David R. Henderson  

David Gordon: Harvard University Press Leans Left

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The latest issue of Econ Journal Watch is out today and one of the articles is by David Gordon. It's titled, "The Ideological Profile of Harvard University Press: Categorizing 494 Books Published 2000-2010." In it, Gordon methodically goes through 494 books published between 2000 and 2010. How did he choose these 494? He writes:

The first thing I did was to make a "first pass" to remove titles for which a political slant would seem to matter little or find little platform.

Then Gordon winnows further:
Again, I had removed a large number of titles in my "first pass," but not surprisingly there still remained 55 titles that I then subsequently deemed to not have been relevant to the matter of ideological categorization; further, for another 47 of the books I found the authors too reticent about political ideology to enable a coding. Hence from the 494 titles that remained after my "first pass," only 392 were given an ideological coding corresponding to the list of nine categories above.

His bottom line:
The categories Communitarian, Tending communitarian, Left, and Centrist leaning left account for 55 percent, while the categories Classical liberal, Tending classical liberal, Conservative, and Centrist leaning conservative account for only 15 percent (the remainder being Centrist and the two neuter categories). Moreover, only eight of the titles (1.6 percent of the 494) can be counted as squarely Conservative or Classical liberal, while 198 of the titles (40 percent) can be counted as squarely Left or Communitarian.

This isn't too surprising, given my casual empiricism in noticing HUP titles over the years. What I did find a little surprising--refreshingly surprising because it saves prospective authors a lot of time--is how open the Senior Editor for Social Sciences, Michael Aronson is about his bias. He tells prospective authors:
I acquire books in economics, law, political science, and sociology. Although my interests are wide-ranging and eclectic, I am particularly interested in problems of capitalism, including distribution, inequality, market instability, resource depletion, and climate change.

Notice what's missing. He doesn't mention his interest in successes of capitalism, market stability, and how markets handle resource depletion (think Julian Simon). And--call it a hunch--I'm betting that he's not interested in books that say that climate change is not due to mankind or, if it is due to mankind, is good, not bad.


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CATEGORIES: Economic Philosophy



COMMENTS (8 to date)
Ben Kalafut writes:

"I'm betting that he's not interested in books that say that climate change is not due to mankind or, if it is due to mankind, is good, not bad. "

What does that have to do with the question at hand. There is good science and bad science, not left-wing and right-wing science. In the sciences taking a side and reasoning post-hoc to defend it is considered dishonesty. The most generous interpretation of Bjorn Lomborg (by his defenders) have this difference with the social sciences being what got him into trouble.

If I were you I would hesitate to link "my side" with the faux-"science" of climate change denialism. That's self-discrediting or self-implicating behavior.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Ben Kalafut,
There's nothing in your comment that I disagree with, although I didn't understand the last sentence of your second paragraph. And I do hesitate to link "my side" with any position on climate change. Nothing I said in my post implies any link. I simply made a prediction about whether Aronson would be open to alternate views on climate change. Do you disagree with my prediction?

flawed writes:

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Ben Kalafut writes:

Maybe I'm misreading you. I took that note as meaning that Aronson has a left-wing bias and that this would be manifested in part by a lack of interest in books arguing that climate change is non-anthropogenic. And I further (perhaps mistakenly) read a connection between "interest in successes of capitalism, market stability, and how markets handle resource depletion" and the contrarian position on AGW.

I don't disagree with the predictions of the editor's preferences, but I question connecting a scientific question to leftism. That having been said, I doubt that if the editor is non-interested in such contrarian books it's because he's read the technical literature and can spot the contrarians' false claims and fallacies. So maybe a connection to leftism makes sense after all.

Jason Collins writes:

It is a pity that we can't get a sample of the books HUP has an opportunity to publish. Does it demonstrate a different ideological spread? Is the ideological spread of the books publishe a function of HUP's leanings, the authors it attracts or the leanings of economies authors in general.

[mistyped url fixed--Econlib Ed.]

Mauro Mello Jr. writes:

Gordon’s analysis indicates that the editor of the HUP has chosen a significant number of works that are aligned with a left leaning-biased view of things. Hence, the editor has been shown to have a left-leaning bias. In addition, the editor himself states that his preferences are for books that focus on purported problems of capitalism (a bias, as far as I know, and possibly a left-leaning one at that). I would also say that it could manifest itself in a lack of interest in books that argue that climate change can have other causes.

Given these premises, David is probably understating his position when he says that “I’m betting that he's not interested in books that say that climate change is not due to mankind or, if it is due to mankind, is good, not bad.” (Am I missing something here? This is clear from the posting.)

In the spirit of good scientific procedure one should investigate the current trends in climate change from different perspectives and compare claims on the results of proper data analysis. Bringing up loaded terms such as “faux-science”, “denialism”, “contrarians”, “false claims and fallacies” and linking successes of capitalism with “contrarians’ attitudes” would color, if not bias the analysis from the get-go, wouldn’t it? Also, the conclusion that “it’s because [the editor] read the technical literature and can spot the contrarians’ false claims and fallacies” is tenuous at best (or an assumption for which no data exist in the posting or the paper).

Stephan writes:

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Michael writes:

Mr. Aronson apparently has no interest in individual liberty either.

He will once it's gone.

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