We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
In Britain at that time, the more enterprising people despaired of its future. Britain was retreating from empire, and industrial managers no longer had the power to manage. This feebleness was not just a British disease. It was widespread throughout the Western world. John Hoskyns, one of Thatcher's advisers, observes that Thatcher was in part a trail blazer for Ronald Reagan, because under President Jimmy Carter, "America was suffering, in a less extreme form, from the same fashionable left-of-center waffle that we [in Britain] had been doing in spades, for years." One can only say (and as Berlinski recognizes) that the "waffle" still hasn't gone away. It survives in universities, bureaucracies, and large areas of the judiciary. In Britain it may currently be identified with the causes favored by the late Princess Diana.
It was Thatcher who rejected this feebleness, and her triumphant government from 1979 to 1990 was a succession of battles against what often seemed at the time like a classical hydra. Along with her Conservative colleague Keith Joseph, Thatcher espoused a Hayekian version of the free market. The result was not merely a changed policy but something like a moral revolution. She denounced socialism as an immoral system that enfeebled those who lived under it (much as Ronald Reagan declared the Soviet Union an evil empire), leading to the same sniffy disapproval in Britain that Reagan inspired in American liberals.
This is pretty tentative but when thinking about tenure my thoughts are not about the lifetime employment and the right to advocate virtually anything.
I think more about the selection process. At a private school selection is the school's business and whether they do it well is not my concern. And I am not concerned about who controls the process within that school. They can do it in a dark room with hatchets and I won't care.
Public universities are another matter because people are compelled to pay the costs. Taxation and some obedience is the price of government. But can the legislature cede its power to govern? If they can't fire a professor or stop paying him then they have lost certainly lost a small portion of their power to control public spending.
As I say, these thoughts are rather exploratory. Consider this hypothetical: Supreme Court judges in most states serve for life. (There are exceptions but this is hypothetical.)
Suppose a legislature decided that the sitting judges would choose all other judges including their own successors. That judges could never be impeached. And that subsequently this could never be changed by voters or statute or amendment.
Then the situation somewhat resembles the more extreme interpretations of what tenure is or should be.
Obviously the parallel cannot be total. But it suggests one way to look at tenure.
It comes down to what power the elected government should have to issue an eternal special status to a set of people.
We generally agree a government can govern until changed by election.
But to what extent can sitting politicians create perpetual laws binding their successors and the public?
Count me in as one of the 6% of Americans who are paranoid. I see Goldman Sachs everywhere, and there out to get my money.
I would sleep better at nite if I saw them all in orange jumpsuits and shackled. Hell, I'll just settle for Paulson, Rubin, and Touchdown Timmy.