This is another instance of a rather thoroughly beaten horse, but it has drawn a good bit of attention on the net. Of course, David Horowitz's net-rag, FrontPage, was on it like white on rice.Andrew Sullivan caught the philosophy chairperson in a particularly stupid apologia. At Crooked Timber, Kieran Healey chastises Sullivan for rejecting the most economical explanation: that many conservatives are simply not as smart as many liberals and that humanities departments have simply hired the best and the brightest. That seems unlikely to me. A commentator over at Erin O'Connor's Critical Mass caught the philosophy department chairperson's flawed logic which turned a perfectly decent quotation from John Stuart Mill into intellectual mush. Do philosophy departments teach logic anymore? Or is it, as a philosopher at Antioch explained to me,"We don't teach it because students don't want to take it." That is one place where my libertarian friends are exactly wrong. Whatever happened to requiring students to take courses because we know they need to? Those who haven't benefitted from required courses apparently now chair departments at reputable institutions.
Do not misunderstand me. My alma mater is a much improved place because it has worked at becoming more diverse racially and genderly. I suspect that those battles have been largely won and that it suffers from a self-satisfaction that is no more justified than the one I challenged as an undergraduate at Duke. I suspect that Duke is no more diverse in terms of social class and perhaps even less diverse intellectually than it has ever been. Sure, registration with a political party is a poor measure of intellectual diversity, especially in the fairly narrow range of American political options. But you'd think there might be a lonesome Green or a stouthearted Libertarian somewhere in the humanities. 32 Democrats and 4 resident aliens? Give me a break. I don't advocate equal employment opportunities for Republicans, but intellectual liberals need to get honest with us and themselves about having hired only intellectual compatibles. That's the temptation of any unchallenged establishment, but we need some folk around with whom to have a decent intellectual debate.
Update: Kieran Healey of Crooked Timber sends this response which makes, I think, a fair point:
I think your summary mischaracterizes my post a bit. I'm arguing that Sullivan probably wouldn't buy his own argument about labor market discrimination in other contexts -- i.e., his views on how markets work would not make him sympathetic to discrimination arguments -- so he should either say, yes, this kind of institutionalized inequality is widespread (and there are much more serious cases), or he should stop complaining about the market outcomes in this case. The point is that Sullivan should *by his own lights* be inclined to think that the market is rewarding smarter liberals over duller conservatives. Of course, I don't think that's a plausible explanation. But my question is why, given conservative views about how labor markets work, Sullivan doesn't think it is.Further Update: Jason Graham Gamble replies to Healey:
Mr. Healy is incorrect to expect that Sullivan's more-or-less market-friendly views should give him an inclination him to believe that"the market is rewarding smarter liberals over duller conservatives." This comment suggests that Mr. Healy misunderstands the nature of" conservative views about how labor markets work." (Perhaps unfairly, I am assuming that he is actually referring to neo-classical economic theory.)Apparently the chairman of the philosophy department at Duke was also misquoting Mill. See: Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy. See also: the comments of Jim Lindgren, who is doing a study of diversity in academic communities.
Only if the labor market for university professors is truly market driven (that is, unconstrained by non-market forces) would neo-classical economics indicate that"the market is rewarding smarter liberals over duller conservatives." You and Sullivan and others are essentially saying that this market is highly"regulated," albeit not in the usual sense of governmental interference. A brief look at FIRE's Web site might offer insight into the nature of possible"regulations" at work in your industry.
(Of course, this discussion has uncritically accepted the notion that"smarts" ought to be and is currently the most relevant criterion used to hire university professors.)