The 17 Berkeley Classes in Our Largest Lecture Hall This Fall...

Comment of the Day: Graydon: Monday DeLong Smackdown: Noah Smith: Free Speech on Campus: "This is one of those moments when I despair of explaining something so basic I don't understand how people can be confused by it...

...If there is to be such a thing as civil society, it has to be created by human actions.

A "civil society" can be a pretense of class-specific manners, always subject to abrupt dissolution in violence, or it can be a construct of equitably enforced laws where neither wealth nor place permit you violent means to achieve your ends.

The folks protesting about lunch counters were trying to make civil society larger; that is, they wanted more people to be considered protected under the law in the second kind of civil society. The neo-con right wants to make civil society smaller. They object to the mid-twentieth century expansion, and wish -- despite that expansion being much more nominal than factual -- to return to a condition of impunity when seeking to achieve their personal social ends through violence.

There's no plausible equivalence; there's a very easy argument that advocacy for violence removes you from the protections of civil society, because you can't claim the protection of the institution you seek to destroy. There's an even easier argument that a university -- an institution dedicated to the increase of knowledge through the free exchange of ideas -- cannot exist outside the rule-of-law civil society and cannot tolerate the pretense-of-manners kind.

I am absolutely baffled at anyone finding this the least bit confusing.