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Analysis: Plagiarism, Flawed MSU Studies, and the People vs. the Ruling Class

Alleged plagiarism in a study by an MSU scholar is in the news, and it matters more than just as a violation of academic standards. The deeply flawed study wildly exaggerates the amount that could be saved by consolidating Michigan school districts, claiming it to be $612 million. Widespread media coverage ensures that the specious claim will divert attention from the real solution to funding problems in Michigan public schools, which is scaling back outsized employee compensation and benefits.

This is the second time in the last year that a flawed study has been produced by an MSU scholar that serves the interests of government employees and their unions. (The previous one was actually paid for by those unions). A third flawed MSU study paid for by the state's economic development bureaucracy buttressed its own specious claims that film producer subsidies are a wise use of taxpayer dollars.

Consider this latest action from a pillar of the state's academic establishment in light of the passage below from Angelo Codevilla's masterful analysis of today's social and political landscape, America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution. First though, here is one more possibly relevant fact - MSU officials say it could take "a full year" to review whether the plagiarism charges will carry any consequences for this particular academic.

 From Codevilla:

. . . Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the (ruling) class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among our establishment's parts.


If, for example, you are Laurence Tribe in 1984, Harvard professor of law, leftist pillar of the establishment, you can "write" your magnum opus by using the products of your student assistant, Ron Klain. A decade later, after Klain admits to having written some parts of the book, and the other parts are found to be verbatim or paraphrases of a book published in 1974, you can claim (perhaps correctly) that your plagiarism was "inadvertent," and you can count on the Law School's dean, Elena Kagan, to appoint a committee including former and future Harvard president Derek Bok that issues a secret report that "closes" the incident. Incidentally, Kagan ends up a justice of the Supreme Court.

Not one of these people did their jobs: the professor did not write the book himself, the assistant plagiarized instead of researching, the dean and the committee did not hold the professor accountable, and all ended up rewarded. By contrast, for example, learned papers and distinguished careers in climatology at MIT (Richard Lindzen) or UVA (S. Fred Singer) are not enough for their questions about "global warming" to be taken seriously. For our ruling class, identity always trumps.

The central political struggle of our era is the people vs. the ruling class, which includes politicians (of both parties), government employees and academia. Michigan's academic establishment continues to provide rich illustrations of how its side engages in this struggle.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.