot of people who oppose free trade in ideas. They want to silence speakers they disagree with and control the presentation and discussion of ideas that might cause someone to doubt the Approved Set of Beliefs.

In this sharp Heterodox Academy post, April Kelly-Woessner draws the connection between the two phenomena. She writes, “What we see on college campuses are student demands for intellectual trade protection. I argue that protectionism of ideas, like protectionism of goods, is based in insecurity and accomplished through restrictive practices.”

I think that’s correct. The campus authoritarians who insist on disinviting or shouting down speakers they dislike are insecure. Instead of engaging in intellectual competition, they prefer to use coercion. “Insecure people,” she writes, “more easily see others as a threat and perception of threat is a consistent predictor of political intolerance.”

I recommend reading the whole thing.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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