Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Federalist Society Symposium

There has been a lot of excitement in the blogosphere about a Federalist Society symposium here this weekend. From Class Maledictorian, Crescat Sententia and Waddling Thunder and the live blog at Ex Parte, the event sounds action-packed; even President Larry Summers showed up to offer some opening remarks that were self-depreciatory in nature.

I never go to these things, and it's not just because I'm liberal. I don't go to the events hosted by the progressive American Constitution Society (ACS) either. Although both organizations are open to all, my perception is that the students largely self-select. Conservative students join the Federalist Society and liberal students ACS. The events are largely one-sided, with one group presenting mostly conservative speakers and the other liberal speakers. And to the extent there is "debate," the speakers tend to all agree with one another as was the case at an ACS debate on affirmative action when everyone on the panel supported affirmative action. Or the speakers tend to talk past each other as was the case at a debate about the death penalty last fall when the conservative thinker argued the death penalty should be used because the ending to Macbeth wouldn't have been satisfying if Shakespeare hadn't killed off Macbeth and the liberal professor marshalled statistics against the death penalty and argued that most, if not all, of the other countries with the death penalty were mostly illiberal nations like Iran and China. I don't think the debate convinced anyone or even illuminated anything. Although there are occasional events that might be worth attending, I think that the real value of these groups is the opportunities they offer for networking with people on either side of the ideological spectrum, be it either famous people or students who might prove valuable ideological allies down the road.

Then again, I may just be skeptical about the value of debate in the first place. I tend to believe that we are set in our political ideology by the time we are seven and that we spend the rest of our lives working out the implications of our first principles. To the extent debates are useful, they can help sharpen our thinking by forcing us to confront elements we had not given enough consideration to. But even then, I find the prospect of such debates occurring because the talk about the "other side" tends to be shrill and loaded with rampant stereotyping.

So why read this blog, or any other political blog, for that matter? Aside from any entertainment and procrastination value, beats me.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ha ha hit him again said...

I think probably after age 7. Party ID comes from the parents for sure, so that would age 0, if you will. But ideology comes later, I think! Anyway, what would the rabid republican say?

2/26/2005 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger bum said...

While HARVARD is a great institution it rarely is known for its quality of debate. What I mean is there is usually one overarching view of how things are and rarely others object to it in any significant way. With that said, you cannot be suprised that each group is one-sided and that the spirit of debate is lost by both parties. HARVARD is the place most politicians go to polish their resumes and instead of learning a new viewpoint they do what they always do - join a group that believes what they believe - and why shouldn't they? It sounds like thats what everyone else does too. Maybe if that wasn't the case you would have attended this function and possibly rediscovered what debating is all about.

3/03/2005 06:33:00 PM  

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