November 29, 2005

"I am happy to let everyone sort themselves into whatever Nozickian communities they want."

Says Andy Morriss, taking issue with my criticism of the plan to wrest Ave Maria, a nicely established new law school, from its current place in Ann Arbor, Michigan and strand it in a cloistered enclave in rural Florida. Latching onto my word "creepy," he writes:
The very idea of a university, however, is to some extent a place where people are to a degree sheltered from the "real world" to allow them to focus on learning. What's particularly creepy about people wanting to be in an environment free from pornography, etc.? This doesn't strike me as any different from, say, people at a law school in a rural town touting the atmosphere available from rural living. Given UPS, the internet,, Netflix, and so on, I don't think "Ave Maria town" is likely to be particularly more closed off from the "real world" than most small towns in rural areas are today. What will be different is that it will be a community that shares values, Catholic values as it turns out, and that, in turn, strikes me as sounding a bit like what you might find in a monastic community.
But Morriss is missing one huge thing. There is an existing community of scholars in Ann Arbor that is not volunteering to move. They like it where they are, in a lively university town, where they've established lives for themselves and contributed to the building of an institution. (Don't believe me? Ask them!) The move is to be imposed, top-down, by one man who happens to have the money. There's nothing Nozickian about that.

Thanks to Juan Non-Volokh for linking to the Morriss piece and for quoting from an article and a letter in the WSJ.


Eli Blake said...

Interesting that this would bother you, in regard to academics.

Because that is exactly what has been happening to thousands of manufacturing workers who have had their jobs outsourced for years. Generally one man, a CEO, pulls the plug on it. And the right just goes on about 'market forces,' and buys more of that company's stock.

Why is moving a factory a good thing when it throws people out of work, but moving a law school a bad thing when it does the same thing?

jeff said...

"A nicely established new law school" keeps reading like a contradiction in terms to me. Is it established or is it new?

Palladian said...

Did Ann say that "outsourcing" in manufacturing (which is totally different than moving a business or college to another part of the country) was a good thing? Why do the lefty commenters on this blog feel the need to twist every topic towards pet issues.

Anyway, I don't understand the logic (maybe logic doesn't come into play in religious visions like this) behind this move. This place is not a convent, it's a college. Why do they think that a law school would benefit from disengagement with the world? The goal is not to train people to be Desert Fathers, it's to train people to be lawyers. If you're engaged in interpreting the laws of man, even in a Catholic context, why would you want to withdrawl and marginalize your school?

Ann Althouse said...

Jeff: If you read my earlier post, you'll see why I said that. The school is new in that it's 5 years old, and it's nicely established in that it received its accreditation -- in the shortest possible time. That is an impressive accomplishment for the individuals who constitute the institution.

Eli: When did I ever praise closing plants and that sort of thing?

Palladian: Yeah, I think Eli is doing that thing where he assumes I come with an entire ideology, adhering to positions that I've never even talked about. It's ridiculous. Also, I made the engagement with the world point in my older post. It's inherent in a law school. Law schools tend to have clinics too, where they offer services to real people in the community.

hygate said...


This seems like a rather unsophisticated view of how businesses actually work. Do you really think that CEO's decide to move manufacturing plants overseas while eating their cornflakes, with no input from anyone else and no justification? I fail to see how anyone benefits if a company ignores 'market forces' (with or without 'scare quotes')and ends up going out of business.

The Drill SGT said...

I think the plan will be re-thought or fail. A Law school would seem to be the synergistic value of its teachering staff, combined with its ambiance/traditions.

More the physical plant and 20 prof vacancies to a new place, and start over?

If he wants to try a more cloistered approach, leave the existing school in place and build AM2 in Florida.

Eli Blake said...

Ann and Palladian:

OK, you are correct, that I have not seen Ann post in favor of outsourcing.

I still think though that it is an interesting contrast though, in that academics generally (and I am one of them) sometimes seem to think that we are immune from the problems that affect people in the 'real world' outside of college. Certainly this will be hard for the people who work there. However, this is not any different from people who suddenly find their factory closing and have the option to be unemployed, get a local service job at a lot less money, or pull up stakes and follow their job to some other part of the country (or Asia, for that matter).

And, no, Ann, I know by now that although you tend to lean to the right, you are not uniformly conservative-- if I thought that I would probably not come here as often. My comment was directed more to the right generally (since I know that about 75-80% of your posters are from the right).


I understand economics. I also believe that we could be doing a lot more as a nation to support our basic industries. We used to go to bat for them in international trade disputes, and we used to give tax breaks to corporations for using domestic suppliers. We don't do those things any more.

Robert said...

I wonder if part of the reason for the move is that the administration is not perfectly satisfied with some of its faculty picks (no administration ever is), and wants to take the opportunity to shake out some of those they'd like to ditch. Perhaps they have reason to think that the target population is less committed to the school than might be optimal and so the move is designed to get them to quit.

hygate said...


Being much more of a libertarian (though a small "l" one} than a conservative I don't believe that the government needs to be involved in choosing who wins in the marketplace. When that happens the winners always end up being whoever has the most influence. This isn't an abstract issue to me. I have an appointment with an HR rep this afternoon where I'll be told if my current position is being outsourced to India. I can't claim I like it. I don't even think that, in the long run, it's a good business practice; but, I don't consider the job to be 'mine'- I don't own it. If it is being moved I will start looking for something else. If that means I have to move, well I had to move to get this job, I can move again.

Ann Althouse said...

JJ: I'm not discussing legal rights here but the philosophical issue of whether the proposed town constitutes a Nozickian community, so yeah, it damned well does. And remember this whole thing is proposed as an expression of religion, so religious values of how to treat human beings should be in the foreground, not the minimal rights law provides.

Eli Blake said...


If that means I have to move, well I had to move to get this job, I can move again.

You must be single and relatively mobile.

Aside from issues that effect families that have to relocate (like a friend of mine who was forced to pay a mortgage on a house that didn't sell for two years, and then at a huge loss-- and he is still working two full time jobs as a result, so his daughter doesn't even know him), I know that back a few years when we had to keep moving, it was very tough on my older daughter (the one who ended up getting into gangs and was pregnant at fifteen). I can only wonder what stability would have meant to her-- that is one reason I refuse to move now, so that my younger daughters (they are both nine and have lived in this same little town since they were seven) can actually feel a community around them.

And it isn't just a gripe-- there is plenty of research that shows that kids who move a lot are more likely to drop out of school, get involved with drugs and crime, or become pregnant as teenagers.

So, you can be a libertarian if you wish, but I would suggest that unrestrained libertarianism in itself is reckless and irresponsible because of its failure to consider the consequences of 'choice' on others, particularly children.

And that is also, I believe, why libertarians are so common among politically involved single people in their twenties, but I have not myself met more than a handful of fifty year old, married libertarians.

Eli Blake said...


I should have said they are nine and have lived here since they were TWO (seven years).