Bryan Caplan  

Some of My Best Friends Aren't Liberal

PRINT
Privatization in India... Expect to Live Longer than You...

Ken Arrow scoffs at charges of academic discrimination against non-liberals:

It’s hard for me to judge, of course, but I must say that my department contains a number of Republicans. And they were appointed by a democratic group, whose members said these guys are good, and we’ve got to hire them. And so far, I have not seen it work the other way, but I’m a little concerned about where it could swing. In this case, the criticism seems to be just wrong, because I think the departments hire on the basis of merit. And I think it’s nonsense to say that we’re discriminating against Republicans. We hire them all the time.

I stand by my earlier claim that non-profits in general, and university departments in particular, can and do care about a lot more than merit, though admittedly my reflections on Intellectual Gladiators partly support Arrow.

Hat tip to Tyler.


Comments and Sharing





COMMENTS (10 to date)
Gordon Mohr writes:

Arrow's department -- Economics at Stanford -- is unlikely to be a good sample. The Klein study mentioned in the article found the party affiliation disparity smallest in Economics, among the social sciences. (Engineering, Nursing, and Business had even smaller disparities.) I would also suspect (as Bryan implies) that ideological factors in hiring would be mitigated at the most selective universities -- they have the largest candidate pools and the most to lose if they choose ideology over other talents.

(P.S. I recommend changing the way visited links disappear entirely into the same color as body text in comments.)

KipEsquire writes:

"I think the departments hire on the basis of merit"

But what is "merit"? In the physical sciences, the professions (e.g., medical and law schools) and the more reality-based social sciences such as economics, "merit" has an at least some element of objectivity.

In the fuzzy social sciences (such as sociology), and especially in the arts and humanities, "merit" is whatever the senior academics say it is.

I think the illustrious Professor Arrow is, with all due respect, suffering from some selection bias.

prestopundit writes:

Could it be that Ken Arrow is living in the past -- as well as in a self-imposed econ bubble, wilfully blind to what is happening in dept. after dept.?

"First they came for the conservatives in the Women's Studies dept., but I was not a Women's Studies conservative ... "

PrestoPundit writes:

Ken Arrow is not reliable as an honest dealer when it comes to ideological issues. I'm a Hayek scholar, and one of the people I've identified as an intellectually unfair Hayek attacker is .. Ken Arrow. In his attack on Hayek Arrow was the intellectual equivalent of a bigot -- he went out of his way to mischaracterize Hayek's position, and he sought to dismiss Hayek's position though "guilt by association", identifying Hayek with the worst possible caricature of Edmund Burke and his conservatism.

So I see Arrow so distorted in his angle on the world that he has little chance of perceiving subtle bias in action -- he's the equivalent of a sports fan "calling them like he sees them" -- and always calling them the way the home team coach would call them.

RogerM writes:

Far more college profs are leftist (I prefer it to liberal because "liberals" aren't liberal about anything) according to polls. That could be due to discrimination. As KipEsquire wrote, "What is merit?" If you think conservatives and their principles are stupid, you won't think they have merit. In economics, if you are a devout Keynesian, you won't think Austrian economics has any merit.

But is self-selection involved? Do more leftists enter education than those from the right? I think that could be the case. If you're leftist oriented, you'll tend to choose government service or education. Choosing business is "selling out," "prostituting oneself." Conservatives and Libertarians hold business in high esteem and are much more likely to seek it as a career. Fortunately, some also admire academia and government or we'd be really lost.

Omer K writes:

The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.
Liberals are full of ideals.
It follows that...

Ive noticed it time and time again, liberals have a nasty tendency to make anecdotes and facts up. Talk about IQ and 99% of them have read "The Bell Curve" but are strongly against it. Quiz them, and it becomes clear that all they read was a review.

How do you know the same does not apply here?

HowManyCharactersCanANameContain? writes:

To the above post, no information can be taken for granted. I would probably sound like a broken record if I said that no information can be taken for granted, and that it is your duty to do the proper research.
So I won't say that. Instead I will say that conservatives believe much more in morals vs the idea of the potential of all being right. So, if I am to keep speaking in this general sense, conservatives are just flatly better then liberals.

Omer K writes:

To your above post..
I advanced a hypothesis, one that perhaps doesnt sit well in academic discourse because everyone is supposed to be honest with their data.
Curiously this rule is not enforced, and in fact cannot be enforced, as we are usually dealing with things that are not objectively known at the present time.

In other words, discourse proceeds as if all sides had a valid point and/or were speaking honestly. We know this is not the case.

It is curious to argue out our point of view when we know the bigger problem is that we do not even have to. The dead elephant in the living room that no one is talking about and all that.

"and that it is your duty to do the proper research. "

That quote sounds fine and high minded in theory. In reality we cannot research everything within the time constraints that we all have, and thus rely on honesty.

mobile writes:

It's hard to tell whether Arrow is talking about the Economics Department at Stanford, where he taught in his first stint from 1949 to 1968, or the Management Science and Engineering Department (formerly Department of Engineering-Economic Systems and Operations Research, formerly Department of Operations Research), where he taught from 1980 until his retirement. The MS&E Department is in the School of Engineering, and does, as Arrow says, have several Republicans and libertarians.

Dezakin writes:

"Ive noticed it time and time again, liberals have a nasty tendency to make anecdotes and facts up."

The irony is painful.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top