Does academia discriminate against right-wingers?

Jonathan Klick — a smart economist, not unsympathetic to markets, writes me the following:

I’ve been thinking a bit about all the stuff regarding the small number of folks on the right in academics in the mainstream press and on blogs, and I think people have missed an important point regarding cross sectional variation — I think the fact that you also see relatively few people on the right in the arts supports the supply side view of the empirical regularity more than the discrimination view.  That is, there’s not really any differential barrier to entry into music, visual arts, writing, etc. for right wingers and yet those fields look at lot like academics in terms of personnel make-up.  To my mind, this supports the view that, by and large, relatively fewer of the right’s brightest want to go into academics than is the case with the left.

I agree, but with one caveat.  Many academic entrants are initially undecided in their political outlook, but social pressures sway them to the left.  That being said, so many academic leftists have held their views from an early age.  Academic life and discourse have, if anything, moderated their stances toward the center. 

Both academic life and left-wing attitudes are correlated with the same basic status markers.  Whether or not Democrats and academics are in fact more tolerant of others, at the very least they pretend to be.  They also are, or at least pretend to be, more thoughtful, nuanced, intellectual, and internationalist [TC: This doesn’t stop them from being wrong about many things.]  Most importantly, they take pride in identifying with these values.  This will put most academics into the Democratic camp.  Those that cannot become Democrats — such as myself — will often be libertarian or "independent" rather than registered or self-identifying Republicans.  The Republican "pride markers" are, for many academic tastes, too nationalistic, religious, and involve too much "tough talk."

So the market-oriented or "right-wing" anthropologists will, ex post, experience negative bias in academia.  Minority points of view are not always treated fairly.  But that bias is not the initial reason why they are so outnumbered in the first place.


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