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A windowless dorm room: Who cares?
On Charlie Munger's plan to get more college students housed, and why the real crime is keeping young adults from learning
One of the telltale signs of an unserious thinker is the demonstration that they can't tell the difference between "things I don't like" and "things that are objectively evil". And Charlie Munger's proposed dormitory for the University of California at Santa Barbara has brought lots of unseriousness to light: People are proudly putting their names to assessments like "nightmare", "grotesque", and "a jail".
■ The alarm -- whether serious or not -- is due to the lack of windows in the individual rooms. 94% of the rooms won't have them. Anyone is free to find fault with that design, but only as a matter of personal tastes and preferences. Calling it an "unsupportable" "psychological experiment" is simply too much.
■ People live without exterior windows in a number of environments -- submariners, for instance. And untold numbers of workplaces lack exterior windows, too, from factories to cubicle farms. Objecting to them as a matter of taste is fine, but the real crime isn't whether people are able to have exterior windows in their residences, but whether they are free to do things like learning freely and making choices on their own. The proposed dorm is expected to increase the on-campus housing supply by 50%. Imagine the choice: Live in a private, individual room attached to a shared social space but sacrifice an exterior window, or live in a car.
■ Or, even further, imagine the choice for an international student coming from an unfree country: One might have all the windows they could ever want in an apartment in Xinjiang, but it would be objectively better to have a windowless room at UCSB and the freedom to live away from an oppressive government. One columnist calls the artificial light "dystopian", but the fact is plain: It's perfectly humane to have the freedom to read John Locke or John Stuart Mill by the light of an artificial window.
■ The world isn't perfect, and sensible adults know that trade-offs must be made. It's hard to fathom the thought that the lack of exterior windows would send so many people into apoplexy -- when people willingly pay handsome sums to have interior staterooms aboard cruise ships, and when the point of a collegiate experience is to broaden the mind more than to accommodate a preference to bask in the sun. If a plan like Munger's is what it takes to get more willing minds into a good school, then it's objectively better than the alternative, to deny them the opportunity to grow.