Nobody knows the trouble they’ve seen

by Michael Bérubé on April 13, 2010

I’m not sure why Holbo thinks he should have all the fun when it comes to libertarians and history.  Here’s Megan McArdle, earlier today:

Conservatives are, not to overlabor the obvious, marginalized in the cultural elite, even though they are powerful in the political elite. (At least some of the time, anyway). Obviously there’s been an enormous amount of ink shed about why this is, but my experience of talking to people who might have liked to go to grad school or work in Hollywood, but went and did something else instead, is that it is simply hogwash when liberals earnestly assure me that the disparity exists mostly because conservatives are different, and maybe dumber. People didn’t try because they sensed that it would be both socially isolating, and professionally dangerous, to be a conservative in institutions as overwhelmingly liberal as academia and media.

It is indeed hard to be a conservative in American media.  One is always wondering, what if I get something wrong?  About something important, like maybe a health care debate or a war?  Will I lose my job and be subject to public ridicule for the rest of my life? And then there’s the question of what kind of plane to buy, which country club to join, whether to vacation in the Caribbean, central America, or the south of France.  It can be terribly socially isolating.

But that’s not why I stopped by today.  Here’s why:

It’s actually fascinating to watch the inversion of liberal and conservative positions on this one. Liberals essentially seem to be saying that hey, they don’t all get together in the tenure committee and agree to deny any conservatives tenure. I believe them! But I’m not sure why they think this means that the disparity is therefore not a problem. As I wrote years ago, somewhere, I doubt many bank hiring committees in the fifties got together and voted not to hire any negro bank managers. Yet, somehow, they didn’t hire any negro bank managers.

Exactly—because the system is designed to prevent conservatives, or persons of color, from getting to the point at which they are plausible candidates for tenure or for positions as bank managers:

Why not? Because things like social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms about what constituted the boundaries of acceptable traits in bank managers did all the work for them. And I doubt they got many black applicants, because after all, why on earth would you bother? Better to try to start a small business, or get a job as a Pullman porter, where you had a realistic shot at making a decent income. A poll of black high school students would probably have indicated a very small number expressing ambitions to fill jobs that realistically simply were not available to non-white, non-male candidates. But this is not evidence that there is something different about blacks that makes them not want to be successful corporate executives.

OK, in fairness to McArdle, she acknowledges that conservatives sometimes have skewed priorities when it comes to structural discrimination:

It is equally maddening that conservatives understand this about potential conservative graduate students, but not about potential black CEOs—and yes, I think this remains a problem today. I’m not sure that affirmative action is the answer, but that’s a different post.

That’s nice about the concern for black CEOs.  But let’s get down to business, shall we?

I’ve long been aware that when it comes to academe, conservative is the new black—as I wrote years ago, somewhere.  And finally I know why!  Because back in the day, black people took stock of social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms, and decided (being rational beings and all, trying to maximize their happiness) that they were better off starting their own businesses than trying to become bank managers, where they would be socially isolated.  Similarly, conservatives avoid academe long before anyone has to turn them down for tenure.

I think it’s true that some conservatives don’t even bother trying to get academic jobs because they perceive academe as a liberal redoubt.  I’m still not sure just how many young conservatives out there would really want academic jobs in the arts and humanities, if not for all us obnoxious liberals (after all, that’s where we tend to congregate), but that’s not the point.  The point is McArdle’s analogy, which seems inaccurate somehow.  I can’t put my finger on it precisely, but it’s almost as if there’s something … missing….

Ah, I know what’s missing!  The entire legal apparatus of segregation and Jim Crow!  If McArdle knew her pre-Civil Rights Era history better, perhaps, she would remember that conservatives in the armed forces were not allowed to fight alongside their moderate and liberal fellows until 1948, when President Truman issued his famous antidiscrimination order and provoked the “Dixiecrat” backlash dedicated to preserving the second-class status of conservative-Americans.  Even as late as 1964, in Holly Bluff, Mississippi, school officials spent $190 for every liberal or moderate student and $1.26 for every conservative.  And let’s not even get into the murders of the civil rights workers who fought for the right of American conservatives to vote—or the fact that if we go back a few generations, we will confront a dark period in US history in which conservatives were forbidden to own property.  It is easy enough, today, to decry the separate schools, bathrooms, drinking fountains, hotels, recreational facilities, and railroad cars to which American conservatives were consigned.  But it’s harder to realize that systemic, legal discrimination of this kind has had intergenerational effects that continue to render conservatives marginal to the cultural elite on campus and in Hollywood.

I suppose McArdle will reply that she is aware of Jim Crow.  No doubt she is.  But then there’s no way to salvage that analogy between conservatives in academe and black folk in banks.  Nor, for that matter, is there any way to make sense of her claim that enterprising African-Americans in the fifties had a realistic shot at making a decent income by opening a small business.  Because, as it happens, the fifties were an especially brutal decade for independent black businesspeople.  As Terry Anderson pointed out in The Pursuit of Fairness: A History of Affirmative Action,

Between 1950 and 1960 the number of self-employed blacks actually dropped by 10,000, black businesses declined by a third, while their unemployment remained at double the rate for whites.  According to one report, if the occupational trends of the 1950s did not change, minorities could not expect jobs proportionate to their percentage of the population—in skilled trades until the year 2005, in the professions until 2017, in sales until 2114, and among business managers and owners until 2730.

McArdle’s bit about “negro bank managers” is kind of mordantly funny in this light.  As Anderson points out, in 1944, all of 14 percent of white workers responded affirmatively to the question, “Should a Negro be your foreman or supervisor?”  That was an all-time high—progress was at hand!  But alas, it was a purely hypothetical question, since there weren’t any Negro supervisors, or any Negroes being groomed for management positions, in any integrated institutions in the public or private sector.  Even as late as 1963, Ebony magazine found that “two of 3,500 apprentices in all trades in Newark are Negro and in Chicago, where a quarter of the population is Negro, the apprentice figure is less than 1 percent.”  And those weren’t the banks, folks, those were the trades. Extrapolating from the trends of the 1950s, the trades would have been integrated by 2005; the banks would catch up at some point in the 28th century.

So yes, I suppose you could say that “social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms” accounted for the dearth of black bank managers in the fifties.  But you’d be running the risk of looking like something of an ignoramus about the actually existing laws, institutions, and relations of power in the period.  And then you could try to try to come up with a bizarre analogy between the dearth of black bank managers in the 1950s and the plight of conservatives in contemporary academe.  That would be ludicrous beyond belief … but lucky for you, it would be standard fare in a certain sector of elite American media.

{ 226 comments }

1

bjk 04.13.10 at 6:52 pm

I attended two schools with conservative departments and could easily list a half-dozen well-qualified conservative Phd’s who didn’t get jobs, so the idea that conservatives never bother to get to the Phd stage is wrong. In my department, females outnumbered males in securing tenure track jobs, even though they were a fraction of the department. So there’s one conservative faction doing very well, female conservatives. But I don’t think it’s discrimination against conservatives per se. If an economics department never hires historians and the history department doesn’t study financial or economic history outside of labor unions, then it’s not a matter of excluding conservatives but of defining a certain kind of history out of the curriculum.

2

nickhayw 04.13.10 at 7:06 pm

Her whole thing reads a lot like, ‘I’m not like those other conservatives. I’m bucking the trend right here. I’m like a negro bank manager, hell yea’…vision, extricate from, tunnel

3

Greg 04.13.10 at 7:07 pm

It is equally maddening that conservatives understand this about potential conservative graduate students, but not about potential black CEOs—and yes, I think this remains a problem today. I’m not sure that affirmative action is the answer, but that’s a different post.

Ach! Just when McArdle might draw the conclusion that structural discrimination exists and that it might warrant some kind of intervention, she stops short. Why? Because it sounds like ‘affirmative action’ is required, and though the cause is just, the term is not. Fortunately, McArdle will transcend this contradiction in a different post. A different post which isn’t written yet, but surely it will appear soon!

4

Substance McGravitas 04.13.10 at 7:09 pm

It’s like America’s Funniest Home Videos for eggheads. Libertarians: GET OFF THOSE ILL-BUILT TRICYCLES!

5

Sprizouse 04.13.10 at 7:16 pm

I was tempted to say “Nicely done!” but that’s when the depression set in that you even had to write this post.

6

Jonny 04.13.10 at 7:18 pm

In my field, (I.R. and U.S. Politics, but taught in the UK) it doesn’t feel like conservatives are in the minority. But, at the same time, how does one qualify as conservative or liberal? Is it as box we are supposed to tick on our job applications? Maybe I missed that bit of the equal opportunities monitoring form!

7

mds 04.13.10 at 7:21 pm

I’m not sure why Holbo thinks he should have all the fun when it comes to libertarians and history.

Et tu, Bérubé?

novakant and I have both independently declared an admittedly-hopeless goal of introducing more fine-grained distinctions into the blanket term “libertarianism.” And then you decide to join the libertarian-slapping hootenanny by focusing on … Megan McArdle? The poster child for what many distinguished analysts of the Left refer to as “schmibertarianism”? It’s already been bad enough dealing with repeated rounds of casuistry from Sebastian, as he manages to serially deny the relevance to right-libertarianism of virtually any publicly-known right-libertarian scholar one cares to name. Thanks for allowing him the chance to follow your lead in discharging a firearm into a drum full of fish.

And what about poor Professor Brighouse’s post seeking help on improvements to teaching methods? Sure, with enough three-digit comment threads, the propertarian menace is bound to be defeated. But will no one think of the children? At least the ones at UW-Madison?

8

kth 04.13.10 at 7:23 pm

The comparison with racial discrimination is fatuous of course, but one also ought to push back hard against the notion that a personal ideology freely chosen is an immutable characteristic deserving of affirmative action or other government protection. After all, I’m guessing that Boone Pickens and Don Blankenship aren’t much in the habit of hiring outspoken liberals.

9

Doctor Science 04.13.10 at 7:24 pm

At what point do conservatives bemoaning the lack of conservatives in academe notice that academics in the liberal arts do not make much money?* Or that people in Hollywood, especially the “talent” and the “creatives”, don’t make much money on average, either? And that writers, painters, musicians, and other “cultural elites” spend a lot of time living in garrets or their cars, depending on the century?

Maybe conservative students like jobs that make money.

*The exception being economists, who are (a) quite likely to be conservatives, (b) quite likely to be well-paid as consultants, Cato Institute Adjuncts, etc., and (c) quite likely to be peddlers of not just nonsense, but *pernicious* nonsense.

10

Doctor Science 04.13.10 at 7:26 pm

Bother. I forgot this is a blog where asterisk=bold. Curse you, lack of edit function!

11

Elvis Elvisberg 04.13.10 at 7:29 pm

Thanks for this well-argued post.

It’s worth noting that when McArdle tries to explain why conservative discourse is so stilted, and so controlled by absurd shibboleths… she says that it’s because they are oppressed, rather like blacks in the 1950s were.

The cult of conservative victimhood runs deep. Even when one of them tries to engage with reality, it turns out that the root cause is those mean ol’ liberals in the classics department and at CBS.

In reality, though, conservatives don’t face oppression. They don’t need to create their own alternative reality– it’s not like selling the Iraq invasion, or tax cuts that we couldn’t afford, or welfare reform, or whatever, couldn’t get a fair hearing in the MSM.

12

politicalfootball 04.13.10 at 7:29 pm

Conservatives are, not to overlabor the obvious, marginalized in the cultural elite, even though they are powerful in the political elite.

Any word on whether conservatives have made any headway among the financial elite?

13

moe 04.13.10 at 7:45 pm

“Because back in the day, black people took stock of social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms, and decided (being rational beings and all, trying to maximize their happiness) that they were better off starting their own businesses than trying to become bank managers, where they would be socially isolated. “

This is painfully funny, not just mordantly funny. I would ask why you all continue to discuss this woman’s ridiculous arguments but I can see how irresistible they must be.

14

Heur 04.13.10 at 7:46 pm

Well… I feel as though this is a little unfair to McArdle, as she is quoted above. Analogies have limits to them, and the lack of similarity between the historical antecedents of mid 20th century racial hiring practices and what accounts for, in her view, the dearth of conservatives in academia, really doesn’t have much to do with her analogy. Her sole point is that disparity between liberal and conservative hires can still be indicative of some form of self-perpetuating marginalization, even if liberals aren’t intentionally discriminating in hiring.

I don’t actually agree with her point, but to the extent her analogy is limited to illuminate the meaning of her point, it’s fine.

15

John Protevi 04.13.10 at 7:48 pm

We have witnessed The Birth of a New Internet Tradition : “as I wrote years ago, somewhere” will soon join “central to my point.”

16

Bernard Yomtov 04.13.10 at 7:52 pm

..my experience of talking to people who might have liked to go to grad school or work in Hollywood, but went and did something else instead, is that it is simply hogwash..

I call BS. This is standard McArdle. She always has “a friend in the business,” or “an old prof” (usually a Democrat!), or some other shadowy figure she cites as a source of indisputable information, as she does here.

things like social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms about what constituted the boundaries of acceptable traits in bank managers did all the work for them.

No. Outright racism did the work. The bias was not subtle and the norms were not tacit. A bank official who said, “Maybe we should go recruit at Fisk, or Morehouse. Might find some bright seniors over there,” would not just have been politely ignored. At a minimum he would have been ridiculed, and more likely called a “n****r-lover,” etc. (Of course, the libertarian view is that this mechanism – hiring talented individuals who others won’t hire for racist reasons – ultimately breaks down employment discrimination. This view is wrong.)

17

Anderson 04.13.10 at 7:53 pm

People didn’t try because they sensed that it would be both socially isolating, and professionally dangerous, to be a conservative in institutions as overwhelmingly liberal as academia and media.

Just the other day, I passed a homeless guy begging for spare change, because his op-eds supporting the Iraq War had proved utterly mistaken, and he was fired from his media job and unable to work in TV, print, or internet media, so stigmatized was he by his utter lack of judgment. I gave him a quarter.

18

salacious 04.13.10 at 7:59 pm

I would push back against the invocation of Jim Crow as the definitive refutation of McArdle’s point. Her ignorance about the actual history of anti-black discrimination is of course appalling. Nonetheless, it remains true that there were plenty of instances where there was not formal, official discrimination against blacks and yet “social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms” did the work of excluding blacks from positions of power. It’s not like Jim Crow ended and all of a sudden everything was just dandy. More generally, there are other subgroups–jews, for instance–with whom her attempted comparison would work even better.

KTH seems to have the stronger counterargument–political ideology simply doesn’t demand the same type of solicitude as race or gender when it comes to deciding how to staff our institutions.

19

J— 04.13.10 at 8:02 pm

Nobody knows the trouble they’ve seen

Sometimes I feel like a tenureless child.

20

Hogan 04.13.10 at 8:05 pm

I gave him a quarter.

Why? You know he’s just going to blow it on Cohibos and Johnny Walker Blue Label.

21

Anderson 04.13.10 at 8:06 pm

She always has “a friend in the business,”

Any argument premised upon McArdle’s having any sort of friend whatsoever is immediately suspect.

22

gregor 04.13.10 at 8:09 pm

Well if you are a conservative and want to go into academics, go into any engineering discipline.

The large majority of conservatives in the engineering schools more than compensates for the paucity of such creatures in other departments.

23

Joe S. 04.13.10 at 8:14 pm

If McArdle’s thesis is correct, you should see lots of academic conservatives in math & science departments, where there is a pretty broad consensus on what constitutes excellence, and one’s politics are completely irrelevant to one’s teaching or research.

You don’t. Indeed, natural science has probably drifted leftward with time. The modern conservative movement has a tenuous relationship to reality and logic. That doesn’t play well in the natural sciences. Or, for that matter, in any field of academic inquiry that does not receive Big Funding from Big Business.

24

Cervantes 04.13.10 at 8:18 pm

How about the causal story is backwards? See, what happens is, if you learn a lot of true facts, and you work hard to get good at thinking about stuff and understanding how facts can be established or contradicted, and how probably true facts fit together to create productive explanatory models, you generally end up drawing conclusions that don’t correspond to conservative ideology.

So you were qualified for an academic job first, and not so conservative as a consequence. Maybe you aren’t supposed to say that because it isn’t nice or something, I dunno . . .

25

M31 04.13.10 at 8:30 pm

But then there’s no way to salvage that analogy

I read this as “no way to savage that analogy” and I thought, yes there is, and I think I’m reading it.

26

schnoxl 04.13.10 at 8:35 pm

@gregor: Do you have survey data to support your claim? I work at a well-respected engineering school and I have never seen this so-called “large majority of conservatives” of which you speak. It’s been my experience that the multinational make-up of engineering faculty and the general respect they have for reasoning and academic freedom makes most engineering professors at least moderate and generally speaking quite liberal.

27

Keith 04.13.10 at 8:35 pm

Jonny:
In my field, (I.R. and U.S. Politics, but taught in the UK) it doesn’t feel like conservatives are in the minority. But, at the same time, how does one qualify as conservative or liberal? Is it as box we are supposed to tick on our job applications? Maybe I missed that bit of the equal opportunities monitoring form!

Conservatives are the ones who show up at the job interview wearing their Sarah Pallin button and demanding to see the dean’s birth certificate.

28

bjk 04.13.10 at 8:39 pm

Why is the left always refighting the civil rights movement? That was fifty years ago. You don’t get any credit for being on the right side fifty years later.

29

ed 04.13.10 at 8:44 pm

Thanks for the read, Professa Danga, but now we’re in for a lengthy and insufferable series of posts from Ms. McArdle in which she attempts to clarify her position and/or tries to walk it back and/or contradicts herself several times during the meandering course of exceedingly verbose posts and/or claims she was misunderstood and/or claims victimhood and/or compares Teh Blacks to Himalayan salt. Brace yourself. Or ignore her.

30

Marc 04.13.10 at 8:49 pm

And I thought that you’d be talking about the earlier McArdle post…where she bemoans the fact that the serfs renting the house she wants to buy have this annoying “contract” that prevents her from tossing them on the street early.

31

fish 04.13.10 at 8:52 pm

Of course Megan in her search for a home in DC will suffer from conservative redlining as well. All those conservatives have the hardest time getting their hands on the most important source of power: capital.

32

Jeremey 04.13.10 at 8:53 pm

What’s missing is that one’s ideology IS A CHOICE (as conservatives so like to scream about on another issue as a basis for denying civil rights to certain Americans…), while one’s race/skin color is an innate, immutable characteristic. Ergo, the two are not equivalent at all. These guys are free to be whatever ideology they wish–even Nazis if they so choose–but that doesn’t mean I have to hire them.

33

chris 04.13.10 at 8:55 pm

Also, why are people who think that basketball is a useless waste of time and the downfall of American society so underrepresented on basketball teams?

We’re talking about a group that is practically defined by its anti-intellectualism and McArdle is publicly wondering why it contains few intellectuals?

(There’s a joke here about members of oppressed groups aspiring to lead their oppressors, but I’m not going to dignify the oppressed-conservative narrative by making it.)

To say nothing of the role of educational policy as it interacts with self-interest — academics voting for/publicly supporting conservatives are essentially asking for the elimination of their own jobs, which is a position not likely to receive much support even if it might be merited in some abstract sense.

And how did they get into those jobs in the first place if they agreed with conservative doctrine on the subject? Does anyone actually *aspire* to the status of useless excrescence on the body politic?

Furthermore, some conservative articles of faith *specifically* interfere with particular academic disciplines, e.g. creationism.

34

Dr Pangloss 04.13.10 at 8:58 pm

You can’t imagine how difficult it is for me not to write “Fegan Fucktardle” whenever I refer to her. I’m not proud of it. No, I am not.

35

H. Rumbold, Master Barber 04.13.10 at 9:06 pm

Heritage Foundation, AEI, et. al. are the Pullman porters of academic liberal fascism- at least you have a realistic shot at making a decent income.

36

Myles SG 04.13.10 at 9:08 pm

Well, let’s scrape the black comparison. What about the Jews? In the fifties, it was common practice to screen out candidates with Jewish names. Yet there were very few instances of specific, legal infrastructure against the Jews in the period of American history preceding. You could reasonably say that conservatives are the new American Jews of academia.

What now, liberals?

37

montag 04.13.10 at 9:10 pm

I wonder if McGargle would be willing to make the same case if the more obvious substitution for “conservative” was not “black,” but, rather, “self-entitled asshole.”

38

Bernard Yomtov 04.13.10 at 9:10 pm

salacious at #18,

I would push back against the invocation of Jim Crow as the definitive refutation of McArdle’s point. Her ignorance about the actual history of anti-black discrimination is of course appalling. Nonetheless, it remains true that there were plenty of instances where there was not formal, official discrimination against blacks and yet “social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms” did the work of excluding blacks from positions of power.

Depends what you mean by “Jim Crow.” It is true that the segregation laws generally did not mandate discrimination in employment.That discrimination was due to widespread and intense racism, some of it quite “rational” on pure economic grounds.

But the absence of laws does not mean the social mechanisms that served the purpose were either subtle or tacit.

39

jdkbrown 04.13.10 at 9:11 pm

“What now, liberals?”

We point out that there are, in fact, no such screening procedures aimed at conservatives? Huh, that was easy.

40

Michael 04.13.10 at 9:12 pm

Jonny @ 6 — But, at the same time, how does one qualify as conservative or liberal? Is it as box we are supposed to tick on our job applications?

It’s pretty simple, really. In applications for jobs in philosophy, simply state your preference for Duns Scotus or Spinoza. In literature, indicate the degree of your enthusiasm for Romanticism on a scale of 1 to 10.

mds @ 7 — It’s already been bad enough dealing with repeated rounds of casuistry from Sebastian, as he manages to serially deny the relevance to right-libertarianism of virtually any publicly-known right-libertarian scholar one cares to name. Thanks for allowing him the chance to follow your lead in discharging a firearm into a drum full of fish.

This one is simple too: libertarianism is definitely not whatever you say it is, mds. Also, real libertarianism has never been tried, and therefore can never fail, except in the 1880s when things were pretty great all around.

salacious @ 18: I would push back against the invocation of Jim Crow as the definitive refutation of McArdle’s point. Her ignorance about the actual history of anti-black discrimination is of course appalling. Nonetheless, it remains true that there were plenty of instances where there was not formal, official discrimination against blacks and yet “social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms” did the work of excluding blacks from positions of power. It’s not like Jim Crow ended and all of a sudden everything was just dandy. More generally, there are other subgroups—jews, for instance—with whom her attempted comparison would work even better.

Oh, don’t worry, I’m not denying that there were instances where social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms did the job — after all, there were no laws forbidding the hiring of black folk in the skilled trades (or in the municipal civil services, where their numbers were minuscule before 1960 as well). I’m just saying that attributing the number of black bank managers in the 1950s to social networks, subtle bias, and tacit norms without mentioning legal segregration, in order to construct an analogy between African-Americans in the 1950s and conservatives today, is … oh, heavenly Moloch, we know what it is. See Sprizouse @ 5 about the depression setting in.

And bjk @ 25: Why is the left always refighting the civil rights movement? That was fifty years ago. You don’t get any credit for being on the right side fifty years later.

Dang! Just when I thought I could get some extra credit. Well, let’s walk through this one slowly, shall we? When someone makes an argument based on what (they think) happened fifty years ago, as McArdle did, it makes sense to discuss things that happened fifty years ago. But I know, I know, this should be a happy time — let’s not bicker and argue about ‘oo Jim Crowed ‘oo….

ed @ 26: now we’re in for a lengthy and insufferable series of posts from Ms. McArdle in which she attempts to clarify her position and/or tries to walk it back and/or contradicts herself several times during the meandering course of exceedingly verbose posts and/or claims she was misunderstood and/or claims victimhood and/or compares Teh Blacks to Himalayan salt.

I nominate John Holbo for the followup response! Besides, he’s much more familiar than I am with the salt of the Himalayan regions.

41

ScentOfViolets 04.13.10 at 9:14 pm

I’ve heard this plaint many times that “conservative ideas” and “conservative theories” are dismissed out of hand. But when I ask specifically, what ideas or theories were dismissed by academics because they were conservative, I never seem to get much of a reply. Apparently there’s some quota system that I was previously unaware of where, no matter how ill-defined or poorly supported, some conservative ideas must be taken seriously just because they are conservative. For balance, you know.

42

Michael 04.13.10 at 9:14 pm

Myles SG @ 31: You could reasonably say that conservatives are the new American Jews of academia.

You could, if it hadn’t already been proven that the white man is the Jew of liberal fascism.

43

ron 04.13.10 at 9:20 pm

Funny how there were no conservatives (as far as I could tell) in the climatology or ecology depts. at my school. I wonder why that was. Must be conservative bias.

And, John Yoo.

44

Robert Waldmann 04.13.10 at 9:22 pm

I’m going to concede a whole lot to McArdle for the sake of argument. I assume that “fifties” is a typo and that she meant to type “nineties” and therefore must assume that “pullman porter” was another typo she meant to type “NBA basketball star”.

I assume that she really does know conservatives who wanted to be academics, but thought they wouldn’t get tenure. There is still another difference. We consider under-representation of African Americans among bank managers (in the present and not just the 50s) the sign of something wrong, because we assume that there isn’t a systematic link between being African American and ability to manage a bank.

McArdle assumes that there isn’t a systematic link between being conservative and being able to do valuable academic research and teaching. Basically she doesn’t feel the need to argue that the reason conservatives don’t get PhD’s is that it is hard to make a significant and original contribution to research and remain conservative.

Now I’m fairly sure she isn’t thinking of how hard it is for a creation scientist to get tenure in a biology department (there is, as far as I know, one in the USA). Yet if she accepts that outcome as a result of upholding scientific standards and not discrimination. I note that most conservatives in the USA believe in divine creation. I know this because most people in the USA believe in divine creation. Many people object to the unfair discrimination which keeps such people out of biology departments. I’m just assuming McArdle isn’t one of them and agrees that creationists do not get tenure because they can not reconcile their beliefs with the data — that they are excluded, because they should be excluded.

If she agrees about creation science, she assumes that other fields are different and that people who reach conservative conclusions have trouble for some reason other than a failure to reconcile their beliefs with the data. What is her argument ?

I think it is clear that her argument is that academics are to the left of most Americans and that academics are to the left of the power elite. Note again most Americans believe that God created human beings in our current form and do not believe that we were created by natural processes guided by God (or heaven forfend Godless processes).

Now on the issue of natural selection vs divine creation, the power elite (outside of Texas mostly) is on the side of the biologists not the public, but surely McArdle doesn’t believe that might makes right (she may have believed that four years ago for all I know).

What makes her confident that conservatives are under-represented due to subtle discrimination and not because they are wrong, therefore the evidence does not cooperate with them and therefore they have trouble making their case ?

Now I think it is more likely that conservatives choose mor lucrative fields than that they can’t make a case up to academic standards, but McArdle assumes the vitally important claim that conservatives have a case which withstands scrutiny when arguing for the less important claim that there should be more conservative academics.

45

Delicious Pundit 04.13.10 at 9:24 pm

Obviously there’s been an enormous amount of ink shed about why this is, but my experience of talking to people who might have liked to…work in Hollywood, but went and did something else instead, is that it is simply hogwash when liberals earnestly assure me that the disparity exists mostly because conservatives are different, and maybe dumber.

1. This sentence was obviously constructed with cheap non-union labor.

2. My experience is that the class of “people who might have liked to work in Hollywood” is very large indeed. But that in itself is not a sufficient qualification. Come watch auditions some time and see for yourself. And in any case,

3. Hollywood isn’t for quitters.

46

Miracle Max 04.13.10 at 9:26 pm

Who will win the struggle for libertarian intellectual hegemony, Megan McArdle or Bryan Caplan?

47

J— 04.13.10 at 9:27 pm

Thanks for the read, Professa Danga, but now we’re in for a lengthy and insufferable series of posts from Ms. McArdle

It has begun.

48

Bruce 04.13.10 at 9:28 pm

The biggest difference between being black and being conservative re ACADEMIA is that academia and conservatism are both about ideas, whereas being “black” is about racial caste politics tied loosely to ethnic origin, “race” and to a lesser extent cultural heritage.

Discriminating against people based on their ideas is not only morally acceptable but required for an academy to function. Whether discriminating against specifically conservatism is a good idea or not is a separate matter, but I don’t want astrologers getting tenure in the astronomy department, or history-ignorant rubes who think that the Confederacy was a civil rights movement for oppressed Southern victims of northern aggression to get tenure in a history department. If that makes me an academic bigot, make the most of it.

49

melior 04.13.10 at 9:31 pm

To unravel the perplexity of Libertardianism, I consider these recent social research results to be highly illuminating:

A recent study reveals that the perception of a relative wealth advantage over one’s neighbors is more strongly correlated to self-reported happiness than absolute wealth.

This might help reveal, for example, why the lower middle class glibtards’ SHOUTY OUTRAGE at the thought that somewhere, some poor kid might be receiving a free school lunch seems to completely dominate any concerns about the possible unfairness of corrupt corporate executives’ bonuses or inheritance tax giveaways to the megawealthy trust fund babies.

50

Susan of Texas 04.13.10 at 9:32 pm

Ed–too late.

The important thing to remember about Megan McArdle is that everything is about her. If she is worried about small government evangelicals not getting a job (as she says in comments), she knows a small government evangelical who can’t get a job.

By the way, isn’t her fiance a small government (“former”) evangelical whose internship at Reason is about to end?

51

Howlin Wolfe 04.13.10 at 9:36 pm

I think it’s hard for conservative tribalists, always obsessing over what it means to be “conservative”, to realize they are “conservative” (more “authoritarian-friendly” than actually conservative in any non-ideological sense) because they are stupid. They are not stupid becase they are right-wing. That gets the causality backwards, which makes it seem like it’s some bias. If seen in the proper chain of causes, it’s a simpler, better explanation of why there are fewer of them in academia.
They aren’t content with dominating the economy and politics; they demand that their very special brand of stupid be given the deference due academic disciplines of far greater rigor than their miserable “philosophy”, “economics” and “””””wisdom””””” (extra scare quotes for extra stoopid) warrants. When analyzed objectively, their intellectual houses of cards collapse rather easily.

52

Paul J. Reber 04.13.10 at 9:46 pm

I don’t know if it’s worth a discussion of the “missing conservatives” in academia, but I have an anecdote that suggests a potentially important self-selection bias not involving social networks.

We had a openly, aggressively conservative grad student in our psychology program. I avoided political debates with him as they were not germane to our research (neuroscience of memory). I wasn’t his advisor, but I was on his committee and couldn’t help making a remark after his successful oral defense of his masters that he was well on his way to a successful but low-salary academic life. Within a few months, he dropped out of the program and became a stock broker. He was very smart and I expect he’s a lot richer now than he was.

Being in academia, but having friends who work in the business world, I’m fairly convinced that a big fraction of academics could make a lot more money outside of academia than in it. The choice to stay in academia is often at least partly driven by a desire to do good: teach, research and write in a way that helps the world (plus you get all the selfish advantages of the academic life). I think a lot of hardcore self-maximizing/libertarian type conservatives will simply select out. Why put yourself through 4-10 years of penury as a grad student and post-doc for a decent but decidedly mediocre professorial salary when the reward of that kind of time in investment banking or consulting is so much bigger?

If you select out the really smart conservatives (because they go make money elsewhere), the conservatives remaining behind should actually tend to be less qualified on average. Exceptions should be seen in business schools where pay scales are much higher or the occasional libertarian who has somehow decided to forgo personal gain for the social good. Data are left as an exercise for the reader.

53

Es-tonea-pesta 04.13.10 at 9:47 pm

Apparently there’s some quota system that I was previously unaware of where, no matter how ill-defined or poorly supported, some conservative ideas must be taken seriously just because they are conservative. For balance, you know.

This “balance” quota system is the diametric opposite of “bias” and, as such, is the only priority for accurate news coverage. For examples, see every political story in every issue of every US newspaper over the past forty years.

54

NV 04.13.10 at 9:52 pm

I actually think she has a pretty good point here, and the contention you make is probably more a result of differing ideas regarding the meaning of the word “conservative.” When you hear “conservative” it sounds like you’re imagining the demagogic talking heads we see on TV.
I consider myself a traditionalist conservative in the tradition of Edmund Burke and while I end up being a staunch Democrat for want of options, I can honestly say that all through undergrad in my philosophy, history, religion, political science, and sociology classes I really did not feel at home. I would say that political science and history are my intellectual passions, but as much as I would have loved to have been able to pursue a PhD in either field, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go very far in the field simply due to a prevailing culture of post-modernist liberalism that tends to dominate. The only fields where I met professors that seemed more in line with my attitudes were within economics and international relations where the realist school of thought has great influence. (Although in both cases, I think the mainstream idea about the academic debates are always a bit to the right of where the academic debate actually is.)

55

Salient 04.13.10 at 9:53 pm

The entire legal apparatus of segregation and Jim Crow!

And, of course, the extra-legal apparatus of intimidation and destruction and duress and murder by lynching.

As I wrote years ago, somewhere, I doubt many bank hiring committees in the fifties got together and voted not to hire any negro bank managers. Yet, somehow, they didn’t hire any negro bank managers.

That’s probably true! Instead the half of ‘em that lived in the southern part of town donned white pointy sheet hats on the weekend and planted a cross on the black guy’s lawn and poured oil on it and lit it on fire! (The other half were busy working on their tennis game.)

56

someguy 04.13.10 at 9:54 pm

57

Alex 04.13.10 at 9:58 pm

I posted this at http://www.balloon-juice.com/2010/04/13/weird-comparison-of-the-day/ earlier and then he added it to the main post.

I think the identities of black and gay are a lot more mutable than you think. A lot of the discrimination that blacks now face is against choosing to be black identified—to name their children identifiably black names, and so forth. A black man who strips away all of the cultural identifiers of blackness is going to face substantially fewer barriers to advancement than a black man who chooses to maintain black speech patterns and so forth. The point is, he shouldn’t have to.

Likewise, a gay man who stays in the closet is, at this point, not a victim of discrimination . . . but we don’t think they should have to choose to remain in the closet.

So saying, “Well, conservatives could choose to be liberals” strikes me as not very interesting. Having to stop believing what you believe in order to get a job is not something that we think should happen—particularly not in a milieu which purports to be committed to open inquiry. Nor is it really reasonable to ask everyone in Alabama to turn themselves into Manhattan.

58

Doctor Science 04.13.10 at 9:59 pm

someguy:

That title page of that paper contains the dread words, “George Mason University”, where Bryan Caplan is a tenured professor. You will have to work harder than just dropping a link to get me to read it. (This warning does not apply to papers in the natural sciences from GMU, where I have seen some fine work.)

59

roger 04.13.10 at 10:07 pm

I’ve wondered why, if conservatives want more ideological quotas, they aren’t campaigning for more liberals in the oil business. As far as I can tell, petro pretty much supports ninety percent of rightwing think tanks, and has financed the conservative movement since WWII in America – pretty convincingly, they are conservative! So shouldn’t we have more Al Gore types on the boards of Exxon and Shell and Chevron, etc.? What dyou say? left to right trade – the right gets an T.S. Eliot scholar and a festshrift honoring Harvey Mansfield, the left gets a CEO of Exxon. .

60

Doctor Science 04.13.10 at 10:07 pm

gregor:

Your observations agree with the Salem hypothesis: that there is a correlation between subscribing to creationism and working in an engineering discipline.

61

bh 04.13.10 at 10:10 pm

The entire idea of conservatives as an ethnic group, particularly the blue state rich kid variety represented by McArdle, is incredibly dodgy. It’s one thing to recognize that socialization plays a role in ideology, but it’s quite another to assert that people holding a particular set of ideas are a discriminated class.

McArdle went to the same high school as Matt Yglesias. If she ended up with logorrhea, dodgy analytic skills, and massive sense of entitlement, it’s hardly Society’s concern that she gets called on it.

62

Steve J 04.13.10 at 10:23 pm

And don’t forget all the times gangs of liberals burned down conservatives’ towns and businesses for being too uppity and too successful. The only thing burning here is the stupid.

63

Anon 04.13.10 at 10:45 pm

Segregation wasn’t just legalized discrimination. It wasn’t just black people being refused nice jobs in the nice part of town.

It was also black people locked out of opportunity in the white world saying, “fine, I’m gonna make a nice place for myself here.” And succeeding beautifully in making a nice place for themselves somewhere. And then a mob of white people showing up and burning it all down!

Has she never heard of Rosewood, Florida? Has she heard of the “Black Wall Street” in Oklahoma? WTF did she think the Klan did?

This era wasn’t just discrimination, it wasn’t just giving them less than what whites were given. There was widespread, institutionalized terrorism against black people, to take away what they had if, in spite of all the forces arrayed against them, they managed to become successful.

It’s beyond offensive to suggest a lack of conservative professors in women’s lit compares to the crimes committed against African Americans in this era.

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JH 04.13.10 at 10:50 pm

It really would be hard to find a better reinforcement of McArdle’s argument about structural discrimination than these comment threads. Not only is the post a caricature that would make a first year college student blush, the commenters have been kind enough to explain that conservatives are not discriminated against in academia at all. Rather, it is that they are too stupid and/or more interested than money than ideas to pursue academic careers. And how do we know this? Why, through anecdotal examples, of course.

65

P O'Neill 04.13.10 at 10:52 pm

Jonah comments on the MMcA post

I am underwhelmed by the chorus of complaints about the lack of conservative ideas. It’s not that there isn’t some merit to the concern. My National Review colleague, Ramesh Ponnuru, has been ringing this bell for quite some time and, in the process, he has offered quite a few new ideas in precisely one of the magazines McArdle is presumably criticizing. Yuval Levin has been doing similar work in NR but also in his new magazine for new ideas, National Affairs. AEI has offered lots of ideas, on everything from health care to carbon taxes.

Also, just to throw it out there: As a libertarian, McArdle should know that when it comes to economics, libertarianism is largely the default philosophy of mainstream conservatism. The Republican Party may be a poor champion of free market economics, but since she is addressing herself to conservative intellectuals, she might as well be addressing her criticisms to libertarian intellectuals as well.

Which I think means that he thinks libertarian economics has no new ideas. Beyond returning to 1880.

66

will u. 04.13.10 at 11:01 pm

And while McArdle makes a specious analogy with racism, she neglects the issue of class altogether. For whom would habitus or socialization best explain absence from academia: conservatives raised on the Upper West Side, like herself, or the working and lower middle classes? Could someone give Megan a copy of Season 2 of “The Wire”?

It’s yet another example of the elevation of the pseudo-politics of culture over the politics of class. Aww, poor Ivy League Young Republicans, I’m so sorry you feel more comfortable amongst i-bankers than Marxisant English professors.

67

Natilo Paennim 04.13.10 at 11:11 pm

O, the McStupid! As with most of her incoherent dissembling, McMegan’s latest is so wrong on so many levels that it transcends being right and goes all the way back to completely wrong. Black bank managers in the 1950s? I used to work in a large commercial bank. There was exactly one African-American executive. He was the diversity/community relations shill. Conservatives in academia? Which academia are we talking about here? True, you don’t see too many conservatives in the humanities, and only a few more in social sciences, but there are scads of conservatives in the med schools, law schools, and the engineering, bio-medical, business, and even music faculties. In fact, we could easily argue that the humanities constitute a last bastion of liberal thinking in academia, with as much or more evidence than McMegan deploys (and we have done this of course.)
Not enough conservatives in Hollywood? That’s a larf. Who greenlights all those racist Disney movies? Where do all the Magical Black Person films come from? Hollywood and Mad Ave are businesses. They’re about buying cheap and selling dear. Where’s the liberalism in that?
So absurd.

68

Colin Danby 04.13.10 at 11:22 pm

Didn’t we establish the other month that it was academia’s concealed-carry rules that were screening out conservatives?

69

politicalfootball 04.13.10 at 11:35 pm

I’ve wondered why, if conservatives want more ideological quotas, they aren’t campaigning for more liberals in the oil business.

Don’t kid yourself – those oil guys are a bunch of leftists, too. After all, how many of them are willing to employ creationist geologists?

70

Troy 04.13.10 at 11:37 pm

Berube’s post is one of those truly annoying Internet archetypes — pick on the narrow specifics and respond to those so that you can beat on someone you disagree with yet avoid responding to the core argument of their post.

I suppose he is factually correct, but his post is completely irrelevant. McArdle’s post was about how conservatives respond to power dynamics in ways similar to other out groups, and the implications this has for conservative public intellectual discourse. Using it as an opportunity to bash her over an historical inaccuracy in one rhetorical parallel that was in no way central to her argument is just, well, churlish.

So, Mr. Berube, replace “black bank managers in the ’50s” with “black bank managers in the ’80s” or “black NFL coaches in the ’90s” or any situation in which institutional racism and not overt racism has prevented African Americans from getting ahead. I presume you do recognize that institutional discrimination is a real phenomenon with real effects. Do you deny that it applies to conservatives in the academe? If not, then, honestly, WTF is the point of this post?

71

jt 04.13.10 at 11:50 pm

Thank’s for giving me a name for the Salem hypothesis. I’ve noticed the same thing informally. I always thought it was because engineers spend lots of time looking at complicated things that actually were designed by someone.

I’ve also knew a very smart creationist guy back in college who was pursuing an advanced degree in biology specifically to acquire credentials with which to argue-from-authority at some “institute”.

72

politicalfootball 04.13.10 at 11:56 pm

McArdle could have avoided the easiest of Michael’s cheap shots simply by comparing conservatives in 2010 to blacks … in 2010. I’m sure that comparison never occurred to her, given that we solved that whole racism thing decades ago.

73

voyou 04.13.10 at 11:57 pm

I wouldn’t be able to go very far in the field simply due to a prevailing culture of post-modernist liberalism that tends to dominate.

In history I can maybe buy this, for a sufficiently expansive definition of “post-modernist.” But the idea that political science is dominated by post-modernist liberalism suggests, well, a lack of acquaintance with the field.

74

Myles SG 04.13.10 at 11:59 pm

“left to right trade – the right gets an T.S. Eliot scholar and a festshrift honoring Harvey Mansfield, the left gets a CEO of Exxon.”

Thanks, but we already have that. T.S. Eliot was the editor of Wesleyan Press for the longest time. What we need is not some token hire, but a genuine proportion of conservative thinkers on college campuses, people who don’t just bristle or sneer at conservative thought and take conservatism seriously as a political philosophy.

75

mds 04.14.10 at 12:00 am

What’s missing is that one’s ideology IS A CHOICE (as conservatives so like to scream about on another issue as a basis for denying civil rights to certain Americans…), while one’s race/skin color is an innate, immutable characteristic.

What on earth are you on about, Jeremey? To name one famous example, Barack Obama could have made himself white just by checking the appropriate box on his census form. Just ask Professor Althouse.

76

ScentOfViolets 04.14.10 at 12:05 am

I think you should make a distinction between the two complaints. One is that there aren’t that many “conservatives” in academia; the other is that there aren’t that many “conservative ideas” being given the red carpet treatment in academia.

For the first, I could care less if the guy in the next office over is a “conservative”[1]. I certainly don’t treat conservatives or liberals differently (assume the scare quotes are there, I’m just dropping them from exhaustion.) For the second complaint, I admit that I’ve seen theories like “blacks aren’t as smart as the rest of us, and have poorer impulse control as well, and that’s why they were savages at a time when Europe was colonizing the world” dismissed in the Sociology department as well. But it’s not given short thrift because it’s a conservative idea, it’s laughed at out of hand because it’s a stupid, poorly formulated idea with little to no proof. The same with any of a number of other conservative ideas, like women are predisposed to defer to men because of genetics, homosexuality is a mental disease, etc.

[1]The way these people turn on a dime with their definitions these days, I’m not at all sure whose qualified to call themselves a conservative, let alone a liberal or moderate.

77

Colin Danby 04.14.10 at 12:07 am

Can we separate the taking seriously from the identity, MSG?

78

ScentOfViolets 04.14.10 at 12:09 am

What we need is not some token hire, but a genuine proportion of conservative thinkers on college campuses, people who don’t just bristle or sneer at conservative thought and take conservatism seriously as a political philosophy.

What is this “conservative thought” that people sneer at in academia because it is conservative? Be specific.

79

Substance McGravitas 04.14.10 at 12:10 am

It’s the one that says Shakespeare is really great. Never hear that.

80

Rich Puchalsky 04.14.10 at 12:13 am

I suppose that it’s up to me to hold up the side by saying something trollish, but really, shouldn’t people discriminate against conservatives? It’s not bad to discriminate against a political ideology that someone freely chooses. Doesn’t it say something about them?

I mean, let’s say someone is a movement conservative. So they support torture. What does that say about their personal sense of morality? Wouldn’t you “discriminate” against someone who says they approve of torturing people?

They have a weird, twisted sense of sexual entitlement covering repression. Well… individual exceptions who I know well aside, I sure wouldn’t trust one to watch my kids. I mean, anyone who watches your kids you need to check out in some way, but it would take a lot more checking to convince me that a conservative was safe.

That’s the kind of thing that, if you do it to members of a racial minority, is prejudice. But it appears to be perfectly rational to me to look at someone’s political choices as revealing their moral choices.

81

Castorp 04.14.10 at 12:30 am

“You could, if it hadn’t already been proven that the white man is the Jew of liberal fascism.”

Well Michael, it hasn’t been “proven,” but it is a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care.

82

Colin Danby 04.14.10 at 12:30 am

Man, Bryan Caplan’s adolescent website is still burning my retinas, and this is a Berube thread and all, so it’s real hard to turn off the snark, but let me try a serious response to Rich. There are plenty of thinkers and ideas that can be called conservative that should be taught and taken seriously, and in general you have an obligation when you teach to give students a robust range of smart ideas and critiques. I can list examples at length but the point should be clear.

Two problems: (a) as y our comment suggests, the term “conservative” has become meaningless, pointing to a set of attitudes at best, (b) so have other contrastive terms — I’m sure NV at #54 is sincere, but when people use phrases like “culture of post-modern liberalism” all you can do is throw up your hands. But it’s no more helpful to launch on tirades against your stereotype of conservatives.

83

ScentOfViolets 04.14.10 at 12:34 am

Rich, that may be true and prudent in the private sphere but if, say, someone was a member of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and they were to be considered for a new hire in my department, I certainly wouldn’t hold it against them. That’s nothing to do with the law, btw, I just fail to see what that has to do with mathematics. Otoh, if he told the review committee that he thought pi was exactly three because that’s what is in his inerrant religious text, then yeah, he probably wouldn’t make the cut.

84

pbg 04.14.10 at 12:34 am

The reason for this lack of representation is the fact that the modern scare-quote-”conservative” is simply a reactive anti-liberal. Look for a cohesive, let alone coherent, conservative standpoint? Atheistic Randianism coupled with fundie Xtianity? Like tapioca pudding swirled with motor oil. Small government coupled with American Empire? Yeah baby!
There are conservatives all over the place in Academe: devout Catholics, haters of all things pop-cult, nihilist libertarian anarchist cranks, despisers of neo-Baudrillard post-deconstructionist aleatory twelve-tone revanchist Structuralisticalidociousness–they’re everywhere.
What isn’t everywhere is folks who hate whatever Liberals like. That’s what defines these jackasses.

When discussing conservative comedians and asked to name one, I said that’s easy: Bob Hope. He was as conservative as the day is long, put his money where his mouth is about it. But would these people consider him a conservative comedian? They wouldn’t, because he didn’t do the ONLY thing these guys have as a criterion: attack liberals.

85

Castorp 04.14.10 at 12:41 am

“I would say that political science and history are my intellectual passions, but as much as I would have loved to have been able to pursue a PhD in either field, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go very far in the field simply due to a prevailing culture of post-modernist liberalism that tends to dominate.”

Setting aside the obvious absurdity of “post-modernist liberalism,” for a moment, surely the field of Political Science, which is dominated by quantitative analysis, has a home for someone who rejects post-modernism.

86

Craig 04.14.10 at 12:50 am

You have articulated the philosophy of “glibertarianism” with such dexterity that you may be entitled to enter upon a proper program of study in the field of métaphysico-théologo-cosmolonigologie. You will come to understand that the age of Dickens and Sinclair and Ralph Ellison was in fact the best of all possible worlds, and it may, perhaps, be regained if only we can manage a u-turn on the Road to Serfdom.

87

joel hanes 04.14.10 at 12:53 am

> Salem hypothesis

Ah, you are *that* Doctor Science.

Good to see another of the Howler Monkeys still posting in this brave new bloggy world.

88

Castorp 04.14.10 at 12:57 am

“You will come to understand that the age of Dickens and Sinclair and Ralph Ellison was in fact the best of all possible worlds, and it may, perhaps, be regained if only we can manage a u-turn on the Road to Serfdom.”

Or take the next exit and turn off on the toll road that leads to the libertarian gated community. The Rent-a-cop at the front will welcome you with open arms.

89

Martin Bento 04.14.10 at 1:27 am

Not to criticize a well-deserved piling on Megan, but I do have to take issue with those who seem to argue it would be legitimate to discriminate against conservatives because conservatism, unlike race, is chosen. People should be able to choose their political affiliations without fear of employer or potential employer retribution.

There’s currently some evidence of a trend of conservative employers firing Obama supporters. At least, we’re seeing chatter about this on the net. They’re bragging about it on the Internet. In most states, there seems to be no legal redress. Personally, I think this is likely to backfire. If they just shut up and did it, it wouldn’t. The biases of liberals are such that Obama supporters claiming to have been selectively banned would be ridiculed as “paranoid”. But they can’t help bragging about it and rubbing the fired employee’s noses into it. Every fired employee has family and friends, not necessarily liberal, who are going to react to this, and, if it becomes widespread, every conservative firing of an Obama supporter will become suspect.

90

kvenlander 04.14.10 at 1:29 am

> What we need is not some token hire, but a genuine

Who is “we”, white man?

91

sbk 04.14.10 at 1:40 am

Just out of curiosity: how many of you are aware that the man scheduled to become president of the MLA just ahead of monsieur Bérubé, Russell Berman, is an actual conservative (in a literature department)? Anyone?

Now back on topic…

92

pv 04.14.10 at 1:41 am

*rambling*

Honest question (I’ve been having a little trouble finding the answer): is there a great deal of ideological/political diversity among military officers?

Somebody who knows about these matters should correct me, but my guess is that striving to be a military officer tends to mean holding particular ideas about the role of U.S. military power and the effectiveness of military violence (in addition to views on tradition, order, etc.) that I would associate with “conservative.”

Similarly, striving to be a successful academic probably requires holding particular ideas about the value of teaching, the usefulness of critical inquiry, etc., that MIGHT lean liberal (another honest question: is there a common political affiliation of high school teachers? In my experience most are moderately liberal). It’s also possible that (like the military) the idea of public service is involved here (do liberals and conservatives tend to view teaching as a “public service” in the same way?).

I also wonder about cause and effect here too: do liberals choose the humanities, or do the humanities create liberals? Studying history has only made me more liberal (for many reasons and in many ways).

Anyway, if we’re allowed to speculate there are dozens (or hundreds) of possible reasons why academics tend to be liberal.

*done rambling*

93

Castorp 04.14.10 at 1:59 am

“Honest question (I’ve been having a little trouble finding the answer): is there a great deal of ideological/political diversity among military officers?”

I don’t have any statistics, but in my work a deal with a substantial number of military officers. In my experience they tend be fairly conservative but try to present themselves as apolitical, which, while kind of ridiculous, is in the end probably better than an assertive right-wing officer corps.

94

Myles SG 04.14.10 at 1:59 am

“What is this “conservative thought” that people sneer at in academia because it is conservative? Be specific.”

Goldwaterism, Catholic conservatism, Hayekian conservatism (yeah I know the semantic controversies, but let’s just hang on in there), Straussian conservatism, and of course, Buckley wrote God and Men at Yale.

95

Michael 04.14.10 at 2:04 am

Paul J Reber @ 52: Why put yourself through 4-10 years of penury as a grad student and post-doc for a decent but decidedly mediocre professorial salary when the reward of that kind of time in investment banking or consulting is so much bigger?

Yep, that’s basically my argument in What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts — namely, that liberals outnumber conservatives in academe because conservatives are so much smarter than we are about how the world actually, you know, works. Why some conservatives have read this as “Bérubé denies that academe is largely liberal” is beyond me.

Colin Danby @ 66: Didn’t we establish the other month that it was academia’s concealed-carry rules that were screening out conservatives?

Yes. But after rereading Myles SG @ 31, I have decided to ban all commenters with Jewish-sounding names, beginning with you, Martin Bento, kth, and Substance McGravitas.

96

Michael 04.14.10 at 2:08 am

Oops, I see Myles SG @ 31 is now @ 36. Sorry I can’t release comments from moderation right now, folks — I’m on my son’s computer (laptop virus, long story) and don’t have my usual access to the engine room.

I blame WordPress and its well-known liberal bias.

97

ScentOfViolets 04.14.10 at 2:24 am

“What is this “conservative thought” that people sneer at in academia because it is conservative? Be specific.”

Goldwaterism, Catholic conservatism, Hayekian conservatism (yeah I know the semantic controversies, but let’s just hang on in there), Straussian conservatism, and of course, Buckley wrote God and Men at Yale.

This is neither specific, nor does it indicate any ideas that were rejected by “liberal” academia because they were conservative. If by any chance you think your laundry list of vague -isms fulfills either of those two criteria, then I’d suggest this is yet another reason why you don’t see too many “conservatives” in academia.

But this reminds me – I’ve actually had people who tell me that “black culture is responsible for blacks being not being successful” is an example of serious conservative thought that is given short shrift because it is a conservative idea. Telling them multiple times that this is poorly articulated, vague, and virtually untestable didn’t seem to dissuade them in the slightest. This is not unlike the time I – a currently nonpracticing heterosexual – was propositioned by a gay man at an after-hours party, only to be indignantly informed that the only reason I wouldn’t sleep with him was because I was prejudiced against black people

98

sg 04.14.10 at 2:27 am

pv, I’ve met a few US marines in Japan and they always seem to be largely left wing-ish, with conservative views about war and duty. They don’t seem to come from very wealthy backgrounds. Maybe they’re not officers. Australian soldiers seem to run the gamut from broadly centrist left to far right, I’ve met a lot in my time (again mostly rank-and-file, though some were SAS/elite infantry) and they’ve had as wide a range of views as most people in a heirarchical and conservative institution are able to.

I’ve also noticed that scientists tend to usually be left-of-centre. But maybe that’s because the right has typically not been very accommodating of their findings?

I too am mystified by this idea of an academia which rejects conservatives. I can’t even imagine how one could go about doing this during the hiring process. Presumably this mcfartardle knows someone “in the business” who can help her explain it to us, though.

99

trizzlor 04.14.10 at 2:42 am

gah! Democrats actually pledge money towards academia, so academics vote Democrat and identify as such in a binary choice. Is that so hard?

If we look at it by issue rather than by party, social-conservative causes are inherently in conflict with intellectualism: abortion, gay rights, intelligent design, even immigration policy are issues that are quite clearly more in line with culture/religion than with critical thought or empiricism. If you actually looked at the economic sentiment in academia, I’m sure the right/left divide would not be nearly as wide as party affiliation … the preponderance of academic blogs on economy without clear leanings is at least anecdotal evidence.

100

Anderson 04.14.10 at 2:48 am

Setting aside the obvious absurdity of “post-modernist liberalism,”

Richard Rorty? I mean, sure, he may be absurd, but still. He did write at least one book about it (CIS).

101

Castorp 04.14.10 at 2:55 am

“pv, I’ve met a few US marines in Japan and they always seem to be largely left wing-ish, with conservative views about war and duty. They don’t seem to come from very wealthy backgrounds. Maybe they’re not officers.”

Enlisted men are generally thought to be more left than the officers, so the disctinction matter. But I did meet a Marine officer, once, who meets your description, so who knows.

102

BillCinSD 04.14.10 at 3:01 am

Wow, I had heard that Michael was quite the prankster, but putting a virus on your son’s computer seems just too liberal.

My anecdotal evidence, being an engineering professor and doing research for the Air Force, is that both groups are pretty conservative, although for engineering it depends quite a bit on the field.

103

steve 04.14.10 at 3:07 am

” is there a great deal of ideological/political diversity among military officers?”

When I was in, 1970s-1990s, it was solidly conservative. Since 2001, a lot more have turned to the left.

Steve

104

Duckman GR 04.14.10 at 3:57 am

Well, I’ll just say it. Those conservatives, yes, they are stupid. And they want us all to be as stupid as they are. There, I’ve said it, I hope McCurdle curdles her shorts contemplating the injustice of it all. But that would require thinking and empathy, and all that icky liberal stuff.

105

CaptBackslap 04.14.10 at 4:06 am

”’is there a great deal of ideological/political diversity among military officers?’

When I was in, 1970s-1990s, it was solidly conservative. Since 2001, a lot more have turned to the left.”

Why? Did something happen?

106

Area Man 04.14.10 at 4:44 am

You don’t. Indeed, natural science has probably drifted leftward with time. The modern conservative movement has a tenuous relationship to reality and logic. That doesn’t play well in the natural sciences.

The conservative movement as a whole may have a tenuous grasp on reality and logic, but an intelligent conservative among the general population shouldn’t be so constrained.

I think the paucity of conservatives in the natural sciences is primarily due to what psychologists have identified as the strongest correlates of conservative political belief: Intolerance of ambiguity, uncertainty avoidance, and a need for cognitive closure. In other words, they’re dogmatic types who don’t like having vexatious questions left unresolved. This type of person will not make a good bench scientist. In fact, they’re likely to run screaming after their first rotation in grad school, if they made it that far.

Actual experimental science is filled with ambiguities. Experiments often don’t produce black-and-white answers, and hypotheses often linger in limbo for a very long time. It takes incredible patience and the willingness not to reach an immediate conclusion, and to keep an open mind while you hack away at a problem, to be a working scientist. Exactly the qualities that conservatives are less likely to have.

107

WJ 04.14.10 at 5:28 am

As many people of pointed out, one of the real difficulties in Megan’s post–other than the fatuous whitewashing of Jim Crow laws, etc.–is that she provides no determinate content for what counts as “conservative.” Given that post-Reagan “conservatism” in the United States is driven by an extremely destabilizing neoliberal economic agenda, combined with a nearly fascistic support of military “strength” and a faux populism directed against the educated “elites,” it is questionable whether the term refers to anything that is *actually* conservative at all.

Rather, what seems to have happened is that, within the broad tent of, say, post-enlightenment liberalism, “right” liberals have in recent decades come to dominate positions of business, policy, and power while “left” liberals have come to occupy positions in higher education. But this is a curious dynamic internal to liberalism itself, and can be rendered intelligible by appeal to all sorts of considerations (many of which have been covered above).

A *real* conservative in academia is actually as rare as a *real* radical. Myself being partial to Augustine and Marx, I think we could use a bit more of both.

108

99 04.14.10 at 5:36 am

Wish y’all had a reply function. Sorry if this is too declasse, but +1 and then some to Sometimes I feel like a tenureless child. Excellent.

109

Janus Daniels 04.14.10 at 5:53 am

You write wonderfully and wittily.
Why bother with MMcM?

110

angrymonkey 04.14.10 at 6:46 am

The only way Megan McArdle is going to understand the distinctive nuances of Jim Crow is to live under it as a black person.

Since that’s never going to happen, I don’t understand how she’s still employed.

111

Joseph Hertzlinger 04.14.10 at 6:57 am

Jorge Chaim explained part of the problem.

112

r€nato 04.14.10 at 7:37 am

@Martin Bento:

I used to be an open-minded sort when it came to hiring people in my entertainment-related business. I gave a LOT of work to a hardcore conservative, hardcore Catholic for instance. I used to never bother with people’s politics, so long as they did a good job.

Over time I learned that this man to whom I am referring – despite the fact that my tens of thousands of dollars of business each year for many years fed his family, paid his mortgage, and enabled him to go on to bigger and better things – despised me. Because I was a liberal and probably – no, definitely – because I was an atheist. No matter how well I treated him (and I did treat him VERY well), no matter how much money he earned from me… he despised me.

Then I began noticing over time that certain clients no longer called me for work all of a sudden, and eventually I was able to put 2 and 2 together and realized that it was due to the fact they found out I was a liberal. Little things like a bumper sticker on my car or an off-hand comment apparently gave me away. I never rubbed my politics in people’s faces, understand… it was simply things such as, they didn’t like my pro-choice bumper sticker once they saw it, so I never got called again. Every time this happened, it was always a right-wing Republican who suddenly stopped calling me for jobs, and sometimes they were fundie Xians too. Yes, they do exist in the business; you just don’t necessarily hear about them in the celeb gossip pages.

I’m really not exaggerating, and I am not making excuses for being lousy at what I do or someone who’s difficult to work with – neither is true about me.

I finally decided – after this happened at least a half-dozen times – no more Mr. Nice Guy. I won’t ever hire a right-winger again. I don’t care how good they are at what they do, I’ll be damned if I’ll enable people who would like to do whatever they can to make sure people who share my beliefs are starving and living on the street if they had their way. I won’t give them one dime that they can then tithe to their child-fucking-enabling, gay-hating, woman-oppressing church, nor to hateful assholes who think torture is OK or who voted twice for George W. Fuckup and his gang of unindicted war criminals.

Fuck them, right in the ear. You can only turn the other cheek so many times, only to get slapped again and again. After a certain point, you’re just being a doormat and an idiot to show tolerance to people who want to destroy you.

Of course, unlike the people you referred to, I am not stupid enough to brag (outside of here, where I am anonymous) to others about this. It’s my unspoken but certain policy to defund the right in my own small way.

113

Jack Roy 04.14.10 at 9:54 am

Ugh. How many of these articles do we have to read before we admit that it really is because conservatives actually are dumber?

Obviously not every conservative is dumb, nor every dumb person conservative, but if you lined up the entire population of the country according to intelligence, the smarter half would be more liberal than the dumber half, and if you lined them up according to politics, the liberal half would be smarter than the conservative half.

The institutional conservative political party explicitly believes in creationism and disbelieves in global warming; you don’t get to do that and have your complaints taken seriously when you whine that science Ph.D.’s are all on the other side.

This isn’t particularly isolated to scientific concerns, but instead reflects a condescension for higher education that pervades the political right. The last three Democratic presidents have been an editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review, a Rhodes Scholar, and a nuclear engineer. The last three political icons of the conservative movement were Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin—successful politicians and dim bulbs all. How can anyone look at the condescension towards Al Gore’s intellect in the 2000 election, or watch Sarah Palin’s derision of Barack Obama’s now, and still pretend to be surprised that conservatism is still the stupid party? They’re celebrating being the stupid party. Can we not at long last admit that?

114

Anderson 04.14.10 at 11:55 am

Renato illustrates the game-theoretical aspect of the problem beautifully. Liberals by definition are tolerant; conservatives, in their present-day American aspect, are not. Put ‘em together, and you get what happened to Renato, and you get your explanation for why some liberals are reluctant to hire conservatives.

The liberal professors I had were reluctant to share their own politics in class for fear of brainwashing the students; the conservatives were eager to give their “alternative opinion” on the theory that they were just countering the liberal brainwashing.

115

politicalfootball 04.14.10 at 12:27 pm

Renato illustrates the game-theoretical aspect of the problem beautifully. Liberals by definition are tolerant; conservatives, in their present-day American aspect, are not.

I think this illustrates a different aspect of game theory. Renato’s conservatives are simply people like him. They don’t want to support people with ideological stances they despise, and they don’t trust their ideological opponents to treat them fairly. And, in Renato’s telling, both Renato and his opponents are correct to feel this way.

116

Anderson 04.14.10 at 12:54 pm

Renato’s conservatives are simply people like him.

How is that fair? Renato said that initially he was indifferent to his employees’ politics, until the failure of conservatives to reciprocate began to harm his business.

… I should add to my comment that of course, some individual liberals are intolerant and some individual conservatives are tolerant. But an intolerant liberal is not practicing his liberalism; an intolerant conservative (with the qualifications on “conservative” stated above) is being true to his dogma.

117

rickm 04.14.10 at 12:59 pm

“I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go very far in the field simply due to a prevailing culture of post-modernist liberalism that tends to dominate. “

I would also suggest that maybe your conversative outlook let you define things you don’t like as “post-modernist liberalism”. I say this because your impression of political science and history departments is laughable. Could you be more specific?

118

AcademicLurker 04.14.10 at 1:13 pm

“post-modernist liberalism”

Most of the folks I’m aware of whom could plausibly be described as “post-modernist” (a label I’m sure they would object to) seem to spend much of their time hating on liberalism.

119

ScentOfViolets 04.14.10 at 1:15 pm

I think this illustrates a different aspect of game theory. Renato’s conservatives are simply people like him. They don’t want to support people with ideological stances they despise, and they don’t trust their ideological opponents to treat them fairly. And, in Renato’s telling, both Renato and his opponents are correct to feel this way.

Well, since Renato initially did not behave this way, in fact, was extremely cooperative, I’d say this is more like the classic tit-for-tat strategy for playing (and winning) the iterative Prisoner’s Dilemma game:

Tit for tat is an English saying meaning “equivalent retaliation”. It is also a highly effective strategy in game theory for the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. It was first introduced by Anatol Rapoport in Robert Axelrod’s two tournaments, held around 1980. An agent using this strategy will initially cooperate, then respond in kind to an opponent’s previous action. If the opponent previously was cooperative, the agent is cooperative. If not, the agent is not. This is similar to reciprocal altruism in biology.

120

Steve LaBonne 04.14.10 at 1:16 pm

“I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go very far in the field simply due to a prevailing culture of post-modernist liberalism that tends to dominate the fact that I’m a simple-minded idiot who spouts vacuous stuff like the struck-out text in the moronic belief that it contains profound insights, and therefore am clearly not bright enough to succeed.” There, fixed that for you.

121

socialrepublican 04.14.10 at 1:22 pm

The irony is that po-mo is as conservative as you can get

122

Eli Rabett 04.14.10 at 1:23 pm

Myles SG @ 31: You could reasonably say that conservatives are the new American Jews of academia.

Not to pick on an open sore, but Jews are pretty well represented in academia. Obviously therefore conservatives are a no good shiftless bunch who have to work harder if they want to be hired for real work.

123

Mrs Tilton 04.14.10 at 1:29 pm

politicalfootball @109,

Renato’s conservatives are simply people like him

It would be difficult for you to be more incorrect about that.

In terms of an iterative game of Prisoner’s Dilemma, Renato is the “tit for tat” strategy, one of the most effective there is. Actually, Renato seems to have been a bit “nicer”, in the technical sense, than TFT; more like “two tits for tat”, which can be even more effective but is less so under certain conditions (essentially, in an environment otherwise full of pustulent arseholes).

Renato’s right-wing Roman Catholic former supplier, by contrast, is the “always defect” strategy, which is just about the stupidest known to mankind.

124

Mrs Tilton 04.14.10 at 1:31 pm

ScentOf beats me to the punch…

125

Glen Tomkins 04.14.10 at 1:40 pm

“it would be standard fare in a certain sector of elite American media.”

… where affirmative action, wingnut welfare division, thrives.

126

Steve LaBonne 04.14.10 at 1:42 pm

… where affirmative action, wingnut welfare division, thrives.

Not to mention outright nepotism (Kristol, Cheney, Russert).

127

bianca steele 04.14.10 at 1:43 pm

There is clearly more than one problem, and McArdle gets her commenters riled up by conflating them.

At various times between 1972 and 1992 I have heard or read academics say, “Young people who believe they are going to make more money than their parents did, be upwardly mobile, are fooling themselves. The economy is contracting, industrial society is at an end.” Liberal, obviously. Obviously, intended to sneer at the first-generation undergraduates. In other words, at conservatives. At people who didn’t pick up on the social cues McArdle says should be there to tell young people whether or not they will succeed on a certain path.

128

ScentOfViolets 04.14.10 at 2:11 pm

Mrs. Tilton@118:

Actually, Renato seems to have been a bit “nicer”, in the technical sense, than TFT; more like “two tits for tat”, which can be even more effective but is less so under certain conditions (essentially, in an environment otherwise full of pustulent arseholes).

Renato’s right-wing Roman Catholic former supplier, by contrast, is the “always defect” strategy, which is just about the stupidest known to mankind.

Very good points. Yes, the tit-for-tat strategy and its variations are generally winning strategies, but that’s dependent on the types of players in the game, and in what proportions they are represented. In an environment that’s 90% Doves (cooperators) and 10% Hawks (defectors) the “nicer” variants of the strategy prevail. In an environment with those percentages reversed, you want to go with the “nastier” ones.

In still another variant of the game, once a player drops below a certain point value they’re out of the game, which is more representative of real life. And here’s the thing: in this version, provided the proportion of Hawks to Doves is high enough, tit-for-tat is no longer viable. Those playing it lose too many points before iterated encounters start to work in their favor and they have to drop out. Thus, given a certain set of initial conditions Doves are driven to extinction and only Hawks are left. If this game is played long enough, not only do Doves become extinct, but the Hawks die out too, until there is only one left, the one who coincidentally started out with the highest point total after the death of the last Hawk. The real-leaf parallels that can be drawn from this simple bit of game theory are rather grim: if enough people decide the Hawk strategy is best, not only does it become a self-fulfilling prophesy, it inevitably leads to extinction. Contrariwise, if most people are Doves, a small percentage of Hawks can always manage to survive.

That is, you are correct, the “always defect” strategy is just about the stupidest strategy to play. Now, those using say it’s only against a certain type of person . . . but does anyone really believe this? I can see a scenario where once the Unitarians, the Agnostics and the Atheists are gone, the Fundamentalist types will start harassing the more liberal denominations, the Catholics will do for the non-Catholics, and every Christian will declare open season on Jews, Muslims, etc. Rinse and repeat until only the most militant and nastiest group of survivors remains (that is, the more nice guys that are eliminated, the nastier you have to be to compete effectively.)

129

NV 04.14.10 at 2:15 pm

surely the field of Political Science, which is dominated by quantitative analysis, has a home for someone who rejects post-modernism.

Actually the emphasis on quant. is exactly why I ended up going into political economy rather than political theory which, at my school, alternated between either being colonized by the classics department or having a fixation on a bunch of culture-war gobbledygook.
I actually like the classics and I can understand why I need to have some familiarity with feminism and all the other forms of subalternism studies, but when that’s all you ever do it gets kind of old. We’ve essentially gotten to a point where all you ever read is people trying to quote some sexy-new jargon or develop a new way to frame things that everyone already knows rather than actually trying to, you know, seek truth.

130

chris 04.14.10 at 2:16 pm

a faux populism directed against the educated “elites,”

So if you are a conservative and harbor such a belief, why do you want to work for Those People at all, especially for a relative pittance compared to what you could make in the glorious (by conservative beliefs) private sector? Everyone agrees that academia pays badly; liberals believe that it provides value to society that can’t be measured in dollars, while conservatives generally don’t agree or don’t care.

And if for some reason you do want to storm the bastions of academia, how do you hide your hostility and contempt for your prospective employer and coworkers during a job interview? And if you manage to hide it during the interview, how do you avoid being an obnoxious ass to your coworkers (whom you loathe)? Not everyone has the temperament to be an effective mole (which is probably how a conservative-in-academia would have to see himself in order to be convinced that what he was doing was worth doing at all).

Black bankers don’t have similar problems because blackness doesn’t have a credo at all, let alone one dedicated to the downfall of banks and all their works.

P.S. Also, what Area Man said @102.

131

politicalfootball 04.14.10 at 2:17 pm

How is that fair? Renato said that initially he was indifferent to his employees’ politics, until the failure of conservatives to reciprocate began to harm his business.

SoV in 113 gets at what I was trying to convey about tit-for-tat, but SoV’s analysis omits the important fact that there are more than two individual players in this game.

Renato feels aggrieved because people have discriminated against Renato for ideological reasons. Renato doesn’t retaliate against the individual oppressors, but rather against anyone in the class of people identified as the ideological class of those oppressors.

Renato’s original complaint is that Renato is subject to oppression based on factors that Renato, as an individual, did nothing to merit. But Renato’s victims have an identical complaint.

“They started it” isn’t a useful piece of analysis, since the same argument can be made with equal legitimacy by Renato’s victims. We aren’t hearing the side of Renato’s oppressors, but I’m going to guess they feel aggrieved by liberals.

132

Uncle Kvetch 04.14.10 at 2:20 pm

my experience of talking to people

Liberals essentially seem to be saying

As I wrote years ago, somewhere

I doubt

And I doubt

A poll of black high school students would probably have indicated

Holy Mother of God. Fun’s fun, but I’m starting to come down on the side of “She’s not worth bothering with.”

133

NV 04.14.10 at 2:21 pm

the fact that I’m a simple-minded idiot

Gee, one wonders why people who don’t toe the line might not want to spend their careers rolling their eyes at people like you. . .

The irony is that po-mo is as conservative as you can get

You really don’t know what “conservative” means in this context do you?

134

Heur 04.14.10 at 2:26 pm

One of the necessary elements of a tit-for-tat strategy is that the players involved are interacting repeatedly with one another.

In Renato’s case, he simply doesn’t hire some political conservatives (who, presumably, have done nothing to him) in order to return fire at other political conservatives (the ones who actually did refuse to do business with him). This isn’t tit-for-tat at all. Politicalfootball’s analysis is dead on.

It’s no more game theoretic than the individual who, getting on the subway, notices that someone with a Tea Party t-shirt (if they have t-shirts) is being extremely rude to him; at the next stop, the individual gets off the subway, walks up to the street, and, upon encountering someone also wearing a Tea Party t-shirt, decides to be extremely rude to him.

135

Mrs Tilton 04.14.10 at 2:30 pm

ScentOf @122,

I can see a scenario where once the Unitarians, the Agnostics and the Atheists are gone, the Fundamentalist types will start harassing the more liberal denominations, the Catholics will do for the non-Catholics, and every Christian will declare open season on Jews, Muslims, etc.

First they came for the Bullies, but I said nothing for I was a Retaliator…

136

Steve LaBonne 04.14.10 at 2:34 pm

You really don’t know what “conservative” means in this context do you?

Neither do most people in the US who employ blatant Humpty-Dumptyism to call themselves “conservatives” but are actually radical liberals in the 19 century sense- a political philosophy which is actually highly disruptive of existing social institutions rather than tending to conserve them. The only thing they want to “conserve” is white male privilege. You certainly sound like a member of this tribe., and ipso facto not too bright.

137

Anderson 04.14.10 at 2:56 pm

Politicalfootball’s analysis is dead on.

No, it’s just that game theory gets complicated in the real world, like everything else in the real world. Exactly how many conservatives is Renato supposed to hire and get burned by before he’s justified in optimizing his strategy by ceasing to hire conservatives?

The point is, American conservatives are intolerant as a matter of principle. Hiring someone whose beliefs commit him to disrespecting you is not, I beg to submit, a liberal’s duty.

(N.b. that I’m granting his factual premises, which of course we have no independent way to evaluate, unless maybe TheAmericanist is an ex-employee of his.)

138

theod 04.14.10 at 3:24 pm

And then there is the long, long history of bias against black farmers by the US Dept. of Agriculture with respect to crop subsidy programs that white farmers have been feasting on since Day One. This problem is still being litigated. Too bad these farmers weren’t trying to do something more profitable like starting more Motown Records.

139

Bloix 04.14.10 at 3:25 pm

“In Renato’s case, he simply doesn’t hire some political conservatives (who, presumably, have done nothing to him) in order to return fire at other political conservatives (the ones who actually did refuse to do business with him). “

This is not about tit-for-tat. It’s about making economically rational decisions with limited information.

Hiring carries a lot of risk, and it’s done with precious little information. You really cannot tell how a person will perform. The best information – impartial evaluation of how the applicant performed in prior jobs – is closed to you. So you use proxies – recommendations from someone you trust; length of time in prior position; academic records; skill-set (generally self-reported); documented successes or achievements, if available (often not); and how the person did in an interview. What you’re looking for are characteristics that in your experience correlate with good performance – you’re not interested in causation. Such proxies aren’t perfect, and mistakes are costly. So a proxy that correlates even slightly with performance and thus marginally improves the odds of picking a good employee may well be worth using, even if it eliminates many applicants who would be just as good.

Some proxies are illegal. Race, gender, age, marital status, religious belief. These may or may not be useful in predicting performance for some jobs – we’d like to think not – but it makes no difference, you can’t use them, for compelling social and historical reasons.

But “I didn’t like the guy” is a proxy that’s not illegal. It’s the most commonly used proxy, in fact.

And “I didn’t like the guy’s politics” is also not illegal. So if Renato’s experience is that people of conservative views don’t work out, he’s free to refuse to hire them. It’s not like they’re not going to be able to get work elsewhere – discrimination against conservatives is not a genuine social problem, regardless of what McArdle thinks.

Of course, Renato is relying on a small sample set, and maybe he’s making a mistake. In that case, he’ll miss out on some good hires. Big deal. His firm will be less profitable, but he’ll be happier because he’ll feel less uncertainty about his staff. And the overall level of employment will stay the same, because he’ll have hired someone else.

This isn’t about punishing anyone. It’s about running a business in the way that seems best for the business.

140

politicalfootball 04.14.10 at 4:09 pm

I think the key to our game theory disagreement is in this statement of mine, where perhaps I beg the question:

SoV’s analysis omits the important fact that there are more than two individual players in this game.

So the real question is: For game theory purposes, are there only two actors here? I’m thinking that in the SoV/Tilton/Anderson scenario, the two actors are Renato and The Conservatives. As Heur notes, however, The Conservatives don’t deliver the “tit” as a group, and don’t experience the “tat” as a group. (I was going to say “The Conservatives don’t feel the tit as a group,” but thought better of it.) Therefore tit-for-tat doesn’t apply.

Anderson deals with the “how many players” question somewhat differently in 137. While allowing for some complexity, Anderson is telling us that The Conservatives are effectively a unitary group because of their common intolerance of liberals, regardless of the individual attributes of those liberals. Liberals don’t do this to conservatives, Anderson says.

Of course, the tit-for-tat objection applies just as much to Anderson’s argument. But there’s another problem besides. It seems to me that a fair restatement of Anderson’s point is to say that The Conservatives inappropriately treat Liberals as a unitary group, but The Liberals are correct in treating The Conservatives that way. This seems self-refuting. To the extent that The Liberals do this, they become a unitary group, and The Conservatives become correct in treating them thus under tit-for-tat logic.

141

Ceri B. 04.14.10 at 4:21 pm

Politicalfootball: The difference here is that, at least in my observation, American conservatives are initiating the aggression, and liberals and others are responding to it. It’s not like a lot of us are going around keen to downgrade our treatment of blocs of people, and if we ran into a bunch of conservatives who were good neighbors, employees, contractors, and so on, we’d be happy to say “you know, the picture’s too ambiguous to warrant any ‘because they’re identifying as conservative’ special treatment”.

142

JustWaitAMinute. 04.14.10 at 4:21 pm

Oh, it’s just the simple guys really!

Once some “so-called” conservative drinks from the well of knowledge, all of a sudden Palin’s “reload” looks stupid and the tea party folks that speak of “socialism” being communist but can’t explain beyond that, exactly what communism actual is, begin to look, well completely ignorant or, maybe just plain out and out stupid.

In short, they give up being a conservative.

143

Joseph Hertzlinger 04.14.10 at 4:25 pm

If only there were some objective test that could be used to tell if someone is stupid or not.

Wait a moment…

144

Steve LaBonne 04.14.10 at 4:31 pm

I think you’re onto something there, Joseph. The naive belief that there is a unitary substance called “intelligence” which is accurately measured by pencil-and-paper tests is indeed a pretty good surrogate for a lack of the intellectual qualities needed for serious scholarship.

145

Anderson 04.14.10 at 4:43 pm

PF, I’m not arguing any form of the “tit for tat” scenario, so I don’t know that the “unitary group” bit is an issue. There’s nothing wrong with treating “conservatives” or “liberals” as a unitary group — that’s what’s implied by the categories. Your question seems to go to whether that’s valid in a particular game-theory scenario that I am not addressing.

Liberal: “I believe in hiring people with a diversity of viewpoints, even if they disagree with me.”

Conservative: “Your liberal beliefs make you a virtual traitor and an enemy of everything American.”

Liberal: “Thanks, I’ll call you if anything comes open. Next, please!”

Is the liberal being a hypocrite here? No. He’s not denying the conservative’s right to despise him. He’s declining to associate with someone who despises him.

146

Cosma Shalizi 04.14.10 at 4:44 pm

142, 143: But, if you are the kind of person who falls for such BS, have I got a result for you.

147

politicalfootball 04.14.10 at 4:46 pm

Politicalfootball: The difference here is that, at least in my observation, American conservatives are initiating the aggression, and liberals and others are responding to it.

See the last paragraph of my 131 or the last paragraph of my 140.

My participation in this conversation began as a discussion of game theory, and I’ve tried to continue in that vein, but as a practical matter, I’ll tell you this: I’m a liberal and I won’t buy a beer in a tavern that flies the stars-and-bars. If a drycleaner had a Bush ’08 sticker in the window, I’d go to the drycleaner down the street.

I don’t feel at all bad about doing this, and I expect the same from conservatives. If a conservative wants to boycott me because I vote for babykillers, the problem in my view isn’t the boycott, it’s the political views that led to the boycott.

I’ve worked with conservatives who knew my liberal views and whom I respected and regarded as friends. I’ve worked with conservatives who knew my political views and did their best to damage my career. In each case, I was a pretty straightforward tit-for-tat player.

Nowadays, I don’t have any bumper stickers on my car, nor do I ever express political opinions in professional situations.

148

politicalfootball 04.14.10 at 4:57 pm

Is the liberal being a hypocrite here?

Anderson @145, although 147 wasn’t addressed to you, I think it should answer your question. My original entry on this at 115 also answered your question (edited to fix pronouns):

Renato’s conservatives are simply people like [Renato]. They don’t want to support people with ideological stances they despise, and they don’t trust their ideological opponents to treat them fairly. And, in Renato’s telling, both Renato and [Renato's] opponents are correct to feel this way.

149

bianca steele 04.14.10 at 5:02 pm

SoV’s analysis is interesting but real life isn’t like a two-player game. People with work to do don’t use all their time up with some abstract game against their coworkers and clients. And even so: If someone’s social capital score drops to zero, they don’t lose their job immediately–when they lose their job depends on how much their boss dislikes firing people, how fast s/he can find an excuse to let them go, and their pay relative to others’–and may be never (even without legal tenure!).

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tigris 04.14.10 at 5:20 pm

I’ve wondered why, if conservatives want more ideological quotas, they aren’t campaigning for more liberals in the oil business.

Corporate boardrooms, banks, trading firms, venture capital firms, etc are all places where liberals are marginalized, or so all my totally for real liberals-who-wanted-these-jobs-but-decided-it-wouldn’t-happen-so-became-professors-instead friends tell me.

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NV 04.14.10 at 5:21 pm

Neither do most people in the US who employ blatant Humpty-Dumptyism to call themselves “conservatives” but are actually radical liberals in the 19 century sense- a political philosophy which is actually highly disruptive of existing social institutions rather than tending to conserve them.

The only thing they want to “conserve” is white male privilege. You certainly sound like a member of this tribe., and ipso facto not too bright.

The fact that you jump to this conclusion despite my mentioning “in the tradition of Edmund Burke” and “staunchly Democratic for want of options” just indicates to me that you’re more interested in dismissing contrary opinions out of hand as either “dumb,” “bigoted,” or “crazy” because it’s easier than having to actually stop and think about what anyone outside your ideological tribe has to say.

P.S. I’m not White, immigrated to the US from India when I was eight as a matter of fact, but don’t let that get in the way of your stereotype.

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bianca steele 04.14.10 at 5:32 pm

NV, believe it or not, there are places where the managers expect that their staff will have different values than themselves. Read an article on Human Resources research sometime, about the special challenges of managing professionals.

The problem with what Bloix says is that it’s not illegal, either, to say, “We’ve got a high-ranking manager who likes to say things like, ‘We have to call the Israelis to a come-to-Jesus meeting’ (and other people who like to spread around what he says), and if repeatedly hearing that’s going to make you irritable, you’d better not join us.” Those firms, I suspect, tend to have a somewhat different culture than others do, and I don’t have the data to say whether they are less successful, in the long term.

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bianca steele 04.14.10 at 5:33 pm

sorry, should be “tigris,” not “NV”

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rickm 04.14.10 at 5:39 pm

NV,

If you could point to an article or book by an academic historian that exemplifies whatever you mean by “post-modern liberalism”, then it would greatly clarify your position.

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Brian 04.14.10 at 6:04 pm

NV: “I would say that political science and history are my intellectual passions, but as much as I would have loved to have been able to pursue a PhD in either field, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go very far in the field simply due to a prevailing culture of post-modernist liberalism that tends to dominate.”

I suppose then those academic positions will have to go to people who decided to follow their passions rather than what they thought they “knew” about academia in it’s entirety.

Seriously, if you choose not to follow your passion, at least take responsibility for that choice rather than blaming the perceived prevailing attitudes of others.

What would Burke have said?

(disclaimer: I have no idea)

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Ceri B. 04.14.10 at 6:09 pm

Brian: If Burke were consulted about NV’s problem, I’m sure that “Help, help, let me out, I’ve been buried alive!” would feature prominently.

Okay, sorry, but it’s been years since I got to deliver that punch line, and I’ve missed it.

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JustAnotherHack 04.14.10 at 6:20 pm

Brian,

But is that really a viable argument in light of the fact that getting a good adviser, getting a good tenure-track job offering, getting good grants, getting departmental support, etc. can all be affected by your personal beliefs?

I’m not saying that you CAN’T succeed if you aren’t part of the majority, but let’s face it: there aren’t too many Marxists in the top 10 economics departments.

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Brian 04.14.10 at 6:23 pm

And somehow, it still makes me laugh every time!

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Brian 04.14.10 at 6:30 pm

Seriously, though, I didn’t just delurk to give NV a hard time. I think (based on one sentence that he wrote in a blog comment) that he’s making a pretty big mistake here. Maybe he’s found something he really likes where he is — if so, fine. But academia is a tough gig, and if you don’t love it, you’ll find yourself leaving it.

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NV 04.14.10 at 7:05 pm

Maybe he’s found something he really likes where he is—if so, fine. But academia is a tough gig, and if you don’t love it, you’ll find yourself leaving it.

Thank you. You’re right, I am very happy where I am and don’t think I missed out on much by not being in academia. The nice thing about the internet is that passions can be pursued as hobbies, so even if I probably won’t be published in any journals any time soon there is way more to learn than I can manage in a lifetime.
My story was only meant to be an example. It’s not that I regret or am resentful about not going into academia, but I think institutions function better if there is a diversity of opinion and I think my experience can be illustrative of how the culture of the place tends to put off those people who don’t fit inside a certain set of narrow parameters.

If you don’t think it’s a parochial environment, just consider all the ways in which the consensus squelches criticism. It’s hard for an economist to make a strong critique of the theory of comparative advantage, for example, because doing so is presumed to give aid and comfort to protectionist rent-seekers. It’s hard to make a well considered critique of secularism because doing so makes you a tool of the Falwell/Dobson types. It’s hard to critique Darwin’s theory of evolution because that makes you a creationist. And woe betide anyone who advises caution based on the fallibility of climate models!

The narrowness of the debate ensures that you have a lot of ink spilled over semantics and tedious categorizations and very little spent on developing or refining new ideas. Even when you try it gets mired in a swamp of jargon as people keep asking things like “Ah! But what does ‘nation’ really mean?” whether it’s relevant to the discussion or not.

Another example, if it makes things easier, is an NPR story I heard the other day called “New York Hipsters too Cool for the Census” about the high undercount rates in Williamsburg. It was a lot of educated, White hipsters talking about how they feel like they don’t count and how messages about civic responsibility are falling on deaf ears with them. I send it to a friend of mine who actually is pursuing a PhD in political science who says to me “Sometimes, I feel like not rebelling against conventions makes me more of a rebel than breaking them.”

If you could point to an article or book by an academic historian that exemplifies whatever you mean by “post-modern liberalism”, then it would greatly clarify your position.

My disdain for the notion was instilled in me after being exposed to the work of Jurgen Habermas (I don’t know how to do accents on a windows computer.) Read his critiques of post-modernism and you’ll see tendency I’m talking about. When I said “liberal post-modernist” I wasn’t saying that post-modernism is a liberal affectation, just that within the cloistered realm of universities, it tends to come in that flavor. Especially with regard to how we discuss religion’s role in society and the plight of various subaltern groups (i.e. women and minorities).

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Maurice Meilleur 04.14.10 at 7:15 pm

“It’s hard to make a well considered critique of secularism because doing so makes you a tool of the Falwell/Dobson types.”

Well, depending on your definition of secularism, I guess that would explain why no one’s ever heard of Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre and William Galston and Michael Sandel and Amitai Etzioni. For starters.

“It’s hard to critique Darwin’s theory of evolution because that makes you a creationist. And woe betide anyone who advises caution based on the fallibility of climate models!”

These claims are just plain false. No one will blame you for appreciating being outside academia, NV. But we may question your account of how it happened.

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rickm 04.14.10 at 7:26 pm

“just consider all the ways in which the consensus squelches criticism. “

I, for one, have been published in academic journals not for presenting new ideas and critiquing the status quo, but for starting my articles with a review of the existing liturate, and then following that up with, “All of the other works on this subject have answered the relevant questions, and there is no gap in the historiography that my article will address.” That is how you succeed in academia.

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ScentOfViolets 04.14.10 at 7:43 pm

SoV’s analysis omits the important fact that there are more than two individual players in this game.

So the real question is: For game theory purposes, are there only two actors here? I’m thinking that in the SoV/Tilton/Anderson scenario, the two actors are Renato and The Conservatives. As Heur notes, however, The Conservatives don’t deliver the “tit” as a group, and don’t experience the “tat” as a group. (I was going to say “The Conservatives don’t feel the tit as a group,” but thought better of it.) Therefore tit-for-tat doesn’t apply.

I apologize for the confusion; there are many generalizations of the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma. One set of variants was called (many years ago) the game of Hawks and Doves. In this version (or rather, the many different games grouped under this name), there are many players interacting with each other; it’s not just two people:

Bourgeois

The concept of Evolutionary Stable Strategies (ESS) relies upon the notion that animals can assess the relative pay-offs for the different roles within a strategy. For example, in our earlier Hawk-Dove game imagine that each individual could assess whether to play Hawk or Dove. The frequency of Hawk behaviour would remain at 66.6% and that of Dove at 33.3%, but individuals would exert a choice, playing each role when they thought appropriate. This is a Hawk-Dove Evolutionary Stable Strategy (ESS) – as opposed to the Hawk-Dove Evolutionary Stable State described earlier – because role choice based on assessment is now involved.

Lot’s of good stuff there. So now there’s not just “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and “Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma” to google on, there’s also “Hawks and Doves”. I would also suggest looking at the original papers published by Robert Axelrod.

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JustAnotherHack 04.14.10 at 8:03 pm

rickm,

I guarantee that if, when I was getting my graduate degree, I had tried to publish a paper upending the use of rational choice in political science I would have had a helluva time getting published. If you had tried publishing a Marxist critique of Black-Scholes in 2005 you’d have been laughed out of my department.

It’s one thing to say that you’re willing to critique, but if you claim something paradigm-bendingly big, odds are not in your favor when it comes to big journals unless you already have clout.

To argue that consensus doesn’t stifle creativity is just silly. Whether or not we believe in the value of academic enterprise– and I certainly do– doesn’t change the fact that when you have groups of people in agreement on something, they are going to be biased in favor of it. This is not a terribly controversial thing. We’ve seen this many times in academia, and we will continue to see it as long as science is done by people.

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Steve LaBonne 04.14.10 at 8:03 pm

you’re more interested in dismissing contrary opinions

I’m interested in dismissing stupid, uninformed, unsupported opinions like those of McMegan and the people echoing her whining. You should be too. Why you were instead interested in pretending they have a case I have no idea. But there’s a lot of thought-free contrarianism going around these days, sometimes emitted by people who should know better.

By the way I’m a natural scientist and a non-academic so I don’t have any personal stake at all in defending the academic departments that supposedly discriminate against poor, little, not very bright wingers. I just happen to value intellectual honesty of which McMegan and her crowd have not even a homeopathic dose.

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rickm 04.14.10 at 8:52 pm

“I had tried to publish a paper upending the use of rational choice in political science I would have had a helluva time getting published. “

That’s because that’s not really a paper topic. However, if you are saying that you would have a harder time publishing a paper that provided evidence against the rational-choice model, well, I say that you would have an easy time finding a home for that paper.

“odds are not in your favor when it comes to big journals unless you already have clout.”

I don’t know about poly sci journals, but nearly every journal in History uses a double blind review, so having ‘clout’ is a moot point.

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ScentOfViolets 04.14.10 at 8:54 pm

Dang it, I was in a hurry and forgot how the tags work here. Let me try to make this more intelligible:

SoV’s analysis omits the important fact that there are more than two individual players in this game.

So the real question is: For game theory purposes, are there only two actors here? I’m thinking that in the SoV/Tilton/Anderson scenario, the two actors are Renato and The Conservatives. As Heur notes, however, The Conservatives don’t deliver the “tit” as a group, and don’t experience the “tat” as a group. (I was going to say “The Conservatives don’t feel the tit as a group,” but thought better of it.) Therefore tit-for-tat doesn’t apply.

I apologize for the confusion; there are many generalizations of the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma. One set of variants was called (many years ago) the game of Hawks and Doves. In this version (or rather, the many different games grouped under this name), there are many players interacting with each other; it’s not just two people:

Bourgeois

The concept of Evolutionary Stable Strategies (ESS) relies upon the notion that animals can assess the relative pay-offs for the different roles within a strategy. For example, in our earlier Hawk-Dove game imagine that each individual could assess whether to play Hawk or Dove. The frequency of Hawk behaviour would remain at 66.6% and that of Dove at 33.3%, but individuals would exert a choice, playing each role when they thought appropriate. This is a Hawk-Dove Evolutionary Stable Strategy (ESS) – as opposed to the Hawk-Dove Evolutionary Stable State described earlier – because role choice based on assessment is now involved.

Lot’s of good stuff there. So now there’s not just “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and “Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma” to google on, there’s also “Hawks and Doves”. I would also suggest looking at the original papers published by Robert Axelrod. Once again, the Prisoner’s Dilemma scenario that I am using is the one where it’s been extended to multiple players with multiple strategies.

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ScentOfViolets 04.14.10 at 9:01 pm

SoV’s analysis is interesting but real life isn’t like a two-player game. People with work to do don’t use all their time up with some abstract game against their coworkers and clients.

Nor did I ever say that people spent time figuring out strategies to abstract games. I’m just saying that other people (in academia, natch) have spent their time figuring out these strategies, and when they are good ones and when they are bad ones. Heck, animals use different types of strategies that can be analyzed by game theory; it doesn’t mean that the animals are the ones doing the analyzing.

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JustAnotherHack 04.14.10 at 9:06 pm

rickm,

Sure it is. Methodology is a common field, and I’ve read plenty of papers devoted to methodology in poli sci. Truth is, there is plenty of grappling with how to apply rational choice, but few people are really bold enough to come out completely against it.

Hell, I still can’t find many people who will go against efficient markets hypothesis, which I know in my heart of hearts to be complete rubbish.

http://pan.oxfordjournals.org/

“I don’t know about polI sci journals, but nearly every journal in History uses a double blind review, so having ‘clout’ is a moot point.”

Depends on the field, and many are not double-blind. History may be, but even double-blind has its limitations. Many senior scientists will reference their own work quite a bit.

http://blogs.nature.com/nn/actionpotential/2005/12/doubleblind_peer_review.html

I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, but I’m saying that there are funny ways of circumventing double-blind reviews. But your point is well-received.

I’ll give another example of this phenomenon: My friend who is something of a Soviet apologist argues that the US was in fact that aggressor in the Cold War. Whether or not I agree with him (I do not,) he was told by a number of departments, including his own undergraduate department, that he was nigh unacceptable to most history departments in the US– particularly the top ones. The fact was that he was too off the beaten path to get any advisers up his alley. They told him to try out universities in Europe instead.

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ScentOfViolets 04.14.10 at 9:09 pm

I’m not saying that you CAN’T succeed if you aren’t part of the majority, but let’s face it: there aren’t too many Marxists in the top 10 economics departments.

Ah, an opportunity for a slam against the science of economics! Here’s the thing: to the extent that hypotheses are testable and accepted as being either proved or falsified, you have (imho) a department that is blind to ideology. There’s no such thing as “conservative physics” or ideas that chemists won’t accept “because they’re conservative ideas”. But move away from this, and that’s where ideology creeps in. So in economics, where all sorts of theories are still being taught even after most objective people would conclude they have been falsified, you’re going to see an opening for ideology to come into play. That’s why you have “Freshwater” economics where, ironically, to the extent that there is this sort of bias, it’s against liberals, not for them.

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NV 04.14.10 at 9:15 pm

I just happen to value intellectual honesty of which McMegan and her crowd have not even a homeopathic dose.

Sorry, I’m afraid I’m having trouble parsing through all the assertions of how much the people you disagree with suck to actually find any explanation of why they’re wrong. Other folks here are doing a much better job of it than you so if you don’t mind I’ll just continue on with them.

Well, depending on your definition of secularism, I guess that would explain why no one’s ever heard of Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre and William Galston and Michael Sandel and Amitai Etzioni. For starters.

Unfortunately, there are only so many Charles Taylors out there who could have taken me under their wing. You must remember that you must first be inducted into the order and only then do you get the chance to speak credibly. The alternative is the road I opted into: to make a name elsewhere in a related field and maybe eventually make a lateral move in. In fact, I think the need for a space for conservative viewpoints to be argued can serve as part of the explanation for the rise of the pseudo-conservative think-tank. Not that it’s a place for scholars to go, but that it’s a place for people inclined towards certain attitudes to be able to find arguments that support them. When the institutions that value the intellectual honesty Steve prizes hold a bias against that kind of scholarship, it leaves a vacuum that less intellectually honest institutions can fill, thereby muddying up the space with specious bullshit.

But back to my point, it just strikes me as naive to suggest that when an induction process has gatekeepers and those gatekeepers predominantly tend to agree on certain things, they’re somehow not going to impact the resulting outcomes. Remember, the minds of future leaders and definers of culture are only influenced by the perspectives of the intellectual juggernauts insofar as they are filtered down to them by the lowly professors and adjuncts who comprise the bulk of the instruction.
The fact is, if my intention is to actually have a career that goes somewhere the deck is stacked against me. Trying to dispute that by pointing at titans of the field makes about as much sense as pointing to Chris Gardner to justify the claim that a scrappy and capable homeless man has a decent shot at becoming a stock broker.

And honestly, I don’t know of anyone under the age of 60 in poli-sci willing to discard rational choice theory. I suspect that the quant fetishism in vogue now would rebel mightily against any attempt to undercut its foundational premise. If you can point me to anyone that would be appreciated.

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JustAnotherHack 04.14.10 at 9:21 pm

SoV,

It’s like going to UCSD and arguing in favor of a more qualitative approach to social sciences. You’re just not going to get too far.

That being said, there are ideological biases in sciences. Look at the rather fun arguments over phyletic gradualism vs. punctuated equilibrium.

And really, I don’t believe that observables alone, or testability or even falsifiability alone is enough to keep ideology out. You have people, you have ideology. I know I’m stretching it a bit, but look at the relationship between the Big Bang Theory characters Leonard and Leslie Winkle breaking down because he believes in string theory and she believes in loop quantum gravity.

OK, not real, but my point is that there is plenty of room for ideology even in the physical observable sciences. Tons of debates in biology today, debates that have party lines drawn.

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NV 04.14.10 at 9:25 pm

Hell, I still can’t find many people who will go against efficient markets hypothesis, which I know in my heart of hearts to be complete rubbish.

I feel like most decent economists even know it’s rubbish. It’s just one of those things they only discuss obliquely or in hushed whispers for fear of being labelled apostates and horsewhipped against a tree.
That bothered me more than anything about Hayek’s critique of Keynes. He was basically saying Keynes’ ideas about priming the pump in recession gave states an excuse to keep priming it in normal times and inflating bubbles. He’s technically right on that count, but just because you can break your finger with a hammer doesn’t mean you should stick to only using thumb-tacks.

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Heur 04.14.10 at 9:26 pm

I think Renato’s actual comment at 122 bears a rereading, particularly this:

Little things like a bumper sticker on my car or an off-hand comment apparently gave me away. I never rubbed my politics in people’s faces, understand… it was simply things such as, they didn’t like my pro-choice bumper sticker once they saw it, so I never got called again. Every time this happened, it was always a right-wing Republican who suddenly stopped calling me for jobs, and sometimes they were fundie Xians too.

Renato’s conservative employees weren’t burning him. Rather some conservative businesses were choosing not to do business with him, and he chose to retaliate by not hiring conservative workers. So Anderson’s explanation at 137 doesn’t quite work.

Neither does Bloix’s economic self-interest explanation. Renato explicitly states that he does not care if a conservative worker is outstanding at his job. So he’s not using politics as an indicator of future performance as a worker.

Anderson provides a slightly differential rationale at 145, when he argues that Renato isn’t hiring conservatives because they, as a group, are intolerant. I think this rationale is the most interesting, because it ties in neatly with complaints about conservatives being selected against in academic hiring decisions, and to some extent ties in well with some of the attempts in other threads to link Caplan’s curious views about the 1880s to the personalities and compassion of libertarians generally.

I agree that there are intolerant conservatives, just as there are intolerant liberals. But not all conservatives and not all liberals are intolerant. One of the hallmarks of intolerance here, though, would be a tendency to paint all conservatives (or liberals) with the same characteristic color, using political liberalism or conservatism as a proxy for character traits which are deemed morally desirable or undesirable.

And this brings us, full circle, back to politicalfootball’s original point.

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Anderson 04.14.10 at 9:32 pm

One of the hallmarks of intolerance here, though, would be a tendency to paint all conservatives (or liberals) with the same characteristic color

Notice I took some care to define “conservative.” In the sense I’m using, they just *are* intolerant. It’s something they’re proud of, not a stereotype. They don’t disagree with gays, they want it to be *illegal* to be gay. Etc.

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JustAnotherHack 04.14.10 at 9:43 pm

NV,

“I feel like most decent economists even know it’s rubbish. It’s just one of those things they only discuss obliquely or in hushed whispers for fear of being labelled apostates and horsewhipped against a tree.”

I remember the good old days of being told I had to find an international relations theory to shoehorn myself into, because otherwise I’d never have a “cohesive” argument.

“That bothered me more than anything about Hayek’s critique of Keynes. He was basically saying Keynes’ ideas about priming the pump in recession gave states an excuse to keep priming it in normal times and inflating bubbles. “

But Glenn Beck says something about the debt bomb that’s going to destroy us all… and… tea parties… and… CRY A BLOOO BLOOO BLOOO.

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Dhalgren 04.14.10 at 9:44 pm

Beautiful takedown of McArdle. I think she needs to spend the rest of her life unemployed (I am a huge fan of Fire Megan McArdle). But lately, I think she really needs to fucking die.

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bianca steele 04.14.10 at 9:57 pm

SoV,

I think I know what you mean, thanks. I had something in mind based on what was being discussed elsewhere in the thread.

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Nylund 04.14.10 at 10:25 pm

Considering that I’m currently sitting in a room at a major and well respected US university where, through the wall, I can hear an economics professor (who uses Ron Paul’s book as a textbook) explain how liberals are indeed all Marxists, I’m inclined to disagree with McMegan, but that is nothing new.

Now the point that such conservatives may be dumber? From what I hear through this wall, I can’t disprove that notion.

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Martin Bento 04.14.10 at 10:44 pm

There are good reasons for strong social disapproval of using political affiliations as an employment consideration. Keep in mind that employer/employee roles are not likely to be equally distributed among political orientations, so the biases will not simply cancel each other out.

And these days this could be done systematically. Suppose the Fortune 1000, almost all of whom are right-wing economically (corporations are now officially people, so we can attribute values to them), and may have other concerns (e.g., defense contractors) decided to filter out liberals. Oh, not absolutely. When it is important to hire a particular person, you take a liberal, at least till a comparable conservative comes along. But there’s not usually a strong and unambiguous “best” for the job. So you keep ideology scores and hold it against liberals the way landlords hold credit ratings against tenants. Who want to keep track of such stuff? Oh, I’m sure that there’s a fortune for some startup in Malaysia that willing to track political donations, voter registration history, and other obvious markers, and maybe even look into blog comments under real names for extra bread, and come up with professional ratings. It is the credit rating system, translated to right-wing political correctness. Perhaps, in compensation, left-wing correctness at the natural food store, bicycle co-op, and perhaps even, in such an atmosphere, University. But right-wing at General Electric and Boeing. Walmart and Target too: both big Republican donors.

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elm 04.14.10 at 11:09 pm

After her 3 paragraphs of meandering introduction, she runs straight into the wall with:

Conservatives are, not to overlabor the obvious, marginalized in the cultural elite

Since she neither defines “the cultural elite” nor provides evidence that Conservatives are marginalized within it, it’s impossible to evaluate this “obvious” assertion.

Obviously conservatives love to bitch about the “liberal media”, but — self-pity aside — the idea doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, as conservatives have ample opportunity to voice their opinions. Andrew McCarthy, Liz Cheney, Bill Kristol, and Eric Erikson (to name only a few) have no trouble getting airtime. McMegan herself is published by the Atlantic (for reasons unknown to me), and the NYT regularly wastes space on Ross Douthat.

If she means to refer to academia, it’s hard to see how they belong to any “cultural elite”. Even well(ish) known leftist academics like Noam Chomsky hardly capture the public imagination. Even the NYT last mentioned Noam Chomsky most-recently in December 2008 in his wife’s obituary.

To try to create a comparison between the not-in-evidence discrimination against conservatives with the very much in evidence discrimination against black Americans in the 1950s is, of course, ludicrous yet unsurprising.

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Brian 04.14.10 at 11:22 pm

NV: “it just strikes me as naive to suggest that when an induction process has gatekeepers and those gatekeepers predominantly tend to agree on certain things, they’re somehow not going to impact the resulting outcomes.”

I guess it’s neither here nor there at this point, but I think it might be worth considering whether or not the naive view here is yours. I am often quite impressed by how much some people seem to know about a process they have not yet or only begun to embark on. A Ph.D. should teach you things about the world and about yourself that you didn’t know were there to learn. It’s my experience that people who think they know all about something they have yet to experience are not just mistaken, but badly so — you may be different, though…

One thing that gatekeepers do tend to agree on is that candidates need to show a real capacity for intellectual rigor. Nobody’s sacred cow (or even lazy belief) is going to be overturned without a great deal of intellectual heavy lifting, and if a candidate seems like he might not stick around for awhile, be persistant, and show his work, the gatekeeper is not going to want to invest the time, energy, and money in that candidate — no matter how smart or ideologically similar — when there are others in line behind him who might go on to be highly productive scholars if given the opportunity.

On a related note, there is probably nothing scholars would jump at more than a chance to publish something that actually does overturn long-held beliefs or theories. These kinds of papers usually get much more attention than is warranted, get published in better journals than you would expect, and, if anything, leads to a lot more contrarianism and polarization over issues than groupthink around them. The catch is that these papers usually require a great amount of work, a huge amount of luck, or both. It’s one thing to dismiss a theory as a quaint fetishism, it’s quite another to sit down and prove it. If you can put the last nail in the coffin of rational choice theory, you know what you’ll get? Tenure!

Now, you may have particular experiences that lead you to think that your characterization of certain academic departments are accurate, and it’s not really worth it for us to argue abou that, but here, you seem to have expanded your argument all the way up to “I cannot attend graduate school in History or Poly-Sci, nor can I expect to be successful in academia because I am a Burkean conservative that votes Democratic.” That being simply not credible, I have to assume that you were not intending to argue that far, but then given the subject under discussion, I’m not sure I understand what point your comments are trying to make.

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Ollie Basset 04.14.10 at 11:25 pm

The problem with McArdle’s angle to this issue is that she doesn’t seem to have noted that in every country, academics tend to be ‘liberal’.

She might say she can extend her argument to other countries, saying that everywhere, there are tacit structures that weed conservatives out of academics.

But many legs on which she’s based are argument are specific to US society.

I personally think the reason that academics tend to be left or left-leaning is to be found in the most simplistic definition of ‘Conservative’. Anyone thinking the present order, the present body of knowledge, the present anything, is to be conserved is unlikely to seek changes.

What I’m clumsily saying is that academics are left wing because the very nature of academics is to change things, challenge established ideas, and question things.

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Brian 04.14.10 at 11:35 pm

Hack: “Look at the rather fun arguments over phyletic gradualism vs. punctuated equilibrium.”

It’s really hard to see how this is an ideological argument, certainly not in any way that would be informative to this discussion.

Egological, perhaps…

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EMG 04.15.10 at 12:07 am

“Renato’s conservative employees weren’t burning him. Rather some conservative businesses were choosing not to do business with him, and he chose to retaliate by not hiring conservative workers.”

The impression I got from Renato’s post was that one particular conservative employee was poisoning other businesspeople against him. I may be reading into it, but based on my experience with conservatives (and businesspeople – small business can be very gossipy and subjective), particularly Catholic conservatives, I would not be surprised. Catholic conservatives believe they have a duty to be intolerant, and even screw liberals over, lest they be complicit in Evil. Renato observed this firsthand and instituted precautionary measures. People in business for themselves don’t enjoy huge margins for error. If Renato’s city or market niche were small enough, he could actually be rendered non-viable by people like this.

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EMG 04.15.10 at 12:15 am

To spell out my own experience a little more clearly: my spouse once had to fire two conservative Catholic employees for conspiring to steal his clients and start their own business. They were assisted in this by a local conservative Catholic lawyer, personally known to us. My spouse was considered fair game because he had left the Catholic church.

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sg 04.15.10 at 12:21 am

I also know a story of a conservative employee of one of my previous workplaces, who revealed secret information to the press in order to prevent the business expanding in ways he didn’t approve of. This was definite, deliberate sabotage for political ends. In subsequent developments, we had to be very very careful about who was told what.

I actually subsequently employed another conservative as a database developer, and aside from a few rank comments and some entertaining arguments, he was the best staff I ever had. So I don’t know that it’s a common trait. But Australian conservatives seem to be much less vicious and vindictive, in general, than what I see of Americans from afar, so I can imagine this process could get one burnt, in particular parts of America, though one hopes what one sees of conservatives online in the US is unrepresentative of what they’re like as a whole, in reality, out of the spotlight.

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Anderson 04.15.10 at 12:33 am

Y’know the funny fucking thing about McArdle? Is that she refers to the “cultural elite” (= Teh Liberalz) in terms that express her ressentiment at not being invited to join — oh, scuse me, at “conservatives” not being invited to join.

Whereas I, middle-class lawyer that I am, know perfectly well that there’s a *conservative* elite as well, a very rich, very well connected conservative elite …

… that I have NO INTEREST in joining, because they would bore me to fucking death.

But McArdle just wants to pine & whine about the liberal elite. Because, dumbass tho she is, she knows on some level that the conservative elite Doesn’t. Care. About. Ideas. At. All. It’s all just talking points and polling value to them. Whereas the liberals, god help them, still think on some level that Ideas Matter. (Hence the Dems’ relative lack of political prowess.) And McArdle feels inferior that *she* is not invited to partake of … fuck, whatever the Liberal Elite partake of. Cheap wine and blog comments, I suppose.

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AlanDownunder 04.15.10 at 2:04 am

If you are guided more by commonsense, the school of hard knocks and a deity than by intellectual enquiry (like most conservatives) you have no business frequenting a secular tertiary educational institution, other than to acquire a vocational ticket.

Few pygmies grouse about their under-representation in the NBA. Conservatives appear to be less realistic, but it’s actually quite politically realistic to complain about liberals, however flimsy the basis.

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ScentOfViolets 04.15.10 at 2:19 am

But back to my point, it just strikes me as naive to suggest that when an induction process has gatekeepers and those gatekeepers predominantly tend to agree on certain things, they’re somehow not going to impact the resulting outcomes.

I can see why you’re not in academia – you’re an incredibly sloppy thinker. The question of whether or not gatekeepers agree on certain things, and this is used to screen candidates, and this is a desirable state of affairs[1] is quite different from the question of whether or not conservative ideology or “conservative ideas” make you hard to employ in academia. Your manner is also snide and insulting, so if you don’t want this coming back at you I suggest you be more civil.

[1]Let’s make it legal for engineers, doctors or lawyers to practice without those nasty old gatekeepers demanding some sort of proof of competency. Yeah, that’ll go over real well.

191

ScentOfViolets 04.15.10 at 2:27 am

OK, not real, but my point is that there is plenty of room for ideology even in the physical observable sciences. Tons of debates in biology today, debates that have party lines drawn.

Okay, I’ll bite: what are these arguments in the “physical observable sciences”, these debates that are drawn along party lines? Be specific. I’ve had hundreds of people tell me that this is so and yet – strangely enough – I have yet to hear of a real, concrete, specific, and verifiable example. Not once. So here’s your opportunity to be in on the ground floor.

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Brian 04.15.10 at 3:03 am

Yes Hack, coming from the biological sciences myself, I am wondering what specific ideologies you are talking about, and what parties theses lines belong to. BAPtists vs. TAUists? String theorists vs. quantum loopies? This is really supposed to be analagous to the topic of liberal/conservative biases in (and out of) academia?

I’m not trying to argue that members of admission committees operate with perfect objectivity, but I think in reality those biases are much more along the lines of “grades are much more important than GRE scores”.

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bh 04.15.10 at 3:17 am

But McArdle just wants to pine & whine about the liberal elite.

I really think that’s the full story. McArdle is well-compensated for sloppy, lazy, shoddy work. Why leave?

I worked in consulting for a long time, and now I’m working on a doctorate in the social sciences. Every single f****** time she’s pulled the ‘friend in the industry’ or ‘studies say’ shtick in an area I know well — and our areas of alleged expertise overlap quite a bit — I’ve seen gross errors and omissions.

If every bit of professional and academic experience I have says her work is pure garbage — and it does — I refuse to grade on curve because of a supposed ideological difference. In truth, she’s lucky to be working in an area — big-time ‘opinion journalism’ — that does exactly that.

194

Ceri B. 04.15.10 at 3:37 am

To add to something EMG and sg are saying…

In America, at least, a lot of conservatives very actively trade in recommendations and warnings, about who’s a friend of the cause and who’s an enemy. They mix all of these in with urban legends and a variety of misinformation and lies – Fred Clark writes well about this at Slacktivist.

It’s my impression that liberals are way less likely to engage in this sort of endless re-broadcast of what turn out to be hoaxes and personal grudges as often as not, and more prone to basic error correction along the way. And their stuff is much less likely to come with implicit or explicit sanctification as the only true voice of real patriotism and God’s will.

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mds 04.15.10 at 4:15 am

It’s one thing to say that you’re willing to critique, but if you claim something paradigm-bendingly big, odds are not in your favor when it comes to big journals unless you already have clout.

This is actually true, to some extent. Journals such as Science and Nature most assuredly sometimes play favorites, which is why I’ve frequently muttered imprecations against their disproportionate stature. Then again, any “big” scientific journal will weight the odds against claims of something paradigm-bendingly big, because the evidence and the argument had better be especially strong. See, e.g., AGW deniers who cry censorship over dramatic paradigm-overturning manuscripts that have basic statistics mistakes starting on page one.

but look at the relationship between the Big Bang Theory characters Leonard and Leslie Winkle breaking down because he believes in string theory and she believes in loop quantum gravity.

Such a hostile divide is only still possible because neither camp has produced distinguishing testable predictions. Ideology only intrudes to any meaningful extent when there isn’t sufficient evidence.

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Mrs Tilton 04.15.10 at 6:50 am

To clear up one point I think a lot of people are missing: if I have read Renato correctly, the right-wing Roman Catholic in question was not his employee. Rather, he was supplier whom Renato frequently engaged (“gave him a lot of business” etc.)

That makes a difference. Renato is not talking about firing an employee on ideological grounds (which I think most of us, conservatives excepted, would think wrong absent other and more compelling grounds for termination). Rather, he is simply declining to give further business to a supplier who he has good reason to believe has been trying actively to harm him, and avoiding transactions with similarly-minded persons because experience has shown him that “conservative = dishonest backstabber” is a sound heuristic.

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Mrs Tilton 04.15.10 at 6:55 am

ScentOfViolets @191,

what are these arguments in the “physical observable sciences”, these debates that are drawn along party lines?

Oh, you know, evolution vs. intelligent design, AGW vs. Algore is fat, that sort of thing. Teach the controversy!

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Robert 04.15.10 at 10:24 am

Against RCT in political science – see Donald P. Green and Ian Shapiro, “Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory: A Critique of Applications in Political Science”, Yale University Press (1994).

I don’t expect refutations of important theories in some academic disciplines to be taken up, to be widely cited, and to necessarily change the nature of practice.

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bianca steele 04.15.10 at 1:15 pm

Ceri,

In fact, in my somewhat extensive experience with liberals, we are often enough trusting to the point of gullibility. So, “way less likely to . . . rebroadcast”? Sometimes it’s true.

200

Ceri B. 04.15.10 at 1:38 pm

Mrs. Tilton, that’s how I read it.

Bianca, I’m not sure what you’re getting at, and whether you’re actually disagreeing despite the opening “in fact” that suggests you are. But then this is usual for me, and if your style works for you, then it does.

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Barry 04.15.10 at 1:58 pm

Anderson: “But McArdle just wants to pine & whine about the liberal elite.”

bh: “I really think that’s the full story. McArdle is well-compensated for sloppy, lazy, shoddy work. Why leave?”

First, it’s the classic ‘they’re oppressing me/attacking us, so our attacks on them are justified’ approach.

Second, McArdle is basically a failure at earning an honest living. She graduated with an MBA from one of the world’s top B-Schools; this gave her an in (and presumably technical skills) to an amazing variety of industries and jobs. She failed out of Wall St, and then failed in business, and finally found a niche – not in real journalism, but in partisan lies and punditry. She’s like her finance, Peter ‘Astroturf’ Suderman, except that Megan has a better cover story, working for The Atlantic (motto: ‘we’re such swine that we have an actual award named after Michael Kelley!’).

Now, this will provide Megan with a comfortable living (unless she swings to the left, in which case she’ll be outta there), but she still resents the fact that she’s not respected by anybody worth respecting. It’s much like the resentment that some right-wingers have over Sarah Palin.

202

Steve LaBonne 04.15.10 at 2:47 pm

NV, what Brian said at 182, only I would have put it less politely. The “put up or shut up” is in YOUR court, I’m afraid, since you’re the one making broad claims about systematic discrimination in a process that you never even actually started.

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bianca steele 04.15.10 at 4:39 pm

Ceri,

You sound a bit annoyed and I have no idea what’s bothering you. You spoke from your experience and I spoke from mine. Whether you call this disagreement, or what you imagine “in fact” always means, or whatever, I again have no idea.

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ScentOfViolets 04.15.10 at 6:43 pm

What, after being invited to explain those specific ideas and theories which get rejected because they are “conservative”, and which NV, Hack, etc have earnestly assured us really do exist, they haven’t come back to actually, you know, lay out the details?

I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. Would it violate community standards to call these folks a pack of goddamn liars, which is what they are?

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wondertrev 04.15.10 at 10:21 pm

Jeez, this was written by an big-league prof? I’d berate my students for the 2nd paragraph alone. I know lots of very well-off conservatives, and the reason they’re well-off is because they rarely go to France, eschew country clubs, and don’t own planes. In fact, his description would seem to apply to many of liberal neighbors in Burlington, VT. They carry their own shopping bags (with prominent eco-friendly labels, of course), but jet to Vail to go skiing instead of driving and hour to Stowe, and drive Lexus SUVs with ‘Save Nepal’ stickers. If being a big-league prof means getting any crap you write published, I’ll be content with my small state U job.

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peterike 04.15.10 at 10:33 pm

This comment thread is like that episode of SouthPark where the Smug takes over everything. So many self-important people spewing arrant nonsense derived from looking in the mirrors they surround themselves with and shouting into the echo chamber. Meanwhile, the world unseen continues to spin and go on its merry way, proving them wrong on a minute by minute basis. Yet nothing changes. Ever.

What a sorry bunch.

207

Orson 04.15.10 at 11:26 pm

MB writes:

“It is indeed hard to be a conservative in American media. One is always wondering, what if I get something wrong? About something important, like maybe a health care debate or a war?”

I love progressives when their imputed snark is contradicted by real world reality. Health care fascism? Endorsed by a Cuban dictator named Fidel Castro? The Left has lost the public’s support. In fact, according to one poll, Tea Party (mind you, informal membership) grew by 50% from before fascist Obamacare to after – from 16% of American’s to 24%.

Better still, another poll shows that the public think s “Tea baggers” know more about the subject than Preesident Obama does. (Its not hard: Right-wingers can read, unlike Democrats, especially those in Congress who demonstrably don’t.)

And war? Like that war Michael Moore got everyone on the Left to believe was invented by corporate-connected “neo-cons”? The one that Vice President Biden now touts as an Obama Administration triumph? Twice?

Enough of reading MB. I’m a life-long atheist, but just to piss-off his intolerant sycophants, I’d rather read the Bible. Perhaps I will tonight. Probably Jesus on Caesar, another topic his minions know nothing about.

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sg 04.15.10 at 11:40 pm

haha wondertrev, that’s comedy gold!

209

Pinko Punko 04.16.10 at 12:08 am

I like the fact that people use the term “arrant nonsense” on the i-net. Anon!

210

Keith 04.16.10 at 4:48 am

Someone left the troll hatch open.

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Substance McGravitas 04.16.10 at 5:40 am

Jesus on Caesar

Hot!

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Stuart 04.16.10 at 10:48 am

That makes a difference. Renato is not talking about firing an employee on ideological grounds (which I think most of us, conservatives excepted, would think wrong absent other and more compelling grounds for termination). Rather, he is simply declining to give further business to a supplier

Not sure this really makes any ultimate difference myself – after all if you say it is allowable to discriminate against conservative suppliers, presumably you have to say it is allowable to discriminate against black suppliers.

In practice it is difficult to prove this is going on of course, both on the employment and suppliers side of things at least, particularly for smaller companies, unless the employer doing it loudly proclaims what they are doing.

213

Salient 04.16.10 at 12:49 pm

What you all did not know is that McArdle’s post is merely a side consequence of a conversation she and I have been having, which I will reproduce for you here:

McArdle: “I think there are not so many black bank managers because black people don’t feel like they fit in on that side of the bank counter, kinda like how conservatives don’t fit in at university.”

Salient: …

McArdle: [tapping foot, awaiting a response]

Salient: That’s not the most horrifically stupid thing I’ve heard this week.

McArdle: [disappointed]

Salient: I mean, you can try again if you want. This game can be fun.

McArdle: It’s… pretty hard to top that, though.

Salient: It’s not like you are unskilled at being obtuse, Megan. You can do better.

McArdle: Give me a moment.

Salient: …

McArdle: Ok, uh… I think historically, Chinese people must have really liked working outdoors, because so many of them worked on the railroads back in the day.

Salient: …

McArdle: [smiles hopefully]

Salient: …Nope. Still not the most horrifically stupid thing I’ve heard this week.

McArdle: Wow. Just wow. Well, let’s see.

Salient: [waiting]

McArdle: Ooh, got one. I think, uh… I can’t even bring myself to say this in jest.

Salient: I bet it still won’t win.

McArdle: Fine. Here goes. I think historically, black people must have really enjoyed working outdoors, given the number of plantation positions they filled prior to the 1860s!

Salient: That’s pretty amazingly horrific, Megan. Nicely done.

McArdle: I win?

Salient: No. It’s still not the most horrifically stupid thing I’ve heard this week.

McArdle: You are lying to me. You have got to be lying to me.

Salient: Byran Caplan said that women were more free in the 1880s than they are today…

McArdle: –that’s pretty bad, but c’mon, I came up with worse–

Salient: …and he said that the legality of marital rape back then was totally trivial, so he could dismiss it.

McArdle: WHAT?

Salient: I am not kidding to you.

McArdle: My god. That’s the most horrifically stupid thing I’ve heard all week.

Salient: I know!

214

Buzz 04.16.10 at 3:17 pm

Well, McArdle gets the best of this in her cogent response to this nonsense. The whole Jim Crow angle is obviously wrong because, as McArdle points out, even without the force of Jim Crow laws in most of the country, blacks still weren’t being hired for certain positions.

And so it is with conservatives in academe: even without the force of law, there is very real institutional and departmental bias against hiring people with certain points of view.

I feel sorry for your students, Bérubé, for having such an blinkered fool for a professor.

215

Tehanu 04.16.10 at 8:39 pm

Whereas I, middle-class lawyer that I am, know perfectly well that there’s a conservative elite as well, a very rich, very well connected conservative elite …

… that I have NO INTEREST in joining, because they would bore me to fucking death.

My dad, who was born to poor immigrants in the Chicago slums, was an elementary school teacher with 4 kids. I went to a public university on scholarship. Eventually my husband and I made enough that we could move to a pretty expensive neighborhood, Beverly Hills PO — city of LA, but with a BH zip code. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the neighbors — all college grads, accountants, lawyers, doctors, etc. — had only three topics of conversation: real estate prices; who was sleeping with whom; and how difficult it was to find housekeepers who would accept $50 for an eleven-hour day in an area with no bus service. I asked one of my neighbors once where the books were in his house; he said he had an old accounting textbook in the garage somewhere, and his wife proudly pointed to her stash of Danielle Steel novels.

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wolfgang 04.17.10 at 6:12 pm

>> Any word on whether conservatives have made any headway among the financial elite?

Unfortunately not. They have been pushed out by the negro bank managers.

217

burritoboy 04.19.10 at 2:48 pm

” “What is this “conservative thought” that people sneer at in academia because it is conservative? Be specific.”

Goldwaterism, Catholic conservatism, Hayekian conservatism (yeah I know the semantic controversies, but let’s just hang on in there), Straussian conservatism, and of course, Buckley wrote God and Men at Yale.”

Goldwater I’ll leave aside. Since Straussians teach or taught at such elite places as Harvard (Mansfield, Riley, Mahdi), Yale (Smith), Wisconsin (Riley, Yack), Michigan (Saxonhouse), Virginia (Ceasar), Duke (Gillespie, Grant, Spragens) and numerous others at first rank institutions, it seems hard to credit that it’s truly a (major) difficulty. My own personal experience as a junior Straussian of the East Coast/Stanley Rosen variety is that the only difficulty I encountered was that I didn’t want to spend as much time on figures like Chantal Mouffe or Laclau as others did. But that’s incredibly minor, and it’s not like Chantal Mouffe is a completely worthless writer either (she definitely has some potentially interesting things to say, even if I think my own time is better used elsewhere.)

Hayekian conservatism – well, Hayek himself taught at LSE and the University of Chicago, so that’s hardly a sign of academic rejection (sure, other places didn’t like him, but he was employed by institutions of the very first rank). Since Hayek influenced a huge number of people at the University of Chicago, many of whom ended up getting Nobel prizes and being at the very pinnacle of American economics academe, again, while there was initial resistance to Hayek in the 1940s through 1960s, his intellectual children did extraordinarily well for themselves.

Catholic conservatism? Well, you do realize that there are over 1,500 Catholic universities and colleges worldwide? It’s by far the largest university system in the world by number of schools (though not by number of students) – the public university system of China only contains about 300 universities, for example. The current pope (certainly a conservative) was a professor at two highly respected public universities, including teaching at one of the finest universities in the world (Tubingen). Gilson taught at multiple secular public universities. George teaches at the Protestant Princeton. Maritain taught at Princeton too. MacIntyre has primarily taught at public or Protestant institutions (including Princeton, Duke, Vanderbilt and Oxford) and only recently has taught at any Catholic universities.

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Salient 04.19.10 at 2:52 pm

even without the force of Jim Crow laws in most of the country, blacks still weren’t being hired for certain positions.

…despite having decades of inside connections built up through their families! Oh wait

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Substance McGravitas 04.19.10 at 3:05 pm

the public university system of China only contains about 300 universities, for example

The number’s higher if you count institutions that call themselves universities, much higher if you like institutes and academies and so forth. Not that it has anything to do with your argument…

220

burritoboy 04.19.10 at 4:21 pm

“The number’s higher if you count institutions that call themselves universities, much higher if you like institutes and academies and so forth. Not that it has anything to do with your argument…”

I heard a fairly expansive (but not infinitely expansive) definition of a university means that there are roughly 700 universities in China. That figure might be wrong, too.

221

bianca steele 04.19.10 at 4:27 pm

MacIntyre taught before his conversion at the school William Bennett said went downhill after they started admitting non-Presbyterians. Which happens to be the same school Howard Zinn taught at most of his career. Where the president and provost were said to vet dissertations and faculty publications to remove citations of e.g. the Frankfurt School and other leftist scholars. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

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bianca steele 04.19.10 at 9:37 pm

Is that a no-true-Scotsman argument?

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Substance McGravitas 04.19.10 at 9:55 pm

Is that a no-true-Scotsman argument?

Which one?

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bianca steele 04.19.10 at 11:23 pm

Kind of a lame joke about MacIntyre actually being a Presbyterian, and from Glasgow . . . I didn’t mean you, Substance. I assumed you were American or Canadian.

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Substance McGravitas 04.19.10 at 11:27 pm

I think you can blame me entirely for not getting that.

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bianca steele 04.20.10 at 12:17 am

You’ve never heard of Google? I assumed everybody looked up the CV’s of all the people burritoboy mentioned, and got all the jokes.

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