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Affirmative Action for Conservative Academics?

Harvard economist Greg Mankiw notes the mounting evidence that conservatives are underrepresented in academia, and suggests a possible remedy (without necessarily endorsing it):

Question to think about: If right-wingers are underrepresented in universities relative to the population and discriminated against by the left-wing majority, as Larry [Summers] suggests, should there be affirmative action for right-leaning academics? It seems that, on principle, those on the left (who favor affirmative action to promote diversity and correct past injustice) should endorse such a university policy, and those on the right (who more often oppose affirmative action) would be against.

The underrepresentation of conservatives (and, I would add, libertarians) is almost certainly not all due to ideological discrimination. But evidence suggests that discrimination is probably at least a part of the story. In this excellent Econlog post, economist Bryan Caplan explained why ideological discrimination is more likely to flourish in academia than in most other employment markets. Even aside from discrimination, the ideological homogeneity of much of academia causes a variety of problems, such as reducing the diversity of ideas reflected in research, skewing teaching agendas, and generating the sorts of "groupthink" pathologies to which ideologically homogenous groups are prone.

However, whether or not the discrimination is the cause of the problem, affirmative action for conservative academics (or libertarian ones) is a poor solution. Among other things, it would require universities to define who counts as a "conservative" for affirmative action purpose, a task that they aren't likely to do well. Affirmative action for conservatives would also give job candidates an incentive to engage in deception about their views in the hopes of gaining professional advancement. Moreover, conservative professors hired on an affirmative basis despite inferior qualifications would find it difficult to get their ideas taken seriously by colleagues and students. They might therefore be unable to make a meaningful contribution to academic debate - the very reason why we want to promote ideological diversity in hiring to begin with.

GV_:
I've never heard the claim that libertarians are underrepresented in academia before. What study found that?
10.12.2007 7:05pm
Anderson (mail):
should there be affirmative action for right-leaning academics?

Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
10.12.2007 7:06pm
FantasiaWHT:
The underrepresentation of minorities at universities is almost certainly not all due to racial discrimination as well, but I doubt this was more than tongue-in-cheek.

At least there is a good justification for attempting to achieve ideological diversity at a university. I have yet to hear a good justification for attempting to achieve racial diversity for its own sake.
10.12.2007 7:08pm
OrinKerr:
Yeah, my reaction is pretty similar to Anderson's.
10.12.2007 7:09pm
Pin Head (mail):
Just stopping the discrimination would be sufficient, but I don't expect that to happen any time soon. In disciplines where your politics are obvious from your academic work, there is a pervasive bias that any conservative ideology is de facto evidence of inferior intellectual ability. The rationale for academic affirmative action as remediation for past descrimination is justified although I don't believe that most of the potential beneficiaries would support it.
10.12.2007 7:12pm
Pin Head (mail):
Just stopping the discrimination would be sufficient, but I don't expect that to happen any time soon. In disciplines where your politics are obvious from your academic work, there is a pervasive bias that any conservative ideology is de facto evidence of inferior intellectual ability. The rationale for academic affirmative action as remediation for past descrimination is justified although I don't believe that most of the potential beneficiaries would support it.
10.12.2007 7:12pm
Hoosier:
Affirmative Action for the likes of me? No thanks. When I try to imagine what my colleagues would consider "conservative," I can't imagine that such a program would lead to anything--except perhaps the inspiration for a fine academic parody novel.

As I've said before, the bias against conservatives is very real, especially at "elite" and Would-be "elite" universities. But its primary mechanism is the chosing of fields that are considered "interesting" and "important." The subjects that schoalrs choose to write about can provide some indication of their political and social leanings. This is far from infallible when it comes to more traditional fields; political history can attract radicals as well as moderates of various stripes and conservatives.

But if you choose to hire someone in the "new cultural history", gender, subaltern studies, and so on, you can be certain that you are not getting a scholar who sports "Fred for President" bumper-stickers on their car.

And yet how can you compell a department to hire in one field versus another? That sort of micro-management by --who?--the provost? president? trustees? . . . well, it is simply impossible. Yet the selection of certain fields as "valid" ensures that your department can dodge potential conservatives, while smugly reassuring everyone that "We never ask" about a candidates politics.

It's a bad deal for us. But at least we get summers off.
10.12.2007 7:24pm
Hector Calvo (mail):
My guess is that all the members of the Volokh conspiracy have found academic homes where it is not to worrisome to be conservative (Disagreements are cordial and politics stops at the waters edge.) But sometimes academic departments can be very lonely places for conservatives and every day full of unpleasant situations. The trick is finding a place where you are not mocked on a constant basis or treated as a spectacle. Like many conservative academics I am afraid of working somewhere where I would dread coming to work every single day and fortunate that I found a place where that is not the case. Had I been conservative before joining the academy I simply would not have risked it.
10.12.2007 7:24pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"Underrepresented" compared to what? Their proportion in the population at large? But colleges are about diversity of ideas (so conservatives and libertarians keep insisting, anyway), meaning lots of different views, not necessarily proportional to their popularity with the populace. As Allan Bloom (to some conservatives, an icon) was fond of reminding us, the university exists in part to free minds from their received prejudices and to be a haven for those who differ from prevailing orthodoxies. One should expect unpopular, obscure or weird ideas and ideologies such as Marxism, Freudianism, Burkean conservatism, Austrian market fundamentalism, or yes, libertarianism to be overrepresented or given some role to play there. And I think this is largely true--present day universities are much more intellectually diverse, and certainly nonconformist, than any other major institution in American society. It seems that the basis of the complaints of underrepresentation has more to do with dominant voting or political contribution patterns of academics, which richly undercapture diversity of thought.
10.12.2007 7:25pm
Hector Calvo (mail):


When one teaches undergraduates, teaching conservative ideas WILL lower your teaching evaluations. I am very careful that none of my students suspect that I may be a conservative. (I am relatively open with my colleagues. Though I have learned self-censorship which does not come easy to me.)
10.12.2007 7:27pm
frankcross (mail):
I don't think that econlog post is that excellent. It asserts that underrepresentation of women is not due to discrimination but underrepresentation of conservatives is. Without any supporting evidence that I can see, save the impressions of a fairly conservative male person.

In theory, I would favor affirmative action for conservatives, at least at the margin. But as with all affirmative action, targeting is an issue. It seems clear to me from the data that the most underrepresented group is the religious right conservatives rather than libertarian type folks.
10.12.2007 7:39pm
UK (mail):

Moreover, conservative professors hired on an affirmative basis despite inferior qualifications would find it difficult to get their ideas taken seriously by colleagues and students.

Why would anyone assume such professors would have "inferior qualifications" or that professional standards would necessarily be lower in order to hire conservatives. It's axiomatic in other forms of affirmative action that lower standards are required to fill the quotas, but it seems pretty clear in this case that the analogy does not hold.
10.12.2007 7:50pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
In the absence of any ideological discrimination, how do people think that the percentages of conservatives/libertarians in academia would compare to those in the general population?

I'm not trying to prove any point here; I have no idea and I'm just curious.
10.12.2007 8:02pm
Drake (mail) (www):
I'm not defending discrimination on any basis, and am cautiously in favor of some degree of "ideological diversity" (and that's not to say that the right balance hasn't already been struck), but it seems to me there's a rather clear asymmetry between discrimination on the basis of so-called immutable characteristics and discrimination on the basis of certain beliefs. Beliefs are at least indirect evidence of underlying epistemic practices and intellectual ability in a way that skin color or gender or perambulatory ability are not.

An example: Two candidates for a tenure-track position have demonstrated equal achievement in biology at Harvard, but one believes in old-earth creationism. Discrimination based on ideological belief here seems quite justified.

The moral seems to be that while one could have a principled commitment to ethnic/gender/(dis)ability "diversity" but against ideological diversity, the converse is not true.
10.12.2007 8:04pm
Elliot Reed:
The underrepresentation of conservatives (and, I would add, libertarians)
Recall that the number of libertarians in the U.S. is miniscule. There is simply no substantial constituency in favor of abolition of (or dramatic cuts to) Social Security and Medicare, privatizing the roads, opening the borders, abolishing the minimum wage, ending the war on drugs, and other characteristically libertarian policy proposals. If anything, libertarians are enormously overrepresented in academia, probably as a side effect of the fact that libertarianism is principally an elite phenomenon. (Also note that lots of Americans, myself included, have libertarian tendencies, but that doesn't make us libertarians.)
10.12.2007 8:17pm
PEG (mail) (www):
I think his reference to affirmative action was more tongue in cheek than anything else... No need to point out that the policy would be hard to do in practice...
10.12.2007 8:24pm
Cornellian (mail):
there is a pervasive bias that any conservative ideology is de facto evidence of inferior intellectual ability.

I think you mean ipso facto not de facto.
10.12.2007 8:52pm
pireader (mail):
From my experience, liberals--and leftists generally--are as "under-represented" among military officers, corporate managers, investment bankers, etc. as conservatives are among academics.

As a matter of curiosity, do posters and commenters here regard the situations as comparable? Are the same forces are at work in those institutions as in academia? And are similar remedies appropriate?
10.12.2007 9:18pm
wm13:
pireader, you are spot on. It's a big country, with multiple elites, and those elites have different philosophies. Just for example, the investment bankers are a lot more socially liberal than the military officers, though both are more conservative on the whole than the university professors.
10.12.2007 9:37pm
jim:
I would worry with any such plan that the beneficiaries would not correlate to a variety of underrepresented ideologies but would instead go to highly demonstrable conservatives. On the left you would have a variety of thinkers that represented heterodoxies within the movement, but on the right you would have only highly orthodox conservatives that no one would question as being conservative. It is a classic selection bias, and it would ultimately be harmful for the discourse within conservatism.

Besides, like all AA, it would treat the symptom and not the cause. That might make sense when the cause is something as complex and difficult as the effects of a history of pervasive racism, but it seems to me that it would be easier to try to deal with the things that cause fewer conservatives to want to be in academics.
10.12.2007 9:50pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Each of the following constitutes a form of acting affirmatively:
- government imposed quotas
- universities deciding that in order to make up for past discrimination and current disparities, they give some weight in the hiring process to people with expertise in topics conservatives find important.
- making a point to advertise and publicize openings in places where conservatives will tend to run across them, instead of recruiting from a good old boy network of friends of those already hired.
Opposing the first category doesn't have to mean opposing the 2nd or 3rd category.
10.12.2007 10:04pm
JohnO (mail):
The best way to end discrimination on the basis of ideology is to stop discriminating on the basis of ideology.
10.12.2007 10:32pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Being a military officer requires substantial intellectual capacity. It also requires physical courage, a frightening level of physical conditioning, the indefinable trait known as "leadership", and the willingness to accept command (combat) responsibility (which of my people get to die today?).
No wonder there are so few liberals.

Innyhoo, the reasons for the lack of conservatives in academia, including their own social standards, are irrelevant. A critical mass is needed, however achieved, or the education of the students will be incomplete. You can look it up.
10.12.2007 10:35pm
JosephSlater (mail):
What Thales said. The first step in this kind of employment discrimination analysis is comparing an employer's workforce to the relevant labor market, not the general population. Is there evidence, for example, that the percentage of conservative history or English PhDs looking for academic jobs is higher -- in a statistically significant way -- than the percentage of conservative history or English PhDs employed as professors?

And if your argument is that there is something about the jobs generally that in some way discourages conservatives from going into the field in the first place, well, unless you can link that specifically the acts of a specific employer, you're still out of luck. Read the Sears case and see how far that sort of argument got women plaintiffs in a major Title VII case.
10.12.2007 10:44pm
ex Demo (mail):
I am firm believer in using the weapons of the Left against them. What is sauce for the Goose is sauce for the Gander. Affirmative action was taken to assure racial, gender, and sexual preference equality to an institution that professes to be engaged in intellectual discovery.

Diversity with out representing equivalent equality in political and social organizational viewpoint, is simply not Diversity, nor open minded intellectual discovery.

No one really cares about the political viewpoints the Thermodynamicists in the Mechanical Engineering Department, when they study heat Transfer. The Diversity is definitely needed in the PoliSci, Economics, Law, Sociology and Journalism departments, though.

Yes I'd go go to court; and slap the Universities silly in an attempt to reopen the closed minds of a supposed open-minded University faculty.

I have been advocating such a course of action for several years.

I'd do that to the reporting crews of most major media institutions as well, while leaving the editorial pages alone, to reflect the viewpoint to the Publishers, except in single newspaper towns.
10.12.2007 10:46pm
Pin Head (mail):
How about a "hostile workplace" tort? If you don't repeat all the liberal shibboleths, other academics give you the stink eye.
10.12.2007 11:00pm
solon (mail) (www):
I think that we should take Ex Demo's comments seriously. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

But before affirmative action programs begin for conservatives, then they should be enslaved for a few hundred years, or lose their right to vote because "voting is too dirty of a game" to involve them, or, just be told that conservativism is a preference and not an orientation and equal protection or due process should not matter to them.

Still up for the task ex demo?
10.12.2007 11:26pm
Hoosier:
Thales and JosephSlater: Sorry, but I can't quite agree, even if Joseph's implication--rough correspondence between conservative job-seeker and conservative job-holders in the academic job market--is empirically correct. We've heard for some time that African Americans and women enter the academic job market at lower rates than do white males in large part because of a perception that academia is unfriendly to them. Does this sound familiar?

I've been teaching college for 12 years, so I think that my experience goes beyond the mere anecdotal. My best conservative students almost never go on to PhD programs, largely becuse they've been at our university for four years. They know that the atmosphere in academia is poisonous for conservatives. So they go into other fields, including think tanks nd the federal government.

Harvey Mansfield said something along these lines as well when one year his doctoral students were the only Harvad government PhD's who failed to land academic posts. His comment was that his student would just have to go to Washington and run the country, or something like that.

As for Joseph's point about the Sears case, I have no idea what you mean by "you're still out of luck." Are you saying that because of that decision, academe has no reason to act with intellectual integrity? I'm not so good at Latin anymore, so what's that Latin term for 'non sequitur'?

And I hope Thales (Keep well hydrated, my friend) will take me at my word that "Burkean conservatism" is not well-represented in our universities. Note the dearth of scholarship on Burke outside of British and Canadian universities. Note also that so many of those who pass for conservative on campuses tend to have Straussian leanings (you mentioned Bloom), and thus share the gnostic epistemology of our colleagues on the left.

At the "Edmund Burke Faculty Fan Club" meetings out here, I tend to play solitaire.
10.12.2007 11:44pm
Hoosier:
solon: "But before affirmative action programs begin for conservatives, then they should be enslaved for a few hundred years, or lose their right to vote because "voting is too dirty of a game" to involve them"

OK. But then I think we'll need to do this to Hispanics and the disabled too, to meet your fine-tuned sense of justice. Any suggestions on how we get around federal law on this one?
10.12.2007 11:47pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Hoosier. Not to mention gays. You forgot gays.
10.12.2007 11:55pm
Al (mail):
Hoosier, we'll also need to include African immigrants and their descendants as well.
10.13.2007 12:35am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Among other things, it would require universities to define who counts as a "conservative" for affirmative action purpose, a task that they aren't likely to do well.

How about any other classification? I'm 1/8 American Indian. Some places say that only counts if you retain some manner of "identification" with Indian lifestyle, whatever that is (most AIs drive pickups, hunt, and identify with rednecks), some say it only counts if you have tribal affiliation -- and some IAs don't even have federally recognized tribes -- and others don't care.

And how much does it take? Some question Obama's status because he's half caucasian and the other real African-African. Are Japanese-Americans a minority (hey, they didn't lock up German-Americans en masse one generation ago) or Chinese-Americans (who were murdered in the 19th century)? What do you do with a person who has a hispanic surname but is actually Italian (I know of one such who had problems getting into law school because of it) or one who is half hispanic and half chinese (I know her) or half hispanic and half Italian (a good friend).

I can't see where classifying on the basis of philsophy would be a lot more arbitrary than classifying on ethnicity. And it would at least address the question of diversity where in scholarship diversity is most important -- differences in intellectual viewpoints.
10.13.2007 1:04am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
The other point is ... you wouldn't need affirmative action, just the simplest level of forbidding discrimination. If a clearly less qualified person is chosen over a clearly more qualified one, why shouldn't that be dispositive of the issue? In the area of ethnicity, that works nicely. And can sometimes be used to catch a discriminator in the act (send two potential renters or job applicants, with all qualifications matched but of different ethnicity, and see if you get different results).
10.13.2007 1:08am
aalsrighty:
How about some real experience here? I'm an AALS candidate with a PhD, law degree and postdocs from the Big Ivys, over 20 publications, great letters of recommendation from ivy profs... and hardly any interviews for the meat market with two weeks to go.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm a conservative?

Nah, there's no discrimination in the Academy against conservatives. There's no true diversity in the Academy.
10.13.2007 1:46am
neurodoc:
Moreover, conservative professors hired on an affirmative basis despite inferior qualifications would find it difficult to get their ideas taken seriously by colleagues and students.
If hiring bias accounts for underrepresentation of conservatives, then why does it follow that those who might be hired on an affirmative basis despite inferior qualifications would be less likely to be taken seriously by colleagues and students than the current faculty? If the imbalance came about through the operation of bias, then by implication wouldn't some of the current faculty have been hired with qualifications inferior to those who were discriminated against and denied academic appointments? Unless no self-respecting individual would accept what was recognizable as an affirmative action slot or set aside, then why shouldn't those brought on once the discrimination was stopped and remedial action taken be as credible/incredible, persuasive/unpersuasive as those already ensconced?

I am not expressing an opinion as to what in fact is currently the case in academia, nor how an affirmative action program for conservative scholars would work if one were effected. I am simply questioning whether it follows as logically that the affirmative action hires would most likely be inferior to the permanent party now there. ceteris paribus, or whatever we need say to make clear that we are only theorizing, depending on how severe the hiring bias had been, might not the new hires outshine the old ones?
10.13.2007 2:09am
Bartleby (mail):
At risk of showing my ignorance, I have to note that while I identify with most "liberal" positions in general if not in the particulars, I've long condemned affirmative action in hiring and admissions. (As a white male, I don't get around to saying that aloud too often, though. You pick your battles.) And I'm not entirely sure I see the justification for Women's Studies per se, though I can get behind the term "gender studies" and what it represents as a field of inquiry. So, unless I'm the rare avis out there, I'm not too sure that even most self-identified liberals/academics can be pigeonholed as favoring affirmative action or even some of the disciplines that are so frequently associated with libs like Women's studies; some of us are simply too aware that there's no winning those fights and we pick other, perhaps more important fights instead.

And as to Aubrey's comments:

Being a military officer requires substantial intellectual capacity. It also requires physical courage, a frightening level of physical conditioning, the indefinable trait known as "leadership", and the willingness to accept command (combat) responsibility (which of my people get to die today?).
No wonder there are so few liberals.


So... apart from the willingness to accept combat responsibility, which of those traits can you demonstrate the average liberal doesn't possess while the average conservative does?

And what you're ignoring in your noble description of the military officer is the willingness to demonstrate unfailing obeisance even to the point of murdering others, however unethical, uninformed, or irrational it may be to do so under the circumstances (what you term "command responsibility"). I'm happy to say that this final trait is not a hallmark for the scholar, and only among the ranks of the military and the servile citizens who play cheerleaders for it would this abominable quality be considered virtue.
10.13.2007 2:17am
neurodoc:
Wise wrote "if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate."[1] Thereby, Wise openly admits that, no matter how much evidence proves evolution and disproves creationism, he would still be a creationist.
Drake, Wise is rather singular, but what does his case demonstrate other than the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance, that rationality and irrationality can co-exist in the same brain, even when they are so clearly in direct, irreconcilable opposition. People seem to find him likable, not disingenuous, but so what that he may have proved himself capable of doing science if he is in the end unwilling to be a scientist. This religionist is being "discriminated" against when he applies for faculty positions in science departments? I think not, at least not according to my notion of "discrimination."
10.13.2007 2:34am
jim:

My best conservative students almost never go on to PhD programs, largely becuse they've been at our university for four years. They know that the atmosphere in academia is poisonous for conservatives.


I think that's right on the money. Self-selection. I know it was a pretty big factor for me in not deciding to get a masters. And of the humanities, I was in one of the less left-leaning ones.
10.13.2007 2:44am
Anderson (mail):
Being a military officer requires substantial intellectual capacity. It also requires physical courage, a frightening level of physical conditioning, the indefinable trait known as "leadership", and the willingness to accept command (combat) responsibility (which of my people get to die today?).

Well, ideally. One could write a similarly glowing summary of what being a professor requires.

In reality, of course, professors fall short ... and as for military officers ....
10.13.2007 2:39pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Jeez, Bartleby. Can't take it coming back, can you. All those libs who think conservatives don't have what it takes.
You, however, mistake US officers for, say, Russian officers. Educated libs know the difference, but pretend not to.
You're educated.
And libs don't actually have what it takes to do the murdering. They cheer--see all the support for lefties over the last three-quarter century. You know. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Fidel, not to mention any number of tinpot lefties who are in second place in the murder competition.

So take the freedom better men than you provide you and enjoy it. Standing on a chair, you couldn't spit as high as a basic trainee's boot sole. Enjoy your insignificance.
10.13.2007 2:52pm
Chukuang:
Being a military officer requires substantial intellectual capacity. It also requires physical courage, a frightening level of physical conditioning

If you think these traits apply primarily to conservatives, you clearly haven't looked at the demographic for the red states lately. Not to put to fine a point on it, but they are fatter and less educated. A lot fatter.
10.13.2007 2:53pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Hoosier:

You write: We've heard for some time that African Americans and women enter the academic job market at lower rates than do white males in large part because of a perception that academia is unfriendly to them. Does this sound familiar?

Some folks say do so that. The correct response to that, as a matter of employment discrimination law (I'll get to ethical behavior below) is that this doesn't matter, unless you can show a specific employer behaving badly to specific members of a protected class. That's the relevance of the Sears case -- sorry if my brief reference to it made it sound like a non sequitar.
You conclude: Are you saying that because of that decision, academe has no reason to act with intellectual integrity?

Absolutely not. I do not approve of discrimination based on political ideology, and as chair of my school's appointments committee, I can say that I/we do not practice it.

As to AALSRighy, I've looked through the 800 or so AALS forms, and few if any scream out "conservative." And if they did, I doubt it would matter most places.
10.13.2007 2:56pm
Elliot Reed:
If hiring bias accounts for underrepresentation of conservatives, then why does it follow that those who might be hired on an affirmative basis despite inferior qualifications would be less likely to be taken seriously by colleagues and students than the current faculty? If the imbalance came about through the operation of bias, then by implication wouldn't some of the current faculty have been hired with qualifications inferior to those who were discriminated against and denied academic appointments? Unless no self-respecting individual would accept what was recognizable as an affirmative action slot or set aside, then why shouldn't those brought on once the discrimination was stopped and remedial action taken be as credible/incredible, persuasive/unpersuasive as those already ensconced?
Insofar as affirmative action programs (whether for sex, race, political position, or anything else) exist to counteract existing discrimination on the part of people making hiring and promotion decisions [1], there is no need to suppose that affirmative action hires will have inferior qualifications to non-affirmative-action hires. It all depends on the relative strength of the discriminatory tendencies and the affirmative action programs.

Of course, insofar as discrimination-countering affirmative action requires the existence of discrimination, it's entirely possible the affirmative action hires will be "taken less seriously" as people (wrongly) use the affirmative action program to justify their preexisting prejudices.
10.13.2007 2:59pm
Jerry F:
Pireader, liberals are not underrepresented among investment bankers and business managers; in fact investment bankers and top business executives are significantly more likely to be left-leaning than your average American. You may be correct that outright socialists or people with very extreme left-wing views may be underrepresented in business (unsurprisingly, as such people are likely inherently opposed to capitalism). But people with equivalent views on the far right (monarchists, theocrats, fascists) also have virtually no representation in business and investment banks.

It may be the case that liberals are underrepresented in the military, but again, that would have to do with the fact that many liberals are against the military. By contrast, I doubt very many conservatives are against academia in and of itself, even if they are against the sort of things that currently happen to be taught by academic.
10.13.2007 3:35pm
Anderson (mail):
So take the freedom better men than you provide you and enjoy it. Standing on a chair, you couldn't spit as high as a basic trainee's boot sole. Enjoy your insignificance.

Why is Mr. Aubrey channeling the villain from A Few Good Men?
10.13.2007 3:42pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
Be careful what you wish for.

"Affirmative action" for conservative academics has the makings of superb satire on just about everything and everyone but especially on conservatives who would end up depending on a government program for employment. A skilled novelist or playwright could do wonders with the theme.

But actually I assume that this post is meant as a joke. It is interesting to see who takes it seriously and as if it takes "mounting evidence" to convince anyone that academia is "underrepresented" -- a liberal phrase if there ever was one -- with conservatives. Judging by the reaction to this post I wonder if the real issue is that people with a sense of humor are underrepresented in conservatism?
10.13.2007 3:57pm
Immutable:
So what is conservatives' immutable characteristic on which their affirmative action would be based? Given the past few years of Bush/Cheney and Repub rule in Congress, does it mean a commitment to corruption, incomptence at all levels of government, disdain for the Constitution, love of torture, hatred of non-Christians?
10.13.2007 4:33pm
BobDoyle (mail):
Immutable -- And what good did you hope to promote with your post?
10.13.2007 4:39pm
JosephSlater (mail):
liberals are not underrepresented among investment bankers and business managers; in fact investment bankers and top business executives are significantly more likely to be left-leaning than your average American.

I could just take this as another example of some comments on this blog that indicate beliefs that a startlingly high number of major institutions in the U.S. are somehow dominated by the "left." But I'll bite: what's the evidence for the claim that "top business executives are significantly more likely to be left-leaning than your average American"?
10.13.2007 5:08pm
Immutable:
Well, if affirmative action is for things one cannot change, like skin color or disability, what is a principle a conservative cannot change? Bush sure has stuck to certain principles--war without end in Iraq, torture, warrantless wiretapping. Are these immutable characteristics for conservatives?
10.13.2007 5:12pm
Latinist:
Jerry F:
It may be the case that liberals are underrepresented in the military, but again, that would have to do with the fact that many liberals are against the military. By contrast, I doubt very many conservatives are against academia in and of itself, even if they are against the sort of things that currently happen to be taught by academic.

I don't think many liberals (a few, maybe) are really against the existence of a military in general. A significant number think it's currently too large, overused, treated with too much reverence, and maybe devoted to some essentially wrong principles (though that's still a pretty uncommon belief). Similarly, a lot of conservatives think that American academia is currently corrupt, decadent, useless, bloated, and snobbish, even though few if any would want to abolish it (at least, without replacing it with some kind of higher education system). So I don't think your distinction works.
10.13.2007 5:41pm
Anderson (mail):
But I'll bite: what's the evidence for the claim that "top business executives are significantly more likely to be left-leaning than your average American"?

Aren't they likely to be better educated, hence more likely Democrats? Or is that a canard?
10.13.2007 5:42pm
Latinist:
Hoosier:
You make a good point, about how the seeking of candidates in certain fields largely rules out conservatives, but I think you're seeing deception where there isn't any. Historians I've interacted with (largely ancient historians, so maybe it's different in other fields) aren't, I think, giving more opportunities to social historians as a more subtle way of banning conservatives: they're doing it because they really think there's a lot of interesting work to be done in social history, more than in, say, traditional military history. That is, if they happened to find a social historian with a Thompson bumper sticker (and admittedly, that's a rare and elusive species), they'd be happy to consider his work, and a military historian wouldn't find the job market any easier if he joined the Green Party.
10.13.2007 5:58pm
Jerry F:
Anderson: The left-wing media consistently misrepresents the news to favor a liberal agenda. Well-educated people are more likely to read the newspapers or otherwise keep abreast of left-wing media reports; therefore, well-educated people are more likely to be influenced by left-wing media bias. It is thus not surprising that well-educated people are more likely Democrats.
10.13.2007 5:59pm
Federal Dog:
"It is thus not surprising that well-educated people are more likely Democrats."


Are people really stuck at the level of confusing "well-educated" with "employed by a school?"
10.13.2007 6:15pm
Loophole1234 (mail):
Affirmative action based on immutable characteristics in the name of diversity is questionable, but at least can be rationally supported.

Affirmative action based on one's political views (or any other voluntary characteristic) makes no sense at all. If self-identification were the test, then the number of conservatives would suddenly increase (to take advantage of the entitlement), thereby rendering the scheme unecessary.
10.13.2007 6:18pm
Elliot Reed:
Aren't they likely to be better educated, hence more likely Democrats? Or is that a canard?
This is really true only of people with postgraduate degrees. I don't know how many top business leaders even have such a degree (obviously not all) and the ones who do have little in common with the teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, scientists, and academics who make up the bulk of postgraduate degree recipients. So you can't generalize from education to politics in this case.
10.13.2007 6:26pm
Brian K (mail):
This post it hilarious...not funny HA HA...but hilarious in respect that it points out how morally bankrupt many conservatives are.

1) Mankiw is right on with his suggestion that conservatives should be against it. they're in general against every form of AA that is currently practiced, so the logical assumption would be that they are also against this. but from above we see that this is wrong. why? mankiw rests his statement on the assumption that conservatives are principled. they are not. they are against forms of AA that don't help and/or hurt classes that they don't belong to, but are all for forms of AA that help out classes they do belong to.

2) The support for AA for conservatives based on supposed institutional discrimination or some analogous description of a "hostile" workplace similarly illustrates moral bankruptcy. The standard theme expressed in these boards by conservatives is that employees can and should be employed "at will" of the employer. this means they can be hired and fired for any reason...even if your just doesn't like the fact that you are a conservative.

3) (an addendum to point 2 above.) what evidence do conservatives provide for said discrimination against them? the fact that they are underrepresented. what evidence to liberals provide for discrimination against females/minorities? the fact that they are underrepresented. So why is it suddenly okay or even desirable to have AA for conservatives, but for minorities or women?
10.13.2007 6:57pm
Federal Dog:
Brian K:

The post clearly says: "However, whether or not the discrimination is the cause of the problem, affirmative action for conservative academics (or libertarian ones) is a poor solution."
10.13.2007 7:14pm
Mr L (mail):
Aren't they likely to be better educated, hence more likely Democrats? Or is that a canard?

Of course, being better educated is correlated with a higher income -- and people who make a lot of money tend to vote Republican, so...

But in regards to executives supporting Democrats, let's not forget that contributing to the guy in charge is a good way to get favors and keep him off your back.
10.13.2007 7:24pm
Bartleby (mail):

You, however, mistake US officers for, say, Russian officers.


I assume you say this on the basis of my comment that (U.S.) military officers must remain obedient, even to the point of murder. You mistake this to mean something like shooting civilians unarmed in a cell, perhaps. I'm referring instead to unjust war in general, the killing of civilians b/c they *might* be terrorists or offering aid to enemy combatants, the killing of enemy combatants when the war at best rests on questionable justification (a la today's Iraq), etc.

Or are you really going to tell me that U.S. soldiers can question orders and the ethics or lack thereof underlying them?
10.13.2007 8:56pm
Brian K (mail):
Federal Dog,

Hence the phrase "many conservatives" at the beginning of my post. I had thought that made it clear that i was only talking about some but not all conservatives.
10.14.2007 3:31am
Federal Dog:
Brian: Lame rationalization for your misreading. You attacked the post itself, which could not be clearer in its wording.
10.14.2007 8:35am
Hoosier:
Brian K--

"mankiw rests his statement on the assumption that conservatives are principled. they are not. they are against forms of AA that don't help and/or hurt classes that they don't belong to, but are all for forms of AA that help out classes they do belong to."

So I am an Enemy of the People?
10.14.2007 12:49pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Bartleby.
If you weren't so determinedly ignorant, you'd know the answer to the questions is yes, they not only may, but must. Doesn't mean they are right, of course.
And your view of a particular war as unjust is not necessarily right, either. In fact, if I were short of time to do my research, I'd take your view and do the opposite. I might not be correct all the time, but it would be the way to bet.
10.14.2007 1:11pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I would encourage some student organization at each university to post the leanings of every professor. Perhaps there is a national website opportunity here? Keep it simple: social and economic categories, each ranked as liberal, moderate, or conservative. Or maybe US News could add a column to its evaluations?
10.14.2007 2:01pm
Federal Dog:
"I would encourage some student organization at each university to post the leanings of every professor."


Political leanings are irrelevant. It's the subordination of teaching, research, and faculty hiring to political leanings that is destructive and abhorrent.
10.14.2007 2:46pm
Hoosier:
"Political leanings are irrelevant. It's the subordination of teaching, research, and faculty hiring to political leanings that is destructive and abhorrent."

Dog--You left out "and routine."
10.14.2007 3:02pm
Rickm:
Hoosier--
Earlier, you claimed that the study of Burke has pretty much died down in the American academy? What department/field are you familiar with? In my experience Burke is alive and well, especially if one is studying empire/imperialism. Check out "Empire and Liberalism" by Mehta and "A Turn to Empire" by Pitts. Both have very favorable readings of Burke.
10.14.2007 3:23pm
Brian K (mail):
federal dog,

so let me get this straight...to cover up your misreading of my post, you accuse me of misreading ilya's post? and you call me lame?
10.14.2007 10:48pm
Bartleby (mail):
Quick review from your own words, Aubrey:

No wonder there are so few liberals.

Standing on a chair, you couldn't spit as high as a basic trainee's boot sole. Enjoy your insignificance.

If you weren't so determinedly ignorant...

I would indeed imagine you aren't short of time to do research, as you suggest, except it seems the only defense you have mounted thus far against my observations are ad hominem attacks. It would be different if you could actually demonstrate my ignorance or insignificance with, I don't know, say, reasoned argument or evidence to contradict my claims?

But I forget myself--you can't be bothered with such "liberal-biased" notions.

As for your claim that officers can and must question/disobey orders they feel ethically objectionable, I don't know that merely saying it's so is sufficient. Professor Richard Swain of West Point, at least, acknowledges this reality: while he maintains that officers are not obligated to obey an illegal order (uh-huh... and I'm sure those get passed around the ranks all the time!) Swain also notes that:


"Moral issues are another category," he said. When a soldier arrives at a moral conflict, "Then you have to do what you have to do in the full knowledge that you will be held accountable for what you decide."


http://starbulletin.com/2007/02/07/news/story02.html

So, yes, officers have the obligation perhaps to disobey illegal orders, likely as those are to come in to being, but not those they find morally objectionable or irrational. And they can expect to be "held accountable" for refusing to commit atrocities that are considered "legal" for purposes of military command. I don't need to remind you that my observation was entirely about the ethics (i.e., morality) and rationality of following orders blindly--not the legality thereof--and the expectation that even military officers are expected to follow even unethical &irrational orders or pay the penalty.
10.15.2007 4:16am
Federal Dog:
Brian:

Are you now claiming that Somin is Mankiw, or is espouaing his words?

Really?
10.15.2007 8:33am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
"or pay the penalty".

You think acting morally is always a free pass? What world do you live in?

Sometimes an individual's morality may be just screwed up. Not in accordance with the demands of the war, and not in accordance with the general view of morality.

Point is, as Robert Leckie said, in the dark accounts of war, all the entries are in red. You can reproach yourself decades later for not having been as active in training troops as you might have. Did it cost lives? There are always consequences, even for the least action or inaction.

Fighting Germany in 1936 to prevent remilitarization of the Rhineland would have been unjust as hell, given the mid-twentieth century view of the rights of sovereign nations. That may not have been why the French caved on the subject, but the result of avoiding an unjust war is clear.

You do the best you can with what you have, and, unfortunately, the better you do, the less likely is it to seem just. Since there is no way of knowing what was forestalled.
10.15.2007 10:35am