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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An Alternative Explanation - People Who Fear Competition And Live Off Government Tend To Be Liberal

This is a follow up to my earlier post about the findings by a social psychlogist that there is a "statistically impossible" skew in the percentages of social psychologists who self-identify as liberal and conservative, reflecting a pervasive bias against conservatives throughout the social sciences.

Paul Krugman helps us out in understanding this phenomenon by pointing to academia.  Krugman explains that there is no discrimination as such, it's simply that liberals are smarter and more open-minded, as proven by the predominance of liberals even in the hard sciences at universities:
"It’s particularly troubling to apply some test of equal representation when you’re looking at academics who do research on the very subjects that define the political divide. Biologists, physicists, and chemists are all predominantly liberal; does this reflect discrimination, or the tendency of people who actually know science to reject a political tendency that denies climate change and is broadly hostile to the theory of evolution?"
Interesting that Krugman does not consider an alternative explanation, namely, that academia is a place largely free from the pressures of free markets.  Indeed, the whole system of tenure is meant to give academics the functional equivalent of a civil service job; once you're in it's extremely difficult to kick you out even if your productivity drops dramatically once job security is achieved. 

Is it really shocking to find that people who gravitate towards an employment cocoon tend to be liberal? Does this reflect innate intelligence or a lifestyle choice?

Equally important, scientific research at universities is heavily dependent upon government grants, for example, from the National Sciences Foundation.  Being in favor of smaller government is not a path to success in the academic science world. 

Yet again, is it really surprising that people who live off of big government support big government?  Is the ability to obtain government grants a valid measure of intellectual open-mindedness?

Perhaps we need a comparative study. 

Compare the political self-identification of the scientific entrepreneurs who have built companies and created new industries and national wealth through competition with the political self-identification of those who fear free market competition and live off government funding at universities or in government institutions.

The academic cocoon serves a purpose, at least in the sciences.  I'm glad that there are professors who spend their careers doing basic research which may not pay for itself in the short-run, but may be valuable to the overall development of science. 

But let's not pretend that the predominance of self-identified liberals in academia reflects anything other than a career choice.

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  1. The more likely explanation is the obvious one:

    Viewpoint discrimination in the hiring process.

  2. Duh! What would you expect from the likes of Krugman, Obama and their ilk?

    Balance the family checkbook, put away money for a rainy day, figure out your IRS forms, worry that if you don't get a good review from your boss you won't get a raise- these things are unknown to the likes of secure, liberal, tenured academic and government employees.

    Once again, you're right on with the assessment and when the public realizes what's going on (or when they realize the paper of record and the alphabet networks ain't exactly telling them the whole truth) I expect opinions will start to change.

    To me, the problem is really how to get our fellow Americans to look at this in a way not defined by social psychologists and nobel-prize winning editorial columnists.

  3. "The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

    Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite."

    Eisenhower's Farewell Address

  4. Possibly, Krugman has never been to a faculty get together with a perspective candidate. There the candidate(s) their friends, sponsors, staff and other interested faculty gather for a social occasion. Eventually, one or more of the senior, politically involved, powerful faculty drift over and ask the candidate and his or her spouse a few questions. These questions, carefully constructed and having been useful on prior occasions, vet the candidate. One wrong answer gets the candidate a blackball. That is one way educational institutions become homogeneous.

  5. Yes, I know. If I were a candidate I would fail due to my juggling prospective and perspective.

  6. It's even worse in the arts.

    Far left politics are the basic qualification for being seen and heard.

    Prof, you're really way off on this.

    Liberal academia and the arts put a gun to your head. Toe the line, or you're out.

  7. I'll go even further and say that in liberal academia and the arts, people are completely deluded about how they arrived at their political stances.

    The pressure to be far left is so overwhelming that people compete to see who can be crazier.

    They know that their very existence depends on it.

    That's one of the reasons why the left is so hysterical and why its rhetoric is so vile. Everybody's competing for credentials.

  8. Look at academia as a self organizing system. The selection process for academics is iterative- conducted countless times by countless numbers of people. We only need a small selection bias-ideology, grant incentives etc -or indeed control of the initial condition to skew the system.

    Shouting Thomas said.."Liberal academia and the arts put a gun to your head. Toe the line, or you're out." All highly organized, buffered systems organize energy to benefit those that selectively fit the system. This is true for ecosystems and academic systems.

  9. Read the Wikipedia entry about "Cultural Marxism" and the explanation for why fields related to sociology are dominated by liberals becomes evident.


    In a nutshell, during the 1960s the eager consumption of halucinogenic substances led adherents of "The Frankfurt School" to believe they had some sort of deep awakening about the nature of mankind. These enlightened hippies on college campuses thought that if they turned individuals into lab rats and conducted a bunch of social experiments then they could ultimately improve on man's imperfections and create a better "man".

    Is it any wonder conservatives, who value tradition, individuality, and freedom, are repulsed by this academic field but collectivist-statist-liiberals are attracted to it?

  10. Seen through the liberal lens this is obviously discrimination. The general public is basically 40% conservative, 20% liberal and 40% independant, and hiring practices in all organizations that receive government funding should reflect the US population as a whole. Imagine what would be said if conservatives were African-Americans or Women.

  11. Academia is an inherently liberal scene because it is grounded in elitism. The whole basis of liberal thought derives from the idea that a small cadre of elites should be making decisions for everyone else because the elites are smarter and more enlightened. It's only natural for liberals to gravitate toward academia, because that's where one become smarter and more enlightened, and thus someone worthy of telling others what to do.

    Conservatives tend to place a lot more value and trust in individual initiative and achievement. Their primary goal in regard to higher education is to obtain whatever learning is needed to succeed in the "real world," not to demonstrate their intelligence or enhance their credentials.

    Similarly, journalists tend to be liberal because liberals want to change the world, and to do this, you need to spotlight the aspects of the world that need changing and show the wisdom of reform. Thus, the mission of liberalism requires the assistance of journalists. Conservatives generally wouldn't place the same level of importance on journalism and therefore wouldn't be as attracted to that profession. As in the case of higher education, a conservative's interest in journalism is to get the information needed to succeed within his or her own circles, not craft narratives intended to influence other people's perceptions.

  12. Paul Krugman's views actually do explain the source of the disparity, though not quite in the way he intends. Like him, most academics believe that intelligent and ethical people are liberal--there is no reasonable case that can be constructed for the conservative position. Therefore, if a potential faculty member is conservative, it implies that he or she is not intelligent or not ethical and should not be hired. And since they rejected the person because he or she was not intelligent or ethical enough, there is no bias in hiring.

  13. Having come from a lower middle class family, it surely would have been less burdensome if I did not have to waste my time and money on liberal arts brainwash classes. I loved my math and science classes, but most of the rest were a waste of my time and money. In anthropology I learned that I was ethnocentric. In psychology I learned that I was racist (all white people are they just fall into different categories) and that bandaids are racist (because they are white skin colored). In sociology I did not learn anything that anyone could not figure out for themselves if they grew up in a perpetually depressed welfare economy as in Wayne County, NY. My history class was taught by a Native American feminist, she taught us "Our" Story. I ate it right up at that point in my life when I hated anything that resembled my father or the white patriarchal rule. In essence, I spent a lot of money aquiring white middle class guilt (even though my family was not rich by any means)and reinforcing my hatred for the patriarchal system. I am so glad that I payed money to take those classes.

  14. Ah, bullshit Mr. Krugman.

    I work as a staff scientist for a large University, and I can say that libertarian/conservative types had better not call attention to themselves - it is the kiss of death.

    Moreover, the "progressive" "enlightened" oligarchy that runs the average Uni are among the most closed-minded, repressive, and bigoted group of people I have ever encountered.

  15. @nolahause: "In essence, I spent a lot of money aquiring white middle class guilt (even though my family was not rich by any means)and reinforcing my hatred for the patriarchal system."

    This is precisely why Obama won the election, in my opinion. White guilt, the media fosters it everywhere you look, as does academia. To turn on the nightly news is a laundry list of how capitalism and white people are literally destroying the world and everything good in it. The endless daily repetition quite powerfully delivers the message.

  16. I'm a faculty member and administrator in a College of Science at a state university. While I suspect even Science and Engineering faculty are majority liberal, it's certainly not true to the extent it is in the politicized fields like English, History, or the Social Sciences. I think that "career choice" can explain some of the imbalance, but not all. The near-total domination by liberals in some fields is, as the NYT article said, a "statistically impossible lack of diversity".

    But perhaps the best comeback to Krugman would be to ask him if he'd accept that same explanation for why there are more men in Math and Engineering, or why racial minorities are underrepresented in university faculties.

  17. I wonder how many people believe in evolution out of faith. I am not saying evolution is a false theory, but how may people can really say that they have read every scientific paper to date on the topic. Has Paul Krugman done his research or is he just having faith in evolution? Why do they assume people are dumb if they are taking the time and energy to examine and scrutize a topic rather than just blindly accept it? Any field of study that is not open to questioning and scrutiny is not really science it is a religion.

  18. @Mark "But perhaps the best comeback to Krugman would be to ask him if he'd accept that same explanation for why there are more men in Math and Engineering, or why racial minorities are underrepresented in university faculties."

    I love a good retort. And that is beautiful.

    On a similar note...over the Christmas holiday my wife and I were having dinner with some friends of hers and one far-left militant NOW member lamented the lack of women in math & engineering. She's a multi-degreed counselor/therapist type. Using a retort I read somewhere I simply asked why she wasn't in math or engineering?

    While she stammered out some excuse about technical fields not being her 'thing' my wife was kicking me under the table (I pretend she's playing footsie and it only encourages me). I finally forced a change in subject by suggesting that perhaps academically inclined women should be forced into fields where women were under-represented. That intelligent, hard-working women (present company specifically included) were obviously not making choices that they, themselves, felt benefited women in general.

    But, like all classic liberal/leftist ideals...it is better so long as someone else pays/studies/sacrifices/etc. etc.

  19. K said- "While she stammered out some excuse about technical fields not being her 'thing' my wife was kicking me under the table"

    Glad to know I'm not alone in getting kicked - but must admit its not as bad though as the evil eye.

  20. @Mark,

    I dunno about that fella. I was in a faculty meeting where we discussing computational initiatives in scientific research at our university, and a spontaneous rant started over Sarah Palin's Twitter tweets. They are pretty much ALL dyed-in-the-wool Prog-tards, and I think it permeates their every waking moment.

    Did a search for political donations by professors at the Uni where I work on a public records database, and found...NOT ONE SINGLE DONATION to a Republican candidate, conservative, or libertarian soft money group. That's a pretty big indictment if you ask me.

  21. Maybe this was included, but other than viewpoint discrimination - they hate Republicans or their erstwhile like-minded citizens, issue by issue, there is the fantasy world of academia. Reality can be avoided there.

    Business people are smart however less acutely they are gathered; it's a wonderful well-rounded person who can be an effective manager.

  22. Right..

    No women in science? It cant possibly be because many women dont care for them.. It MUST be due to institutional sexism..

    Not enough black people graduating from high school? It cant possible be because many of them dont give a crap about school.. It MUST be due to institutional racism.

    No conservatives in the Social Sciences? This has nothing to do with any institutional bias against conservatives. It MUST be because conservatives are simply stupid and dont go on to higher degrees.

    There is absolutely no hypocrisy there at all.