Monday, December 13, 2004

Maybe liberals are smarter (or maybe they just think they are)

In a previous thread, one of my valued dissenters points out a post over at Detached Observer where the blogger agrees with an LATimes editorial that argues, "some of the best-educated, most-informed people in the country overwhelmingly reject the GOP."

By tacking "some of" on the beginning of his sentence, he makes it virtually meaningless, but his basic argument is that liberals are smarter than conservatives (don't believe him? just ask one); therefore, the overwhelmingly leftist tilt of academia is completely natural and justified.

Though Detached Observer didn't link to this article from Duke university, I believe it might help him support his point:

"If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire. Mill's analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia. Players in the NBA tend to be taller than average. There is a good reason for this. Members of academia tend to be a bit smarter than average. There is a good reason for this too."

Now that I'm good and tired of reading this condescending drivel, I'll attempt a response (at least as close as I can manage with my limited conservative mental abilities).

Many smarter than I have commented on this phenomenon, and I'll link to a few of them, but here's my initial take.

Many factors contribute to academia's leftward tilt, but I believe this to be a large one: by virtue of the programs they endorse and the philosophies they espouse, liberals are idealists. Conservatives are realists. A conservative will choose a less than perfect, but workable solution over an untested, unproven, but it-sure-briefs-well plan.

Academia is a perfect playground (and breeding ground) for idealists. Anyone who has transitioned from college to the job market will probably back me up on this. Therein lies the crux. Academics have never made that transition.

Working on different levels in a large corporation or institution will evidence this effect as well. Briefing a roomful of Pentagon Generals with PowerPoint and coffee is idealism. Kicking down doors with the grunts is realism.

Socialism and Communism are excellent examples of perfect models that consistently refuse to work in the real world, while democracy (or in our case a republic) is not quite as pretty, but for the most part it works well.

As my astute roommate points out, even the pilgrims and puritans were prone to idealism and social experimentation until a couple of winters without any food brought them back into the realm of the possible.

Professor Bainbridge argues (and provides many good links) that the problem is due to the good ol' boy system, and George Will and the Economist also weigh in if you have not yet had enough.

Update: Hugh is blogging on this one too...what can I say? great minds think alike...