What if centuries of experience tell you that our rules aren’t actually optimal or fair? What if you look around and decide that the liberal West has too much inequality, too much racial tension, too much environmental degradation, too much arduous toil? Then you might want to scrap the rules.

And even if the rules apply to everyone, that doesn’t necessarily make them fair. The rules of basketball don’t discriminate against the short, but they certainly make the outcome — that the tall will excel — pretty inevitable. That’s how many left-wing radicals in the U.S. see our rules, including free enterprise, free speech, and open political debate: supposedly fair rules that result in an unfair outcome.

So when newspaper editorials appeal to these Enlightenment principles to scold the campus protestors, they are begging the very question. When these radicals demand we change the rules, it makes no sense to tell them they’re breaking the rules.

To combat the campus radicals, you can’t simply appeal to Enlightenment ideas — you need to defend Enlightenment ideas. That’s a more laborious argument, because in standard American political discourse liberal principles are the common ground. But it’s also a crucial argument.