Why Intellectuals Still Support Socialism
Wednesday, November 15, 2006 by Peter G. Klein
Intellectuals, particularly academic intellectuals, tend to favor socialism and interventionism. How was the American university transformed from a center of higher learning to an outpost for socialist-inspired culture and politics?
As recently as the early 1950s, the typical American university professor held social and political views quite similar to those of the general population. Today — well, you've all heard the jokes that circulated after the collapse of central planning in Eastern Europe and the former USSR, how the only place in the world where Marxists were still thriving was the Harvard political science department.
More generally, US higher education often looks like a clear case of the inmates running the asylum. That is, the students who were radicalized in the 1960s have now risen to positions of influence within colleges and universities. One needs only to observe the aggressive pursuit of "diversity" in admissions and hiring, the abandonment of the traditional curriculum in favor of highly politicized "studies" based on group identity, the mandatory workshops on sensitivity training, and so on.
A 1989 study for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching used the categories "liberal" and "conservative." It found that 70 percent of the professors in the major liberal arts colleges and research universities considered themselves liberal or moderately liberal, with less than 20 percent identifying themselves as conservative or moderately conservative.
(Of course, the term "liberal" here means left-liberal or socialist, not classical liberal.)
Christopher Cardiff and Daniel Klein
have recently examined academics' political affiliations using voter-registration records for tenure-track faculty at 11 California universities. They find an average Democrat:Republican ratio of 5:1, ranging from 9:1 at Berkeley to 1:1 at Pepperdine. The humanities average 10:1, while business schools are at only 1.3:1. (Needless to say, even at the heartless, dog-eat-dog, sycophant-of-the-bourgeoisie business schools the ratio doesn't dip below 1:1.) While today's Republicans are hardly anti-socialist — particularly on foreign policy — these figures are consistent with a widespread perception that university faculties are increasingly unrepresentative of the communities they supposedly serve.
Now here's a surprise: Even in my own discipline, economics, 63 percent of the faculty in the Carnegie study identified themselves as liberal, compared with 72 percent in anthropology, political science, and sociology, 76 percent in ethnic studies, history, and philosophy, and 88 percent in public affairs. The Cardiff and Klein study finds an average D:R ratio in economics departments of 2.8:1 — lower than the sociologists' 44:1, to be sure, but higher than that of biological and chemical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, management, marketing, accounting, and finance.
A survey of American Economic Association members, examined by Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern
, finds that most economists support safety regulations, gun control, redistribution, public schooling, and anti-discrimination laws. Another survey, reported in the Southern Economic Journal
, reveals that "71 percent of American economists believe the distribution of income in the US should be more equal, and 81 percent feel that the redistribution of income is a legitimate role for government. Support for these positions is even stronger among economists with academic affiliations, and stronger still among economists with elite academic affiliations."
Why do so many university professors — and intellectuals more generally — favor socialism and interventionism? F. A. Hayek offered a partial explanation in his 1949 essay "The Intellectuals and Socialism."
Hayek asked why "the more active, intelligent and original men among [American] intellectuals … most frequently incline toward socialism." His answer is based on the opportunities available to people of varying talents.
Academics tend to be highly intelligent people. Given their leftward leanings, one might be tempted to infer from this that more intelligent people tend to favor socialism. However, this conclusion suffers from what empirical researchers call "sample selection bias." Intelligent people hold a variety of views. Some are lovers of liberty, defenders of property, and supporters of the "natural order" — i.e., defenders of the market. Others are reformers, wanting to remake the world according to their own visions of the ideal society.
Read the rest http://mises.org/daily/2318
Iteresting read and prospective