There is an intellectual Darwinism among us that believes if only all that can be said or thought is permitted, right thinking will out and the best will come to the fore, But history has shown that there is an economics of ideas as surely as there is an economics of goods. And the free market place of ideas is no more self-regulating, no more inevitably just, than the laissez-faire capitalism which produced it.
Members of the faculty have defended Herrnstein in the name of academic freedom. Unfortunately that is not the issue. The issue is political. The issue is whether there is to be a moral amnesty for mere theorizing, whether an academic community is free to disseminate any idea, consequences be damned.
Professor Herrnstein is not merely one voice out of many, and his article not merely one more proposal to be weighed in the cool balance of intellect. Political circumstances are not to be ignored. Ideas are not introduced into an antiseptic atmosphere of national discussion, but into a society where conflict is endemic. Herrnstein's position as a Harvard professor and a writer for a widely circulated national magazine gives him an air of legitimacy that few in a highly stratified society can hope to attain. Whether or not he consciously calculated the political effects, his article can and will be used to justify reactionary, elitist social policy--a policy we find unconscionable and which we oppose. Political circumstances exist beyond say question of motive; they are circumstances for which Professor Herrnstein, like any political actor, is answerable.
To consider the problem as merely a case of academic freedom is to mask the political implications of that position. The point is this: that it is a political, not a scholarly, act for which Professor Herrnstein is responsible. And it is political considerations that must decide the terms of any debate.