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Leiter's Tunnel Vision:

It would be too tiresome to reply to Brian's Leiter's rant about me point-by-point. So let's just focus on one statement: "But how many times in the last 50 years have 'liberal' politicians and interest groups outside universities successfully mobilized to get someone fired or even threatened that person's tenure because of 'conservative' views?"

Well, let's start with Larry Summers, whom Leiter mentions, oddly enough, in the same post. Sure, Summers is actually a liberal Democrat, but to his leftist critics at Harvard, his views on, among other things, feminism and Israel, were too "conservative" for their taste, and they got him fired from the Harvard presidency. Of course, if Summers were truly and publicly conservative, the odds of him getting the Harvard presidency to begin with would be virtually nil (and the same goes for just about every other leading university).

Which leads to my broader point, that the Left doesn't mobilize against conservatives and libertarians in the universities because they do such a good job at keeping them out to begin with. Let's take law school deanships. Erwin Chemerinsky's job at UC-Irvine was threatened, after it was offered, by outside "conservative" forces. But in the past several years, I've had three calls from colleagues at other law schools about current or former George Mason colleagues who were up for deanships at these schools. In each case, my correspondent noted that there was significant "concern" about the candidates' ideology, such that an entire faculty bloc was opposing the candidate as "too right-wing." None of these candidates got the job.

And then there are the anecdotes that one has personally experienced, that one hears from one's friends, and so forth--do liberals have to pass a quiz about their political views on affirmative action before they get hired? Do liberal international law scholars frequently get negative outside tenure or hiring reviews explicitly based on the premise that their ideas are dangerously left-wing? Do liberals frequently get told that a law school will consider hiring them when one of their current liberal faculty members retires or dies, so they can keep the same "balance" on the faculty? If so, then I'll grant that when such things happen to people on the "right", they aren't facing institutionalized discrimination.

But then there is George Mason, which in Leiter's mind apparently makes up for the other 190 ABA-approved law schools because we hire great candidates who are undervalued on the market on ideological grounds. If there were 50, or even 25, George Masons I'd acknowledge that Leiter has a point, but Mason can only absorb 35 or so of the 8,000 faculty slots available at American law schools.

I focus on law schools because that's familiar turf, but all indications are that law schools are actually much more open-minded, and much more tolerant of right-of-center views, than are other university departments, including many economics departments, Leiter's embodiment of the "right-wing". (Do we have any libertarian economics professors in the audience who want to comment on Leiter's ridiculous claim that "free market utopianism" "dominates economics?")

Leiter bemoans the controversy over poor Joseph Massad at Columbia, without noting the unlikelihood that someone like him would ever get hired by an institution like Columbia to begin with but for his ideology, and the related impossibility that even a top-notch scholar sympathetic to Israel would get hired in Massad's Edward-Said-influenced department. Top universities have found it necessary to create special "Israel Studies" programs and chairs because Departments of Middle Eastern Studies are so closed to anyone who wants to do objective, much less sympathetic, scholarship on Israel.

In fairness to Leiter, if one's worldview is to the left of Noam Chomsky's, the whole world, even academia, is going to look very "conservative". Even then, it would be hard to believe without willful blindness that economics is a more "ideological" subject than is "Women's Studies," even though economics professors range all over the ideological map, and Women's Studies professors, well, don't, and even though economics departments don't declare themselves to have an ideological mission, while Women's Studies departments often do (e.g.).

So even if I did share Leiter's worldview, I might be embarrassed to advertise my tunnel vision.

UPDATE: Ask and ye shall receive. A study of the views of 264 academic members of the American Economics Association concludes that "[o]nly a small percentage of AEA members ought to be called supporters of free-market principles. Whether the AEA is, in this respect, representative of the economics profession is an interesting matter, but we doubt that the AEA is skewed to any great extent." Thanks to reader "Lowell" for the pointer.

CrazyTrain (mail):
[Summers'] views on, among other things, feminism and Israel, were too "conservative" for their taste, and they got him fired from the Harvard presidency.

Do you have any evidence at all that his views on Israel had anything -- anything -- to do with Summers' firing?
9.25.2007 3:30pm
Edward Sykes:
Bernstein, we get it. You will defend Israel to the death regardless of how foolish and childish that makes you look.
9.25.2007 3:35pm
WHOI Jacket:
I don't know, but I'd wager Summers argued against whatever dumb "divestment plan" was all the rage the past 2-4 years..
9.25.2007 3:36pm
ejo:
It is not even a matter in controversy that American schools are bastions of the left wing-all you need are eyes and ears to figure that out. By the way, what is it about the last name "bernstein" that brings out the jew haters here? do those who froth over the mention of jews/israel prefer the alternative represented by the other regimes in the Middle East? are they academics?
9.25.2007 3:41pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Crazy Train, why don't you just Google it? You have access to a computer, right?

Edward Sykes, you realize that it was Leiter, not me, who raised the issue of Israel, right?
9.25.2007 3:41pm
ejo:
I'm sorry-I am sure they are just anti-Zionists and some of their best friends are jews.
9.25.2007 3:41pm
GMUSL 3L (mail):
WHOI, I believe the phrase he used was "anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent".

See here

CrazyTrain -- from what I heard from people at Harvard at the time, it was one of the "earlier strikes" that made his innocuous and misinterpreted comments about women and science so much more egregious to academics prone to getting the vapors.
9.25.2007 3:45pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
I don't know, but I'd wager Summers argued against whatever dumb "divestment plan" was all the rage the past 2-4 years..

So have tons of other academics -- you will have noticed that these divestment campaigns have not been very successful.

DB -- give it up. You have nothing. There are plenty of people in the academy who are pro-Israel. Whatever Summers' views on Israel were, they had nothing to do with his leaving Harvard. You make a fool of yourself by asserting otherwise -- and frankly, the assertion proves a caricature of yourself, i.e. that everything in your mind in some way or another has to do with Israel.
9.25.2007 3:46pm
AnonUser (mail):
CrazyTrain, Edward Sykes:

STOP IT. STOP IT. CEASE AND DESIST. We get it. Every post either of you write focuses on Bernstein and Israel. Sykes regularly accuses Bernstein of being more loyal to Israel than the U.S. I don't care.

It is irrelevant to this thread. Take it outside, stop trying to change the subject, and simply refrain from posting if you cannot address the topic at hand. Leiter brought up the Summers/Israel point (which, if you were paying attention back at the time, WAS one of the "big strikes" against Summers in the eyes of the Harvard faculty that ran him out), not Bernstein. I wish he hadn't, though, because now you two are going to try and run this thread off in the wrong direction.
9.25.2007 3:50pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
In fact, Crazy Train, if you're too lazy to do the Google searching yourself, try Matory, Summers, and Israel. Prof. Matory was one of the leaders of the opposition to Summers, and it appears that his primary motivation, at least initially, was Summers' statement about the divestment petition, which Matory signed.
9.25.2007 3:53pm
c.l. ball:
So the answer to Leiter's question is once: Summers was forced to resign.

But no conservative seeking tenure in the past 50 years was ever denied tenure because of liberal politicians or outside interest groups lobbying, right?
9.25.2007 3:54pm
PLR:
Will the court accept anecdotal evidence in rebuttal of lightly substantiated charges of animus?

David E. Bernstein is a Professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia, where he has been teaching since 1995. He was a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University Law Center for Spring 2003 semester, and is a Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan School of Law for the 2005-06 academic year.

Professor Bernstein is a graduate of the Yale Law School, where he was senior editor of the Yale Law Journal and a John M. Olin Fellow in Law, Economics, and Public Policy. He is the author of over sixty frequently cited scholarly articles, book chapters, and think tank studies, including recent or forthcoming articles and review essays in the Yale Law Journal, Michigan Law Review (2), Northwestern University Law Review, Texas Law Review (2), Georgetown Law Journal (2), Vanderbilt Law Review, and California Law Review.

Professor Bernstein is the author of You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws (Cato Institute 2003). He is also the co-author of The New Wigmore: Expert Evidence (Aspen Law and Business 2003), author of Only One Place of Redress: African-Americans, Labor Regulations, and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal (Duke 2001), and co-editor of Phantom Risk: Scientific Inference and the Law (MIT 1993). He a past chairperson of the Association of American Law Schools Evidence section.
9.25.2007 3:57pm
alwsdad (mail):
You say "all indications are that law schools [which you imply are exceedingly biased against conservatives] are actually much more open-minded, and much more tolerant of right-of-center views, than are other university departments, including many economics departments," and then later you say "economics professors range all over the ideological map". If the latter is true (and I believe it is), then where is the bias? It may be prevalent in law schools, but you've failed to make the case (or present any actual data) for any other department. (Well, yes, Women's Studies departments are liberal. Go figure.) And you should check out the ag. and engineering departments. (Of course, Ivy League schools don't have ag. departments, so they don't count anyway, right?) And yes, biology profs. tend to believe in evolution, and therefore reject the Republican party, whose leader apparently doesn't. And geology and astronomy professors tend to believe the big bang theory, and therefore reject the Republican party, who hires NASA spokesmen who don't. (Repeat as needed.)
I'm sure you know a lot about law schools, but your discussion of "other departments" is way off the mark. In fact, one might conclude you've got "tunnel vision".
9.25.2007 3:57pm
The Ghost of Xmas Past (mail):
Deleted for nastiness--ed.
9.25.2007 4:00pm
The Emperor (www):
A related point may be that if you are an extreme left wing academic and you spend most of your time interacting with other extreme left wing academics, you begin to see yourself as part of the mainstream. The result is that excluding moderate conservatives does not even register as ideological. It is the conservatives who are ideological, not you.
9.25.2007 4:03pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
ALWSD, are you being facetious? I was talking about departments like history, anthropology, sociology, English, political science, etc., not the hard sciences. Are there "political" issues in Physics or Engineering?
9.25.2007 4:05pm
HBD:
alwsdad,

You're making me go all McEnroe "you CANNOT be SERIOUS" here...

How about some other departments? Okay - History; Politics; Public Policy; Sociology; Anthropology; English...

When I was an undergrad (Princeton), there was some analysis of the party registrations in each of these departments. I believe that none of them had more than one Republican at the time. I don't recall the exact numbers, but I believe that Greens outnumbered Republicans.

Keep in mind that when people talk about the Ivy League, Princeton is often considered one of the "conservative" ones.

Let me guess - Princeton has no conservative English professors because George Bush has poor command of the language when speaking publicly, right? I think this is why the department was heavily Republican in the Reagan years. Oh. Nevermind.
9.25.2007 4:08pm
alwsdad (mail):
You just said "other university departments". I just get tired of diatribes about "liberal bias in academia" that really mean "liberal bias in the humanities and social sciences at elite east coast schools." I have no doubt THAT is real. But why try to paint it as a universal fact throughout academia?
9.25.2007 4:20pm
alwsdad (mail):
HBD, for the last 30 years, where has opposition to evolutionary theory come from? And opposition to things like the big bang theory and the theory that global climate change is caused by human activity? (I used examples from the current administration because they are current.) My point is simply that if large swaths of university faculty tend toward liberalism (or at least non-conservatism), there are obvious reasons that have nothing to do with discrimination.
9.25.2007 4:27pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Sloppy language on my part, but I don't think anyone sensible is claiming that there is ideological bias in, say, physics.
9.25.2007 4:28pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
It's not just faculty. A few years ago, when my son was applying to colleges, one school's menu of essay questions amounted to this: "Tell us how liberal you are." I suppose that, without more evidence, I could infer that they wanted this information to weed out lefties. But I won't.
9.25.2007 4:30pm
r78:

My presentation, mind you, was an empirical piece about the status of the Daubert case, and had no ideological content.

In several posts in this blog, you have made it perfectly clear that your take on Daubert is no different than any run of the mill tort-reform pro-business "conservative."

I guess on the day of that interview you were on you very best behavior not to allow your personal view to influence your "empirical" piece, eh?
9.25.2007 4:30pm
HBD:
Don't be so coy with us, alwsdad. Just say it - you think conservatives are stupid.

Of course, there's a pretty elementary logical fallacy in your argument (such as it is). The fact that, e.g., people who don't believe in evolution are likely to be conservative does not mean that conservatives are necessarily unlikely to believe in evolution (you can google Venn Diagrams for an illustration). This is especially true when we start looking at the academically inclined right-leaning population.
9.25.2007 4:33pm
byomtov (mail):
A study of the views of 264 academic members of the American Economics Association concludes that "[o]nly a small percentage of AEA members ought to be called supporters of free-market principles.

I suggest you look at this study before citing it. Among the questions it asks do determine whether someone is a supporter of "free-market" principles" is whether they oppose using monetary policy to fine-tune the economy, public schools, occupational health and safety rules, and air and water regulations, among others.

Are you really willing to call people who favor these things wild leftists? The paper is simply looney libertarianism.
9.25.2007 4:34pm
alwsdad (mail):
No one sensible is claiming bias in physics, usually, but conservative legislators all over the country routinely propose bills to curtail or somehow address "liberal bias in academia", and use as their motivation data that really only shows "liberal bias in humanities and social science at elite east coast schools". So I think it is worth pointing out that those are not the same thing.
9.25.2007 4:36pm
M (mail):
Summers wasn't fired because he thinks women are genetically inferior. He was fired because of the way he dealt with the charges against his good friend Andrei Shleifer's having stolen millions of dollars via securities fraud from the people of Russia while supposedly working for the US government (as well as engaging in more or less garden variety embesselment by using USAID funds to pay for memberships in fancy clubs and resorts, etc.) Harvard paid millions of dollars to keep Shleifer safe, more because he was Summer's friend than because of any other reason. It was costing Harvard millions of dollars that did Summers in.
9.25.2007 4:40pm
alwsdad (mail):
HBD, nothing I said implied that I think conservatives (in general) are stupid. But there is clearly a significant (and at the current time in particular, very influential) strain of conservative that is very anti-science. So if sceince professors react against that, that seems very logical to me.
9.25.2007 4:42pm
Jestak (mail):
Good points, M. I was about to note the role of the Shleifer affair in Summers' firing—David Warsh, who did some investigating into the issue, also found that it was significant, as was Summers' generally abrasive management style.

As for the Summers/feminism issue, people ought to read the discussion of the issue by Carol Tavris that Skeptical Inquirer published a while back (sometime in 2005, I think).
9.25.2007 4:47pm
happylee:
Excellent post. I have two extremely bright and productive friends who are forever doomed to work at community colleges because they believe in property rights and "the free market." Meanwhile, a particularly nasty and fairly dull girl I was unfortunate enough to spend time with in undergrad scored an outstanding job teaching (if we may call it that) at a good leftcoast university.

It greatly saddens me that the Gramscians are winning everywhere. As Rand said, ideas win in the long run. Most of our kids are growing up to despise property rights and love government, among other things. The left will not give up this position of power because it ensures they will win in the long run. And when the left wins, humanity loses. Always and everywhere, without exception.
9.25.2007 4:48pm
frankcross (mail):
First, the no one is claiming bias in physics is telling, because the research shows that departments such as physics are full of political liberals. Which suggests that something more than bias is going on here.

But Brian is wrong about economics. Several Nobel laureates have made their names arguing against strict laissez faire principles. While free trade is very fundamental to the conservative economic principle he is talking about, there is a current substantial dissenting position (Stiglitz, Rodrik, etc.) Economics is judged by the math and the numbers. If they can support a contrary position, they are taken seriously. Other areas, which lack the discipline of math and numbers, can more easily lapse into ideology
9.25.2007 4:50pm
alkali (mail):
This piece is informative on the story behind Summers' resignation:

Richard Bradley, "The Crimson Coup," Boston Mag., June 2006.

Nut grafs:

Engineering professor Frederick Abernathy wanted to know Summers's opinion regarding Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer, one of Summers's closest friends. Shleifer had agreed—without admitting wrongdoing—to pay $2 million to settle charges that he'd conspired to commit fraud while contracted by the U.S. government to give economic advice to Russia. Harvard, which defended Shleifer rather than settle out of court, agreed to pay a $26.5 million fine and an estimated millions more in legal fees. Many professors thought Summers's friendship with Shleifer had corrupted the university's actions—indeed, the university itself.

Summers, who had given a lengthy deposition in the case, responded that he had recused himself from Harvard's handling of the matter.

Abernathy persisted: Didn't Summers at least have an opinion about it?

No, Summers said. He did not.

Gasps of disbelief echoed through the room. The president had no opinion about a lawsuit brought by the federal government against one of his closest friends? A case that had cost the university some $30 million?

"There were a half-dozen ways in which he could have ducked that question," says another professor who was present. "But everybody in the room knew that he had just lied to us."

Summers's supporters insist the president was merely being legalistic. But either way, a third professor says, "At that moment you could feel Summers's presidency leave."
9.25.2007 4:52pm
tarheel:

A few years ago, when my son was applying to colleges, one school's menu of essay questions amounted to this: "Tell us how liberal you are."

I'm sorry, but I am calling BS on this story. I would love to see the actual text of the question. This is the type of claim that makes conservatives seem utterly unhinged when it comes playing the victim in the marketplace of campus ideology.
9.25.2007 5:00pm
c.l. ball:
Are there "political" issues in Physics or Engineering?

Within academia, there are. Physics profs vote in faculty senates in addition to English profs, so many of the intra-university issues that attract outside attention are political issues, and therefore the political affiliation of hard science faculty is relevant. That matters to questions over whether there is discrimination against conservatives in academia. (Keep in mind that what one means by conservative is not always clear; it is often equated with Republicans, which is not the case).
9.25.2007 5:02pm
DG:
Tarheel: I'm sorry, but I am calling BS on this story. I would love to see the actual text of the question. This is the type of claim that makes conservatives seem utterly unhinged when it comes playing the victim in the marketplace of campus ideology.

----

Sorry, but I saw a question like this on my wife's application for an MS in Social Work program. It was pretty specific and talked about your personal commitment to "Social Justice". It was pretty clear what the right answers were, too.
9.25.2007 5:05pm
RH:
Brian Leiter writes:
"But how many times in the last 50 years have 'liberal' politicians and interest groups outside universities successfully mobilized to get someone fired or even threatened that person's tenure because of 'conservative' views?"

This is very careful and rather disingenious language by Prof Leiter. Yes, it is unusual for liberal groups "outside" the university to exert pressure. This is because the pressure comes from the liberal orthodoxy *inside* the university.

I would assume Prof Leiter is aware of the Foundation For Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and their invaluable website at www.thefire.org. FIRE's mission is to defend and sustain individual rights at America's colleges and universities and they attack both liberal and conservative restrictions on freedoms at universities. However, a trawl through their case history shows far more restrictions imposed by a liberal viewpoint than vice versa (though Prof Bernstein's George Mason is interestingly cited as one of the examples of the latter).

There are a number of cases cited showing internal liberal "groups" mobilizing to get people fired or denied tenure. Two examples of many:

http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/8164.html
http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/7167.html

Of course, there is also the well documented tenure issues of recent guest blogger KC Johnson at Brooklyn College.
9.25.2007 5:09pm
tarheel:
DG:

Is there no way to answer that by discussing conservative principles? Is Social Justice an inherently liberal idea?

That you thought there was a "right answer" is only relevant to your state of mind, not the school's. If you go into the process assuming a liberal bias, then any question would have a "right answer." It's actually a very efficient self-fulfilling prophecy -- they don't want me, which is evidenced by their questions, so I won't apply, which means there won't be anyone like me, which is evidence they don't want me.
9.25.2007 5:16pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Regarding the Harvard-Shleifer issues -- all of the bad acts were committed long before Summers got the job at Harvard. What should Summers have done?
9.25.2007 5:17pm
Anderson (mail):
I have two extremely bright and productive friends who are forever doomed to work at community colleges because they believe in property rights and "the free market."

Obviously, they disbelieve their own theory in their own cases?
9.25.2007 5:24pm
seriously:
Volokh Conspiracy is usually great blog that is a paragon of civil scholarly discourse. Lately I've noticed a lot of posts that might fairly be characterized as academic slapfights. Professor Bernstein, have you considered starting your own blog on which to post these back-and-forths? They're not really edifying or interesting to the noncombatants.
9.25.2007 5:24pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
I find these discussions pretty surreal.

I worked for a time at a distinctly non-ivy state school in a distinctly non-eastern state. There was no doubt about the relative political positions among the social science professors; there was one conservative, who stood out like a sore right thumb. The rest ran the political gamut from hard leftism to mild leftism.

I don't understand why people have such a hard time grappling with the fact of a liberal bias in academia. One can say that the U.S. military, for example, is a fairly conservative institution, and people don't get all defensive about it.

(As for Leiter, the Emperor's comment seems most trenchant to me. If you're a Brian Leiter, or an Eric Alterman, EVERYTHING seems conservative; and per Marx, moderate liberals are the worst of all.)

It's also kind of jarring to see the posts above admit that, well, yes, social science faculties at "elite eastern universities" are liberal, but others aren't. This would seem to raise a host of questions. Like, what about Berkeley? OK, Stanford? Michigan? What is it about the elite eastern universities that magically transforms their social science faculty members into liberals, and yet does not effect wanna-be-elite universities at, well, everywhere else? Etc.

Sorry, but it strikes me that those acknowledging the liberal bent of "elite eastern universities" only do so in the wake of studies presenting near-ironclad proof of the obvious; my sense is that, in the absence of such studies, they would be disputing the notion tooth and nail.

- Alaska Jack
9.25.2007 5:29pm
ejo:
seriously-the fact that one mention of the word "jew" brings the nuts out of the woodwork, frothing, means he should depart or quit posting? that gives the nuts quite a heckler's veto.
9.25.2007 5:29pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
Tarheel wrote:



A few years ago, when my son was applying to colleges, one school's menu of essay questions amounted to this: "Tell us how liberal you are."




I'm sorry, but I am calling BS on this story. I would love to see the actual text of the question. This is the type of claim that makes conservatives seem utterly unhinged when it comes playing the victim in the marketplace of campus ideology.


It was nearly eight years ago, and I didn't save the questions. But I remember the incident, and I also remember my son's deciding not to apply to that school. So you can call me a liar--a standard leftist claim, these days. But it happened.
9.25.2007 5:41pm
Anderson (mail):
that gives the nuts quite a heckler's veto

Indeed. I'm glad he didn't suggest a special website for all the hyper-Israel Jewish bloggers ... what would one call it, I wonder?

I don't think anyone is being *forced* to click &read DB's threads. I find DB frequently annoying (&the feeling is mutual, I'm sure), but I don't quite see how that translates into "go blog elsewhere."

(There's the Elimin-a-Blogger feature on the VC site, but I've never been able to make it work.)
9.25.2007 5:41pm
tarheel:
Alan Gunn:

I'm not saying you made the story up. I'm saying I doubt the question actually asked what you perceived it to be asking. Rather than repeating myself, I refer you to my previous post.
9.25.2007 5:48pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
If you repeat a lie often enough it becomes true, I guess.

Even though the reason that Chemerinsky's reason for initially having his offer revoked was because he was too vocal about his opinions in a job that had been agreed to requiring public detachment from controversy, many otherwise responsible people keep claiming it was because his opinions were leftist.

Of course this is ignoring the fact that the man doing the hiring says he agrees with Chemerinsky politically.

But, go ahead, keep repeating a false story because that generates more discussion.
9.25.2007 5:55pm
proffy mcprofferson (mail):
the suggestion of several posters -- that one can't paint with a broad brush -- seems quite correct. that there is a lefty bias in the humanities seems uncontroversial, and is confirmed by every empirical study out there, leiter notwithstanding.

(my favorite anecdote on this one: i was sitting in a crowded school cafe at a table where a preppy white kid was meeting with a hipster graduate assistant (with "impeach bush" button) to find out why the student's paper had been graded poorly. the GA explained that the prof wanted to read a discussion about the text's treatment of women and people of color, which was difficult, said the GA, because that's not what the author thought he was writing about and becuause there were almost no passages in the text that dealt with the issue. at that point, the student's face was contorted in confusion. the GA went on to explain that later in the semester, when the class turned to the novels that the prof had selected (which wasn't the case with the novel the student had written about), it would be much easier to write about social exclusion and domination. the GA walked away and i spent about five minutes schooling the poor kid on how a humanities education actually works. i am certain that his next paper "interrogated the unspoken privileges of the white man.")
9.25.2007 5:55pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Byomtov, if we accepted your description of the study, the distinction between "looney libertarianism" and Leiter's "free market utopianism" is what?
9.25.2007 5:59pm
JRL:
I suggest you look at this study before citing it. Among the questions it asks do determine whether someone is a supporter of "free-market" principles" is whether they oppose using monetary policy to fine-tune the economy, public schools, occupational health and safety rules, and air and water regulations, among others.

Are you really willing to call people who favor these things wild leftists?


Yes.
9.25.2007 6:01pm
cathyf:
HBD, nothing I said implied that I think conservatives (in general) are stupid. But there is clearly a significant (and at the current time in particular, very influential) strain of conservative that is very anti-science. So if sceince professors react against that, that seems very logical to me.
"Very Influential"?!?!? On what planet do you live? I'm married to a physics professor. When members of the humanities and social sciences faculty shudder and confess that math and science horrify them because there are right and wrong answers, do you think they are anti-science because they are conservatives? When they fix the curriculum so that science faculty are not paid for teaching lab, so that the science faculty is forced to choose between teaching lab as volunteers in their spare time, or not teaching lab at all (the latter choice guaranteeing that scientists will die out from lack of adequate training, the former choice guaranteeing early coronaries for science faculty and more TIAA-CREF money for humanities and social sciences faculty) is their anti-science campaign motivated by their conservatism?
9.25.2007 6:03pm
Mappo (mail):
Seriously-

[ed: complaint about editor follows. Anyone who doesn't like the topics, or tone, or whatever, of my posts in general, is free to use the "select a blogger" feature, just pass over them, blog about them elsewhere or even complain to blogmaster Eugene. Don't waste bandwith and distract the conversation in the comments about a specific post. For select a blogger, see http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2004_11_00.shtml#1099419750]
9.25.2007 6:06pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
My take on most of this debate is that it requires more hard evidence. Neither Leiter's assertions that there is no ideological pressure nor Bernstein's insistence that there is are terribly convincing. No doubt ideology plays some role in hiring (and probably conservatives are somewhat disadvantaged) but so does height, hair color, vocal quality, looks (for men and women) and a hundred other things that shouldn't matter. Without something a bit more substantive than anecdotes on both sides I don't really have a clue what to believe (my field of mathematics is pretty sheltered from this stuff).

However, I have to bristle at the idea that economics is ideologically conservative because most economists are very supportive of free trade and markets (look at the SAEE study as reviewed in "The Myth of the Rational Voter"...the fact that they are not as supportive as the caricature of them hardly shows much). For starters economists also have very many traditionally liberal views (welfare and foreign aid are not serious economic concerns). However, all of this misses the point.

Economists are experts in and study economics and the effects of free trade are an economic question and economics is a genuine empirical science (though it should be more empirical). So while it's possible that economists views on free trade and markets are the result of ideology our default assumption should be that economists views on markets and free trade simply reflect greater knowledge of the facts. Once again I refer the reader to The Myth of the Rational Voter (chapter 3) where the author makes a very good data driven case that it is actual knowledge of economics not political affiliation that explains economists views on these subjects.

Ultimately most people agree on the desired outcomes for an economy (wealth, equality, alleviating suffering) and the question is merely whether free markets are a good way to achieve it. If this turns out to be a simple fact it is no more evidence of conservative ideology that people believe it than it is evidence of liberal ideology that people accept evolution.

Also remember that one can support free trade and markets and believe that the government should step in to soften the blows of these forces on societies least well off. I think it is the result of ideological blinders to assume that just because many republicans use the language of markets and trade to justify denying these services everyone who advocates for markets and trade must as well.
9.25.2007 6:07pm
alwsdad (mail):
I actually agree that college faculty tend to be more liberal than the general public. Maybe even much more. (Most of the surveys I've seen have focused on humanities at Ivy League and similar schools, but whose results are then used to descibe all of academia.) My main point is that there are logical reasons for this that have nothing to do with some sinister conspiracy or systematic discrimination. If the vast majority of physics professors are, in fact, liberal (I really don't know), when their political opinions were never discussed during the hiring process, and are mentioned nowhere in their scholarship, then how did that happen? And no, I'm not implying that only liberals are smart enough to get PhDs in physics. But there must be forces other than "We only hire liberals" at work here. (And, based on my own experience at several universities, engineering and agriculture profs do tend to be conservative, and they never seem to get counted in these surveys.)
9.25.2007 6:13pm
Trevor Morrison (mail):
David, one of the things you linked to as support for your position is a post from Randy Barnett where, in addition to corroborating your account of mistreatment at a "Northeastern school" (which I'm sure we can all agree was shabby treatment indeed), he says the following:

"In the end, I think any candidate with political views in the minority (in which category I include radical left, as well as conservative or libertarian) must be significantly better than the normal appointment at a particular school to have a chance of getting a job offer from that school."

This is the source you cited to support your position. Do you agree with it?
9.25.2007 6:19pm
Brian K (mail):
The problem with anecdotes is that they are frequently untrue or wholly or partially made up and almost always only part of the story...the part that confirms the anecdote givers point.

Take the paper grading story above. could the bad grade have anything to do with the fact that the paper was likely poorly written? Or that he was writing on something other than the prompt? I've met very few undergrads who will own up to their own mistakes. did they fail the test because they didn't study enough? did they fail the essay because they read the book at the last minute and cranked out 5 pages of BS? nope. nope. its the "evil" teacher who wrote bad test questions or its the "evil" TA who just doesn't like me.
9.25.2007 6:21pm
alwsdad (mail):
cathyf, the influential conservatives I was referring to are the ones in the White House, muzzling NASA scientists, forcing the word "alleged" in front of "big bang" in official documents, and trying to undermine the teaching of evolution. In other words, being anti-science. The issues you raise are unfamiliar to me.
9.25.2007 6:21pm
Jestak (mail):
Regarding the Harvard-Shleifer issues -- all of the bad acts were committed long before Summers got the job at Harvard. What should Summers have done?

Tony, as I understand it, there were two concerns:

1) The responsibility Summers bore for Harvard's years-long defense of Shleifer, on legal grounds that were apparently very shaky, which was both financially expensive and costly to their reputation, instead of settling the case back in 2001.

2) The fact that Summers flat-out lied to the faculty about the case: "he president responded in a manifestly untruthful way to questions that were asked about the Shleifer case," in the words of political science prof Robert Putnam, a supporter of Summers until that point.
9.25.2007 6:36pm
GV_:
ed: complaint about editor follows. Anyone who doesn't like the topics, or tone, or whatever, of my posts in general, is free to use the "select a blogger" feature, just pass over them, blog about them elsewhere or even complain to blogmaster Eugene. Don't waste bandwith and distract the conversation in the comments about a specific post. For select a blogger, see [snip]

Sadly, this features does not work with your posts. The url to exclude your posts should be: http://volokh.com/?exclude=DavidB. But your (*deleted for civility*) posts continue to appear.
9.25.2007 6:57pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Trevor, I'm sure that being wildly deviant from the norm at a particular school is bad for one's chances of being hired, but even more important is not having anyone on the faculty of similar ideology to stick up for you and keep ideological considerations from being too overt. As more Fed Society types have joined faculties, discrimination against them has decreased. I haven't done an ideological census, but my guess is that conservatives/libertarians are significantly more likely to be wildly deviant from the norm, and more likely not have ideological compatriots on any given law faculty, than leftists, though much less so than in, say, 1990.

Another change is that few fields like corporate law have become so dominated by law and economics that it would be difficult for a leftist who is hostile to the premises of l &e to break in. You can be very liberal and do l &e, but I don't know if you can easily be a "leftist."

But note that I mentioned that law is actually much more diverse ideologically than many other fields; I don't think leftist historians have any trouble at all getting hired.
9.25.2007 6:57pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Has anyone noticed the Left has nothing to redistribute until the Right makes it?
9.25.2007 7:00pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Try the lower case: http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb
9.25.2007 7:01pm
byomtov (mail):
JRL,

Are you really willing to call people who favor these things wild leftists?

Yes.


OK. You're entitled. But don't expect to be taken seriously when you complain about how the universities are dominated by "wild leftists" who think the Federal Reserve, for example, is a good idea.
9.25.2007 7:10pm
P.B. (mail):
Check out the AAUP STATEMENT ON THE TERMINATION OF PHIL MITCHELL, which concludes that Mitchell, a religious and political conservative who was also one of CU's most decorated instructors was fired as the result of an "academic hit job" orchestrated by an unscrupulous program director.


Just as there may be no single objective "truth," there is no single explanation that might thoroughly account for a particular event. Human motivation, as ever, is multi-determined. As we noted earlier in this report, it is unlikely that Boag, Carlos, or Kenney would admit that they acted out of animus toward Mitchell's conservative political and religious beliefs, or necessarily be aware that they harbor such a bias. It is similarly unlikely that Gleeson or Peterson would publicly acknowledge that they fired Mitchell because they considered his speaking out to be "extremely detrimental" to the University, though the available evidence clearly points in that direction. Still, it is notable that of all the actors critical of Mitchell, only Anderson voiced the possibility that in faulting Mitchell's pedagogy he might be "reaching into questions of academic freedom." We doubt that Carlos, Kenney, Boag, Zeiler or Gleeson are unappreciative of academic freedom, unaware of the central role academic freedom plays in the survival of democracy, or that they otherwise consider it an outmoded abstraction. It is certainly difficult to fathom that Kenney, for example, as a student of Eastern European history, or Boag, as a scholar in the field of gay and lesbian studies, are indifferent to the primacy of academic freedom.
9.25.2007 7:24pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Jestak --
I just read the McClintick article, which contrives to give the impression that while serving as Treasury Secretary, Summers was somehow supervising Shleifer in Russia. This might be tolerable had McClintick not excused two years of inattention on the part of Shleifer's supervisor, Sachs. Considering that in 2000, the year before Summers became President, the U.S. wanted $120 million from Harvard, an actual payout of $26.5 million sounds like a good deal.

Frankly it sounds like a hatchet job. Also, I would expect the faculty to be disgruntled because they were not clued in. But spending $26 million is really none of their business -- that's the responsibility of the President and Fellows.
9.25.2007 8:08pm
ScottyD (mail):
Staggering number of comments on DB's posts in the last few days. Numerous side arguments. I appreciate DB's posts and admire his continuation in the face of criticism and some vitriol. As a liberal Jew I'm appreciative of space where folks can see many opinions, blow off some steam, even when my POV isn't dominant. It seems folks with various POVs feel they never get a hearing, esp. re: Israel.

Strength of this median: exposure to new data, links, views
Weakness: encourages repetition of argument, too many points simultaneously for effective refutation and resolution, leads to a sullen belief in the intransigence of others.
9.25.2007 8:11pm
Mark Nazimova (mail):
tarheel said:


Is there no way to answer that by discussing conservative principles? Is Social Justice an inherently liberal idea?

That you thought there was a "right answer" is only relevant to your state of mind, not the school's. If you go into the process assuming a liberal bias, then any question would have a "right answer."


In some cases, discerning the bias--and the political content of the term--may not require a leap of faith. For example, see FIRE's description of a standard school of education requirement that students demonstrate a commitment to social justice and diversity.

When the Columbia University Teachers College offical Conceptual Framework states that

We see teaching as an ethical and political act. We see teachers as moral actors whose job is to facilitate the growth and development of other human beings, and as such, as participants in a larger struggle for social justice

and that

educators must recognize ways in which taken-for-granted notions regarding the legitimacy of the social order are flawed, see change agency as a moral imperative, and have skills to act as agents of change

and elsewhere the same school notes that these

[d]ispositions are a critical part of candidates' assessment during all field experiences, student teaching, and internships

it's not a great leap of faith.
9.25.2007 8:17pm
tarheel:
OK, that's pretty bad. I don't really see the problem with the first paragraph above (link does not seem to work), but the second is pretty egregious.
9.25.2007 8:41pm
Some Mathematician (mail):
David Bernstein: Are there "political" issues in Physics or Engineering?

Short answer: yes.

In math: PDE methods in geometry vs algebraic ones. Computer-generated proofs.

In computer science: Static typing vs dynamic typing.

In physics: copenhagen quantum mechanics vs others (GRW, Bohmian). String theory vs the rest.

Personal anecdote: I'm aware of only 1 department in the US that will hire a unification person who doesn't do strings. Bohmian mechanics people have serious difficulties getting hired, in ways very similar to what you described happening to conservatives (GRW people fare slightly better).
9.25.2007 8:46pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

First, the no one is claiming bias in physics is telling, because the research shows that departments such as physics are full of political liberals. Which suggests that something more than bias is going on here.


Would that possibly be because in physics, you can tell if someone is right or not?
9.25.2007 8:51pm
byomtov (mail):
Byomtov, if we accepted your description of the study, the distinction between "looney libertarianism" and Leiter's "free market utopianism" is what?

I'm not sure what Leiter means by "free-market utopianism" so it's difficult for me to answer that. I'm not an academic economist (or any other kind) either, so my knowledge of the ideological positions academic economists hold is limited, but not non-existent.

My impression is that there is, on the whole, a strong belief that markets are generally excellent institutions, but that there are clearly situations where regulation is useful, or alternatives are better, either for reasons of equity or because the conditions for the market to produce its wondrous results are absent.

In general I think economists are much more "pro-market" than the public at large (or the public in jail). Look at the two ideas that were extremely strongly opposed - tariffs and govt ownership of enterprise. I think these are examples of what I am talking about, and that you would get less opposition from the public. On the other hand, I would be extremely surprised if there were many who favored abolishing the Fed, or doing away with environmental regulation.

My point is that the survey in question does not justify the conclusion. It is perfectly possible to support market principles and at the same time favor laws restricting air pollution. Indeed, many would argue that absent such laws the market does not do a big part of what it is supposed to do - allocate costs to those who use resources.
9.25.2007 8:57pm
Anderson (mail):
educators must recognize ways in which taken-for-granted notions regarding the legitimacy of the social order are flawed, see change agency as a moral imperative, and have skills to act as agents of change

Somehow, I have a hard time imagining that Socrates would disagree with that.
9.25.2007 8:59pm
SenatorX (mail):
I enjoy DB's posts, they always seem rational to me. I don't understand why he gets such nasty comments all the time.
9.25.2007 9:31pm
EconGrad:

In general I think economists are much more "pro-market" than the public at large (or the public in jail).


The seemingly pro-market bent of economists likely comes from their greater knowledge and study of the subject.

First, markets are closely linked to the development of homo sapiens. People have trading for tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of years. In many cultures, trade independently developed into markets (e.g., open air markets).

Second, trade and markets solve a fundamental problems with resource allocation. One party gives up X to get Y while the other party gives up Y to get X. Both party must think that they are made better off otherwise they would not agree to the deal. This is known as "the gains to trade."
Trade allows resources can be reallocated while making both parties better off. In contrast, a third party (e.g., a government bureaucrat) cannot readily determine whether given reallocation of resources will make both parties better off.

Even many socialistic economists tend to be supportive of markets for certain purposes. For example, the social democracts of western europe intentionally allowed markets to continue operating in many spheres, largely for the reasons listed above.

As far as the distinction between "looney libertarians" and "free market utopians," I can assure you that most mainstream economists do not fall into either category. For example, the concept of market externalities is accepted by virtually all mainstream economists. That disqualifies them from being "free market utopians." Moreover, since most mainstream economists believe that the government should address these externalities, they can't be considered "looney libertarians," either.
9.25.2007 9:33pm
grackle (mail):
Top universities have found it necessary to create special "Israel Studies" programs and chairs because Departments of Middle Eastern Studies are so closed to anyone who wants to do objective, much less sympathetic, scholarship on Israel.

This is, at the least, misleading if not a complete misunderstanding of the existence of groups such as the Association of Israel Studies, which, as stated on its website, is, along with many other specialist groups, a part of the much maligned MESA. Named chairs, such as chairs in Jewish Studies are most often endowed by those with interests in the areas. I know of no "top universities" that have found it necessary to create Israeli Studies programs outside of their existing Middle Eastern or Area studies programs, in particular because of bias within their own institutions. There may be some but I am sceptical without any empirical evidence.
9.25.2007 9:35pm
Mark Nazimova (mail):
Anderson quoted/responded:

educators must recognize ways in which taken-for-granted notions regarding the legitimacy of the social order are flawed, see change agency as a moral imperative, and have skills to act as agents of change

Somehow, I have a hard time imagining that Socrates would disagree with that.


Socrates wasn't big on taking things for granted. But how do you know that he would agree with Teachers College that a particular set of notions, regarding the legitimacy of a particular social order, is taken for granted?

And how do you know that Socrates would agree with Teachers College that those particular notions, about a particular social order, are flawed?

And why are you confident that he would see change agency--independent of any particular kind of change--as a moral imperative?
9.25.2007 9:43pm
socratic (mail):
Socrates would have a hard time disagreeing with that? For Christ's sake he disagreed with everybody about everything. Can you imagine what that conversation would have looked like? What Socrates would have done with someone spouting politically correct gibberish? Now that would be funny to watch.

On this point about physicists, can someone back that up with links to good stats? IIRC, the humanities were by far the most left, which means if we take physics to be the yardstick, we'd have to attribute any further-left-than-physics in the humanities to mere intellectual and political fashion.
9.25.2007 9:52pm
Waldensian (mail):

Try the lower case: http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb

This falls into the "news I can use" category.
9.25.2007 11:06pm
Elliot Reed:
As much as it pains me to do it, I've got to admit that Bernstein is right here. My suspicion is that Leiter considers anyone who doesn't think markets are fundamentally dysfunctional institutions to be a "free-market utopian".
9.25.2007 11:27pm
Mr. Wrestling II:
Here's an example. A portion of UGA's law school faculty around 5 or years ago blocked making job offers to would-be professors who had clerked for conservative Supreme Court justices.

www.law.com/jsp/LawArticlePC.jsp?id=1056139960618
9.25.2007 11:40pm
Letalis Maximus, Esq. (mail):
Law schools and universities generally are just rites of passage (maybe even largely wastes of time and money) that we have to go through in order to take the bar exam, get that first job, and then begin practicing. As a lawyer, you generally aren't worth a pitcher of warm spit until you've been doing it 10 years or so, anyway.

So who cares what law school professors and deans think? They are usually not out here in the trenches slugging it out on a day to day basis. I did my three years, and neither me nor my money have been back since.
9.25.2007 11:41pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
alwsdad said:
No one sensible is claiming bias in physics,

Post modernism is affecting them too.

Engineering is where conservatives hang out, in part because engineers know Murphy.
9.25.2007 11:54pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

First, the no one is claiming bias in physics is telling, because the research shows that departments such as physics are full of political liberals. Which suggests that something more than bias is going on here.


Would that possibly be because in physics, you can tell if someone is right or not?
9.25.2007 7:51pm


No Charley it is because physics is about theory. And in theory Communism is best. In practice (engineering) it not only doesn't work. It may in fact cause devolution.
9.26.2007 12:04am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Elliot123 (mail):
Has anyone noticed the Left has nothing to redistribute until the Right makes it?
9.25.2007 6:00pm

Joe Lieberman - the former next Vice President of the USA.
9.26.2007 12:14am
Grover Gardner (mail):
As with anything found in a comments section on the internet, a little googling about Columbia Teachers College's "Conceptual Framework" presents a more balanced picture of the controversy.
9.26.2007 12:27am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Re: Stiglitz,

He says that because there is no such thing as a perfectly informed market, government can help.

My question: if information is not perfect how will government know what to do? What is to prevent a government agent from helping his brother in law?
9.26.2007 12:29am
cathyf:
I haven't done an ideological census, but my guess is that conservatives/libertarians are significantly more likely to be wildly deviant from the norm, and more likely not have ideological compatriots on any given law faculty, than leftists, though much less so than in, say, 1990.
Just another data point, but in 1990 the Internet (usenet) was a solidly libertarian-majority place, and also overwhelmingly populated by academics. (Who were at least graduate students. Penn State was one of the few schools which offered undergraduates general access to accounts which could access the internet, through a machine called psuvm, and "PSUVMer" was a common insulting synonym for "puerile".) In 1990 on the Internet liberals were a significant minority, but conservatives pretty few and far between.

Perhaps the 1990 Internet was badly skewed towards computer science, engineering, math and science? Anyway, what I most remember about 1990 is that no one would have lumped libertarians and conservatives into a single group. The libertarians who had signed on with Reagan were still considered people who had changed political philosophies.
9.26.2007 12:38am
Eli Rabett (www):
Physicists and chemists are probably on balance more towards the left politically than the right. That being said there are a large number who are towards the right, even the far right, but what we are as a group is international. Biologists will have to speak up for themselves but almost everyone has spent considerable time elsewhere, including working in other countries, knows large numbers of colleagues from different nations, has students or bosses or collaborators etc. from other countries.

That includes people from the world around, and it means that the part of the right wing credo having to do with demonizing people from other nations (we have been at war with East Asia since 40 years), beating on the nativist drums (build a wall around Amurica) and more does not play very well.

There are obviously also science issues where the likes of Inhofe get short shrift, but that is professional.
9.26.2007 1:05am
Eli Rabett (www):
Just a few odd comments. WRT Summers, 26 M$ in payback is 26M$ that does not go into programs and student support. Damn right the faculty was angry.

The point about physics being theory driven is right, but so, even more so is economics. Chemistry, otoh, is still primarily synthesis driven and departments are about the same politically.
9.26.2007 1:10am
Curious Student:
Why do you continue to paint ideology as a monolith. It's either the left or right. The left does this, the right does that. As many avowed libertarians frequent this site, I would think you would be more cautious with these terms. There are social conservatives, economic conservatives, and the same at the other end of the scale. Additionally, I find it quite sad that we continue to prop up the myth that someone's core religious, social, economic, moral, and political views must be constrained to a neat little box of classification. As an academic, I would expect more from you.
9.26.2007 1:59am
mwj4c:
This thread is interesting.

I'm a lawyer in private practice. For pedigree purposes, I went to the U of Tennessee for undergrad due to money issues (accepted to Yale). I went to Virginia Law due to money issues (accepted to Harvard, Chicago, NYU, Columbia; dinged by Yale). I'm happy as a clam with my choices and point acceptances out only because, after reading through the prior posts, mainly academics weigh-in here. And pedigree matters more in your world than mine. So, just clearing the air.

Bernstein's first para said: "So let's just focus on one statement: 'But how many times in the last 50 years have 'liberal' politicians and interest groups outside universities successfully mobilized to get someone fired or even threatened that person's tenure because of 'conservative' views?'"

All of the discussion in the thread (that I have read, anyway) focuses on academics. Which makes sense given the tenure reference in the quote above and the nature of this blog.

To throw some non-academic seasoning into the mix, however, I can tell you that I have seen people get fired for "conservative views" in a private setting. I can tell you that I consider it a liability within my firm that I continue to list my membership in The Federalist Society on my bio. I have seen people fired for stating a "truth that dare not speak its name." I can tell you that I've been told, explicitly, because I'm a white male, that "no one cares because we have enough of you."

I can also tell you that I would have preferred to be an English professor than a lawyer, but that I had (liberal) professors (who thought very highly of me) tell me candidly that I was of the wrong race, gender and political predisposition to have a snowball's chance. I'm glad for their advice, but sad, and more importantly, scared, for its necessity. Our universities should be better than to call for such advice.

Letalius' post at 9.25.2007 10:41pm denigrates academics' relevance. I disagree. Academics are highly relevant. Which is why I'm posting here. Academics are intellectual leaders. Unfortunately, I think most academics are quick-stepping in the wrong direction either due to mistaken premises or, more shamefully, peer pressure.
9.26.2007 2:35am
dew:
cathyf: Just another data point, but in 1990 the Internet (usenet) was a solidly libertarian-majority place, and also overwhelmingly populated by academics. (Who were at least graduate students. Penn State was one of the few schools which offered undergraduates general access to accounts which could access the internet, through a machine called psuvm, and "PSUVMer" was a common insulting synonym for "puerile".) In 1990 on the Internet liberals were a significant minority, but conservatives pretty few and far between.

Sorry to nitpick at length (but I can't resist) - the main point about libertarians seems pretty much true from my memory, although it might have just been the libertarian-types were just the loudest back then. The rest, less true. The "internet" and "usenet" are different things (if mostly overlapping today). In 1990, I am pretty sure almost all usenet traffic was still being transferred over UUCP, or Unix to Unix CoPy, a cooperative network of machines storing and forwarding traffic in batches that was eventually superceded by the current internet. Because usenet could have commercial messages, it was banned from Fed-funded ARPAnet and NFSnet, two of the biggest early internet backbones. Usenet even still has its UUCP legacy showing the network path taken (machine1!machine2!machine3); most who sent usenet e-mail coast-to-coast back then probably remembers "decvax!decwrl" or the reverse; a lot of the late 80s/early 90s usenet traffic transferred overnight between these two machines through Digital Equipment Corp.'s internal network. When I was an undergraduate in the mid-1980s, my university and schools many of my friends attended gave easy access to the usenet; bigger public colleges and non-technical schools were just slow in allowing access. Direct internet access was much harder to get. Even in the mid-80s, I don't remember usenet "overwhelmingly populated by academics who were at least graduate students"; I remember plenty of undergraduates there, and UUCP/Usenet even started getting significant numbers of users from nonacademic commercial networks well before 1990 (Fidonet connected in 1986, and I seem to remember plenty of Bitnet traffic on the Usenet by 1990). Again, the internet was different, but most parts of the internet were still only available for academic research unrelated to usenet back then.
9.26.2007 2:55am
Dick Eagleson:
alwsdad, you appear ignorant of both relevant history and some current realities. To wit:

HBD, for the last 30 years, where has opposition to evolutionary theory come from?

If you think the most numerous and staunchly anti-evolution constituency in the U.S. is conservative white Republicans, you are wrong. American blacks, who are overwhelmingly liberal Democrats, are also overwhelmingly adherents of Christian sects that reject evolution.

And opposition to things like the big bang theory...

The Big Bang Theory dates from the work of Lemaitre and Hubble in the 1920's. Much of the initial opposition to the idea came from atheist and socialist Brits and Europeans who were simply aghast at the idea that there could posibly have been a "creation," however defined. The competing Steady State Theory of the universe was still considered at least somewhat intellectually respectable until the early 60's when Penzias and Wilson stumbled upon the cosmic background microwave noise now regarded as the "echo" of the Big Bang.

The idea that "progressive" and "pro-science" are synonyms is easily shown to be frequently at serious variance with the facts.
9.26.2007 4:02am
Kazinski:
Leiter is a pretentious ass. I think it would have been better if Bernstein wouldn't have bothered. Part of Leiter's irritation may be that he wouldn't be able to place an op-ed in a major newspaper. Why wouldn't he be able to get an op-ed printed? Because he is a pretentious ass and it drips through everything he writes. Here is a sample:

One of the pernicious aspects of the blogosphere--a consequence, obviously, of the fact that contributions to it are not subject to any screening for qualifications or content--is that those who are basically ignorant, or inane, or trivial, can adopt all the forms and poses and mannerisms of those who aren't.
A civility norm helps sustain the charade. The demand for civility is tantamount to the demand to accord a legitimacy to that which lacks it, to treat the "less they know, the less they know it" blather as though it were "thoughtful," "well-reasoned," and "an interesting perspective."


Read the whole thing, but alas you much read the cached verision, because Leiter has tucked it away so it is no longer available at his blog.

Now I'm not critisizing the message, after all it is a one of the premium features of the internet to rip some dense idiot a new one. But it does bespeak someone that wants to debate credentials rather than ideas. One who hides behind their academic credentials to shield them from arguments where their ideas can't carry the day, of course while living on the public teat.
9.26.2007 4:13am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I suggest you look at this study before citing it. Among the questions it asks do determine whether someone is a supporter of "free-market" principles" is whether they oppose using monetary policy to fine-tune the economy, public schools, occupational health and safety rules, and air and water regulations, among others.

Are you really willing to call people who favor these things wild leftists? The paper is simply looney libertarianism.
I suggest you look at the study before citing it. If you do, you'll see that (a) they tossed out the question about "using monetary policy," on the grounds that it could have been misinterpreted, (b) at no point did they say anything about "wild leftists"; that's simply your invention, and (c) the questions you cite were some of many, and at no point did they say that opposing one of those things makes one a "leftist." They averaged responses across many questions.

Your point makes no sense in the big picture, either. Your argument is "These are good things, so therefore people should support them." But that has nothing to do with the issue of whether someone is a supporter of free market principles; all you're saying is that supporting free-market principles isn't always good. But that's just your bias.
9.26.2007 4:18am
Kazinski's Friend (mail):
Hey Kazinski, Leiter's post which you don't like is right here on his blog. No need for cache.
9.26.2007 8:42am
Letalis Maximus, Esq. (mail):
mwj4c:

Academics are leaders only so long as they lead. Once they stop being leaders, people stop listening and they become just another dusty old museum exhibit. Noisy ones that must be endured in this case, but just as irrelevant.

Peace.
9.26.2007 8:46am
econjeff (mail):
Academic economist in top fifteen department here. I think it is really important in talking about ideology in economics to do three things. First, it is important to distinguish among social conservatives, classical liberals and libertarians. Second, it is important to make clear distinctions on the left between people who, to most serious lefties, would sound very un-left-like but who nonetheless vote for democrats. This is a very large group in economics - probably the modal group. They do not like social conservatism for its intolerance and anti-empirical views. At the same time, as noted in many comments, economists who have studied markets and their alternatives tend to be pretty positive about markets, though members of the group I have in mind would favor thoughtful (e.g. EITC) redistribution but not silly (e.g. living wage) redistribution. They would also favor thoughtful (e.g. the Fed) intervention to correct institutional problems with markets and externalities (e.g. the carbon tax being pushed by Greg Mankiw and many others) but would be keen to subject such interventions to a serious cost-benefit analysis. These people are not free marketeers by any stretch, but I think most classical liberals and libertarians would find a government run by them less objectionable than one by most republicans - certainly this classical liberal would.

Third, it is very important to recognize that the really lively fault lines in the profession do not have to do with politics but with methods. This is where the Nation piece on heterodox economics a few months ago goes off the rails, because the Nation (as is its habit) wants to shoehorn everything into a left/right divide. Debates about, for example, about the extent to which empirical work in economics should directly embody theory (i.e. between "structural" and "reduced form") work, does not fall into any neat left/right divide. Neither do debates about the value of behavioral economics. Economics is not free of politics in the sense of this thread, but there are a lot of other things going on as well that explain a much larger fraction of the variance in things like hiring, publiciation and so on.
9.26.2007 9:38am
Anderson (mail):
Much of the initial opposition to the idea came from atheist and socialist Brits and Europeans who were simply aghast at the idea that there could posibly have been a "creation," however defined.

Exactly right; the Vatican expressed guarded acceptance for much the same reason, in reverse.
9.26.2007 10:05am
c.l. ball:
The problem with anecdotes is not that they are false or misleading -- it is that they are anecdotes. Sure, some professors are biased, grade poorly, and lecture improperly on politics rather than their subject matter. The question is whether they are representative of academia overall -- and that is why the make up of all academic departments matter.

Leftists can come up w/ plenty of anecdotes about professors who dismiss their views -- say downgrading an essay in an international politics course because it mentions Chomsky, not because what Chomsky says about that topic is wrong. That doesn't mean that most political scientists are conservative.
9.26.2007 10:09am
another example (mail):
Some commenters have mentioned application questions that showed bias even at the initial stage (of being accepted at a university).
Years ago I considered the possibility of going into speech therapy and audiology as a profession. I received an admissions packet to the graduate department from a top-notch university.
They gave a bullet point description of the candidates they were looking for. The last item: "A commitment to affirmative action."
What the hell does a commitment to affirmative action have to do with helping people with speech impediments learn how to speak properly?
I didn't bother applying.
9.26.2007 10:52am
Kazinski's other friend:
Kazinski has it right. Best way to deal with Leiter is to ignore him and dull some of his odd Internet "fame."
9.26.2007 11:16am
PLR:
Thanks for the link to Professor Leiter's blog. Good stuff coming from Texas, who knew?
9.26.2007 11:26am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

But there is clearly a significant (and at the current time in particular, very influential) strain of conservative that is very anti-science. So if sceince professors react against that, that seems very logical to me.
Except that the most severe and absurd leftist trash is largely coming from the humanities and social sciences—not from the physical sciences.

And this notion that conservatism=anti-science is absurd. It is precisely because the physical sciences are built around the idea that there are universal and absolute truths (F=GM1M2/r2, for example) that are not culturally determined that conservatives have considerable respect and support for the physical sciences.

It is interesting that when there are well qualified—indeed, astonishingly over-qualified physical scientists—who don't buy the current agenda, they get passed over for tenure. For example, Guillermo Gonzalez is an astronomy professor at Iowa State. To have authored 68 peer-reviewed papers before tenure is stunning.

Gonzalez leads his department in citation analyses, even though his more senior colleagues have been working for decades longer. But Gonzalez has expressed doubt about an article of the True Faith, and there has been a concerted effort by leftist faculty to have him drummed out for thinking wrong:

In the summer of 2005, three faculty members at ISU drafted a statement against the use of intelligent design in science. One of those authors, Hector Avalos, told The Tribune at the time he was concerned the growing prominence of Gonzalez's work was beginning to market ISU as an "intelligent design school."

The statement collected signatures of support from more than 120 ISU faculty members before similar statements surfaced at the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa.

There's really no question that the left is grossly disproportionate among faculty, and that they frequently use their position to punish those that think conservative thoughts.
9.26.2007 2:21pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

The problem with anecdotes is not that they are false or misleading — it is that they are anecdotes. Sure, some professors are biased, grade poorly, and lecture improperly on politics rather than their subject matter. The question is whether they are representative of academia overall — and that is why the make up of all academic departments matter.
They don't have to be the average—they can just be a loud minority that the majority goes along with to get some peace. My experience as an undergrad and graduate student was pretty good in my own department, history. I can't remember a single statement made by any of my professors for computer science, physics, chemistry, calculus, or English composition that showed any political biases or disdain.

On the other hand, there were classes that were nothing but political tirade. My wife took a Critical Thinking class in the philosophy department that had an excellent textbook—with a leftist bias, but it wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, the professor made almost no use of it—every day (when he didn't cancel class completely, which was frequent) was a political tirade about George Bush Sr. It wasn't even about using current events as a springboard for a discussion of critical thinking—there wasn't even a pretense.

There was an ethnic studies class that I took that was a complete and utter joke—to the point that we used a textbook that claimed that the binary logic of computers was a Western cultural construct, and there was serious question about whether computers would work in non-Western societies.

My wife took a Musics of the World class in which the professor was going on about Native American music and how, "They respected the environment, unlike the white Christian Europeans who came in to destroy everything." This isn't just polemical; it is historically inaccurate.

My daughter and son-in-law are working on MSWs right now—and they have professors who have abandoned all pretense that they are teaching social work. A class on family structure and social work? The semester was devoted to the problems of global warming—and the instructions for the term paper indicated that no paper expressing doubt about the anthropogenic origins of global warming would be accepted.

This semester, they have another class that is supposedly about social work—but the reading list is about war, including embarrassing polemical, reductionistic trash like the comic book Addicted to War.

One student was kicked out of the social work program (and yes, they can do that) because the question came up about reparative therapy. One student was quite supportive of that for homosexuals that weren't comfortable with their sexual orientation—and boom, out she went.

Some ideas scare the left so much that they don't allow any serious discussion of alternatives.
9.26.2007 2:38pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

If you think the most numerous and staunchly anti-evolution constituency in the U.S. is conservative white Republicans, you are wrong. American blacks, who are overwhelmingly liberal Democrats, are also overwhelmingly adherents of Christian sects that reject evolution.
And the other problem is that there are a lot of people in America who don't so much reject evolution as ask that it be taught in a more scientifically rigorous way.

When I took chemistry and physics, we were able to test at least some of the basic equations. In physics class, we use an air cushion table to measure velocities resulting from impacts, and calculate the amount of energy imparted. From this, we were able to determine that less than 1% of the energy was lost to friction and heating. In a high school physics class, we went out and measured how rapidly a black object heated up in sunlight. From this, we were able to calculate the total number of watts per square meter arriving at the ground. My recollection was that it was about 30% less than the supposed value at the top of the atmosphere.

Of course, we did experiments with falling objects of different masses.

In chemistry class, we did experiments involving pH and the effects of various buffers.

All of these involve experimental verification, and can be properly called provable fact.

Some of the claims made in biology classes, while I am prepared to believe them, aren't really experimentally verifiable. Ditto for some cosmological claims in physics and astronomy classes. I'm prepared to work with these claims, but to become insistent like a fundamentalist that we know WITHOUT DOUBT that all of these claims are true (as many biology teachers teach this subject) is bad science.

When I was taking chemistry at USC, one of my professors, part way through the lecture on electron clouds and probability distributions, suddenly turned around and told us, "These are all just models. There could be angels dancing on the heads of pins for all we know. But these models let us predict what will happen, and that's what science is all about." The wisdom of a practicing scientist.

A bit less arrogance in how the experimentally unverifiable claims are presented—especially since those claims have changed substantially in a century, and some have changed in major details since I was in high school—would go a long ways to defuse much of the upset.
9.26.2007 3:02pm
byomtov (mail):
I suggest you look at the study before citing it. If you do, you'll see that (a) they tossed out the question about "using monetary policy," on the grounds that it could have been misinterpreted, (b) at no point did they say anything about "wild leftists"; that's simply your invention, and (c) the questions you cite were some of many, and at no point did they say that opposing one of those things makes one a "leftist." They averaged responses across many questions.

Your point makes no sense in the big picture, either. Your argument is "These are good things, so therefore people should support them." But that has nothing to do with the issue of whether someone is a supporter of free market principles; all you're saying is that supporting free-market principles isn't always good. But that's just your bias.


David,

I did read it. Note that they threw out the monetary policy question (and the one about military action abroad) after they got the results. That suggests they didn't put a lot of thought into the survey beforehand. Their explanation as to why they threw it out is revealing. It was that they feared respondents saw the question as a choice between fiscal and monetary policy rather than as purely about the desirability of monetary policy. That implies that Klein and Stern, at least, think the Fed violates "free-market principles."

Yes, they averaged responses across many questions, but they were mostly of the same nature - how do you feel about some type of policy that we dislike? Most of the policies discussed were not, strictly speaking, economic policies at all. They were, rather, things like environmental regulation and occupational health and safety rules that Klein and Stern presumably disapprove of.

As to "supporting free-market principles," I'm not even sure that's a well-defined term. If it means, as you and the authors seem to think, that one believes the market will solve all these problems if simply left alone then it's true that I, and most economists, and most people, are not supporters of free-market principles.

If it means understanding the power of markets, but with due regard for their limitations, then I think it is perfectly possible to be a "supporter of free-market principles" without opposing the policies addressed in the paper. The fact is that Klein and Stern use a radical definition, and then complain that economists do not, in general, fit the definition.
9.26.2007 5:52pm
frankcross (mail):
byomtov, I agree with your ultimate characterization of the study. However, its results are still very useful.

Take the minimum wage question. That's straight economics, and free market doctrine clearly would rule out any minimum wage. Yet study made clear that a large number of economists are not strongly opposed to a minimum wage. That pretty much defeats any claim that economists are single minded or free market utopians.
9.26.2007 5:54pm
Kazinski:
Thanks,
It's nice to have friends, although I usually prefer to drink alone, hence the nickname. But here was the original URL for the post I linked:

"//webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/archives/bleiter 00359.html#000359"

It appears Leiter moved his blog, evidently at least his blog is no longer on the public teat.
9.26.2007 5:56pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Leftists can come up w/ plenty of anecdotes about professors who dismiss their views -- say downgrading an essay in an international politics course because it mentions Chomsky, not because what Chomsky says about that topic is wrong. That doesn't mean that most political scientists are conservative.
Presumably Chomsky would downgrade a paper in his linguistics classes that cited Oprah as an authority, even if what she said happened to be correct. (Although I don't think there's much danger of what Chomsky says on international politics ever being correct, even based on the stopped-clock principle; stopped clocks are just broken, not dishonest.)
9.26.2007 6:04pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Cramer, I tell that to my GChem students on the first day, I also tell them that we will be going through a series of models, the simplest of which are really easy to understand but have a lot of exceptions, the most complicated of which are really hard to understand but don't have any exceptions we know of to date. What I don't tell them is that atoms are angels dancing on the head of a pin, if for no other reason that we actually have tools today that can visualize atoms and even smaller structures. Your prof was making a point and, to make it he or she exaggerated for a bunch of naive students. Sorry there really are things that are settled and not subject to sophistry.
9.26.2007 6:15pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

What I don't tell them is that atoms are angels dancing on the head of a pin, if for no other reason that we actually have tools today that can visualize atoms and even smaller structures. Your prof was making a point and, to make it he or she exaggerated for a bunch of naive students. Sorry there really are things that are settled and not subject to sophistry.
I've seen the pictures, and I can't recall ever seeing any wings! He was making a point about theoretical models. I doubt that anyone thought that this was meant literally.

Yes, there are things that are settled and not subject to sophistry. So what's your point? That this justifies bad science teaching in the lower grades? No, it really doesn't. I had a biology teacher in high school who was really careful to emphasize the limits of evolutionary theory—and not because there was a bunch of torch-carrying Bible thumpers ready to descend on his classroom. (This was Santa Monica, California.) He was careful to emphasize the limits of the theory because he wanted to make sure that his students didn't develop smug assumptions of certainty.

I'm impressed how much of what I was taught in elementary and middle school about this subject is now recognized as wrong. For example, the steady progression from Eohippus to the modern horse has been known for quite some time to be incorrect. Yet the smug certainty that many biology teachers use in how they teach this is bad science.
9.26.2007 6:45pm
Fat Man (mail):
"Physicists and chemists are probably on balance more towards the left politically than the right."

Welfare mothers sucking on the government teat.
9.26.2007 7:11pm
jonah gelbach:
econjeff's comment above is very much on point (i know econjeff, i worked with econjeff, econjeff is a friend of mine, and .... well you get the picture).

i haven't read the whole study that DB links to, but i don't think i have to (if someone makes a good counterargument i'll be happy to update this conclusion). here's what the authors write in the paper's third sentence:

Here we present evidence from a survey of American Economic Association (AEA) members showing that a large majority of economists are either generally favorable to or mixed on government intervention, and hence cannot be regarded as supporters of free-market principles.

That hence is a doozy. It either means that (a) "free-market principles" is a virtually useless phrase from an economic perspective, or (b) the authors don't understand the point of "free-market principles".

Market principles, as apparently distinct from "free-market principles" are generally very popular among economists of all political stripes. The reason is that in many ways markets do a very good job of allocating resources. In some ways, though, they don't (e.g., in dealing with pollution externalities). In those cases, most economists think there's good reason to support some sort of government intervention---which kind depends on the informational and other costs associated---to deal with those problems. Frequently, market principles related to equalizing marginal costs and benefits form the basis of the interventions economists suggest. A fine example of the use of market principles is cap-and-trade pollution permits, which rely on the efficiency of markets in cases in which costs are internalized.

So when the authors of DB's favored study claim that so few economists support free-market principles, it appears that their real point isn't about principles at all --- it is about axioms. Their favored axiom evidently is that govt intervention is inconsistent with free-market principles. Fine -- they're welcome to feel that way. But there's no principled content concerning the operation or efficiency of markets in this axiom. It's just a premise masquerading as a conclusion.

That said, many economists also support govt intervention as a way of redistributing resources (as, e.g., econjeff's example of the EITC shows). Market do lots of things well, but many people don't think they always achieve desirable distributive results. But favoring redistribution doesn't make you anti-market. It just makes you someone who regards markets as a very useful tool that have an addressable downside.

From what little I know of law schools, I think there is reason to believe there is liberal bias. I don't know how much that matters ultimately when hiring decisions are made, but I doubt it matters zero. That said, I spent 9 years as a faculty member at a top 20 econ department where most people's politics were pretty liberal (based on the people i knew, anyway). There were exceptions, and they were hardly penalized for their exceptionalism. In fact, in the entire time I was there, I never once -- not a single time -- heard any reference to a person's political views when hiring or tenure decisions were discussed. I heard plenty of discussions about the religiously methodological disputes that *do* roil empirical economics, as econjeff describes. And I think it's probably true that people don't get hired/tenured over those disputes. But there are righty reduced form guys and lefty structural guys, and vice-versa. If you want to be a free-market utopian economics professor, no one will stop you. If you want to get tenured/hired, you have to do convincing research -- not just declare your fealty to free-market principles.

Finally, I know an awful lot of economists at an awful lot of departments, both highly and not highly ranked. Lots of them are liberals, some of them are conservatives. I've had plenty of heated political arguments over beers with people from both groups. And I don't know anyone who wouldn't happily put those arguments aside and pay attention at an economics seminar. Perhaps DB has more experience than I with the supposed closed-mindedness of economics departments. But frankly I think he's out to lunch on this one
9.26.2007 7:41pm
Kazinski:
Right you are Fat Man.
It just so happens that when you look at empirical research, such as exit polls, that those with advanced degrees and non-high school graduates have more similar voting patterns than groups with more similar educational backgrounds. In both electons Bush lost no-high-school and post-grads, but won high-school graduates thru college graduates. A Phd. would draw the conclusion that not graduating from high school indicates a higher IQ than having a college degree. A less educated college graduate might conclude that both the barely educated and the over-educated are more dependent on government largess, and that would tend to explain more liberal voting patterns. But hell, I've only got a BSBA (from Arkansas!), so what would I know?

2004:

VOTE BY EDUCATION BUSH KERRY NADER

No High School 49% 50% 0%

H.S. Graduate 52% 47% 0%

Some College 54% 46% 0%

College Graduate 52% 46% 1%

Postgrad Study 44% 55% 1%



2000:

Vote by Education Gore Bush Buchanan Nader
No H.S. Degree 59 % 39 % 1 % 1 %
High School Graduate 48 % 49 % 1 % 1 %
Some College 45 % 51 % 0 % 3 %
College Graduate 45 % 51 % 0 % 3 %
Post-Graduate Degree 52 % 44 % 0 % 3 %
9.26.2007 7:54pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Kazinski, one thing you have to factor into that poll is that a large percentage of the "post-graduate" category is not academia, but school teachers.

A large # of school teachers -- who are overwhelmingly democratic -- get masters degrees in education, but they have little in common with other post-grads.
9.26.2007 9:16pm
Eli Rabett (www):
As I said Clayton, one teaches science as a pyramid of models. There are simple models which are useful for introductory courses, the story you point to

For example, the steady progression from Eohippus to the modern horse has been known for quite some time to be incorrect. Yet the smug certainty that many biology teachers use in how they teach this is bad science.

says no such thing. What it does say is the broad brush story in HS bio texts omits a lot of nuance. For example, consider the quote from the 2005 article:

Scientists once universally thought the more primitive horses, which lived from about 55 million to 20 million years ago, were primarily leaf-eating browsers, only becoming grass eaters as the prairie grasslands began to spread rapidly across North America during the Miocene Epoch about 20 million years ago, MacFadden said.

The reality is not so clear cut, MacFadden said. Actually, during times of transition, some groups of horses actually became mixed feeders, eating both grasses and leafy material, he said.

Not so clear cut, is not wrong, just that things, as they often are, are more complex, but when introducing a subject one often simplifies. This is very far from smug certainty and bad science. It is simplified science for the purpose of teaching.

Why Clayton, let us look at your statement:
In a high school physics class, we went out and measured how rapidly a black object heated up in sunlight. From this, we were able to calculate the total number of watts per square meter arriving at the ground. My recollection was that it was about 30% less than the supposed value at the top of the atmosphere.


Since about 30 years we HAVE satellite measurements at the top of the atmosphere, so that value is not supposed. It is measured. Before that we had measurements from high altitude aircraft and balloons. So again, it was measured, just not every hour. 30% less than the value at the top of the atmosphere is about right given the albedo of the atmosphere. Actually it is suspiciously good given the fact that to get the average 30% you have to average over cloud cover. I assume your science teacher may have mentioned something about albedo. So here I am, wondering about your purpose in inserting that "supposed" and wondering why you pointed to that UFL press release from 2005 claiming that it showed that long known to be false things were being taught by smug biology teachers as bad science.
9.27.2007 12:25am