Why Intellectuals Are Not Conservatives

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John Tierney reports on a talk by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, on discrimination against conservatives in academia

In his speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a "tribal-moral community" united by "sacred values" that hinder research and damage their credibility -- and blind them to the hostile climate they've created for non-liberals.

"Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation," said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. "But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations."

Paul Krugman wearily observes that stories about liberal bias in the academy surface on a regular basis. They do, but that does not make them untrue. He's right, too, that ideological discrimination is not the same thing as racial discrimination. But that does not make it a good thing, does it? As to why academics lean liberal, he says ideology influences career choice. I expect it does. But I find Robert Nozick's explanation more plausible:

Intellectuals feel they are the most valuable people, the ones with the highest merit, and that society should reward people in accordance with their value and merit. But a capitalist society does not satisfy the principle of distribution "to each according to his merit or value." Apart from the gifts, inheritances, and gambling winnings that occur in a free society, the market distributes to those who satisfy the perceived market-expressed demands of others, and how much it so distributes depends on how much is demanded and how great the alternative supply is. Unsuccessful businessmen and workers do not have the same animus against the capitalist system as do the wordsmith intellectuals. Only the sense of unrecognized superiority, of entitlement betrayed, produces that animus.

Haidt is a very interesting fellow. His speech is well worth listening to: there's a video here. I recommend his book, The Happiness Hypothesis. (I see he has put a brief response to Krugman's post on his blog.)



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