- John Silber, the longtime President and later Chancellor of Boston University, has passed away from complications of kidney failure. He was 86.
Judging by this interview in which Silber described the late Howard Zinn’s The Peoples’ History of the United States as “one of the most incompetent and inaccurate histories of this country that has ever been written,”; I think it is safe to say you won’t find a college or university hiring a president like John Silber and we are the worse for it.
From the The New Criterion:
Obedience to the unenforcable
by John Silber
On the decaying domain of manners.
Seventy-five years ago, John Fletcher Moulton, Lord Moulton, a noted English judge, spoke on the subject of “Law and Manners.” He divided human action into three domains. At one extreme is the domain of law, “where,” he said, “our actions are prescribed by laws binding upon us which must be obeyed.” At the other extreme is the domain of free choice, “which,” he said, “includes all those actions as to which we claim and enjoy complete freedom.” Between these two, Lord Moulton said, lies a domain in which our actions are not determined by law but in which we are not free to behave in any way we choose. In this domain we act with greater or lesser freedom from constraint, on a continuum that extends from a consciousness of duty “nearly as strong as positive law,” through a sense of what is required by public spirit, to “good form” appropriate in a given situation, and so on up to the border with the domain of free choice, where there is no constraint whatever on what we may choose to do.
Lord Moulton considered the area of action lying between law and pure personal preference to be “the domain of obedience to the unenforceable.” In this domain, he said, “Obedience is the obedience of a man to that which he cannot be forced to obey. He is the enforcer of the law upon himself.” This domain between law and free choice he called that of “manners.” While it may include moral duty, social responsibility, and proper behavior, it extends beyond them to cover “all cases of doing right where there is no one to make you do it but yourself.”
Both the domains of law and free choice threaten to encroach upon the middle domain of manners. Moulton’s central point, one of capital importance, is that “the real greatness of a nation, its true civilization, is measured by the extent of this land of obedience to the unenforceable. It measures the extent to which the nation trusts its citizens, and its area testifies to the way they behave in response to that trust.”
In America today the domains of choice and law have eroded the domain of manners. As the realm of manners and morals has been diminished by those who claim that whatever they do is right if it feels good to them, the central domain loses its force. And despite the expansion of the domain of law, the consequent weakening of the central domain has resulted in a diminution of the authority and effectiveness of the law.
Update: Wonder what Silber might have had to say about this?
- “The ‘Pulp Fiction’ star spoofs children’s books to get out the Obama vote.”
Y’all better vote for f–king Obama, OK? For better or for worse, all right? We have a black Muslim in the White House! Now that’s some amazing s–t. It means there is hope in this country. And Obama is fighting for gay rights, so support the man, g-damnit.