Saturday, January 20, 2007

View from the academy

Stephen Bainbridge has an interesting post on whether academics' opinions on topics outside their area of expertise deserve more respect than yours or mine. For example, on the free market.

He quotes an article by a law professor called Larry Alexander.

My experience has taught me that aside from the fact that those inclined towards liberalism are disproportionately disinclined to go into business and the professions and thus more inclined to become academics, there are reasons in addition to groupthink that explain why academic liberals become more dogmatically liberal and anti-conservative once inside the academy. Foremost among them being the orthodox academic's negative view of the free market.

Now the free market, buttressed by public education, has raised more people out of poverty than all government poverty and redistributive programs together have done. Nonetheless, the free market--and the bourgeois values that undergird it--is typically disdained, if not reviled by academics, at least academics outside of economics departments.

For one thing, the free market is disorderly, while the academic mind is attracted to rational planning and control and, thus, to statism. The academic looks at the free market and sees gigantic waste--the vast number of businesses that prove unprofitable and fold, and the incalculable misspent hours and dollars people invest in training and educating themselves for occupations that disappear or never materialize.
[my emphasis]
This thesis is explored at greater length by Robert Nozick in an article for the Cato Institute which I summarised here.

I think similar arguments to Larry Alexander's could be brought against artists, the nature of whose work demands order and single-minded control from 'above' and who can attain within their work a god-like omnipotence.

(via Instapundit)


wodge said...

Academics' opinions on topics outside their area of expertise deserve no more respect than yours or mine.

Right, so why should you or I trust the opinion of a law professor when he's talking about the free market? Surely, that's a subject that should be left to economics professors?

Perhaps you ought to stick to your usual 'A muslim ate my hamster' drivel.

NoolaBeulah said...

The real point of my post was the attitude of the tenured classes to the system that sustains them and so many others. Although more of my drivel is about Muslims (though not about hamsters - I've checked), the state of our elites is really for me the primary concern. Their posturing, their righteousness, their faces steadfastly turned away from the bleeding obvious - all this just as it was in the Thirties and during the Cold War. I wouldn't trust them with a hamster.