Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Academia and Liberalism
Arnold Kling has been thinking about Dr. Brandon's "smart = liberal" comments (a topic on which I have posted) and he has an article at TCS. His position is that liberals, due to their liberality, choose to enter academia, rather than they are smarter. This works because liberals value personal freedom (Kling writes) but find personal responsibility to be an instrument of oppression by the capitalist overlords, or words to that effect.

If your temperament favors freedom without responsibility, then there are certain occupations that are a good fit. Academic life is one of them, as I pointed out in Real World 101. [...] The trick to having freedom without responsibility is to get paid without having to worry about where the money comes from. Most professors do not worry about fundraising or attracting tuition-paying students. In general, wherever creative individuals receive incomes without having to worry about the "business aspect" of their organizations, you have freedom without responsibility. In print journalism, reporting is kept separate from advertising or circulation. In the arts, commercial success is so difficult to predict that few writers, composers, or actors want to deal with the business aspect of their endeavors. [...]
When we see leftist ideology statistically predominant among college professors, news reporters, or open-source software advocates, what we are seeing is self selection. What Richard Florida dubbed The Creative Class is a self-selected group that seeks freedom without responsibility in their professional lives. Thus, we should not be surprised that their ideological bent is toward modern liberalism, which translates this personal preference into a political platform.

I cannot fully agree that professors have no responsibility. They have staffs, students, large budgets, etc. However, Kling is right that they do not have the same pressure to way costs and benefits, as business people do. They don't have the same deadlines or incentives.

I also noticed that when Kling titled a section "Freedom vs. Responsibility" it took me aback because I think of freedom AND responsibility. After all, with no freedom, there is no responsibility. It took me a while to actually see what he meant. He means the conflict between personal freedom and communal responsibility. Liberals see a responsibility of the community, conservatives see a responsibility to the community. How naive of me. How quaintly libertarian.

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