Skip to comments.Universities can't be run on statistics
Posted on 08/29/2006 7:00:24 AM PDT by Gordongekko909
Modern universities have prided themselves on increasing diversity during the past years. Minority enrollments have increased, ethnic and women studies programs have grown, physical plants have been altered to accommodate the physically handicapped, etc. However, intellectual diversity, the kind that matters most in the academic context, including diversity of thought on the most fundamental economic, political and social issues, has actually decreased.
Some of the themes that dominate the modern curriculum are: capitalism is inherently unjust, dehumanizing and impoverishing (despite the fact that it has raised almost everyone's living standard, particularly that of the poor, to unprecedented heights and has reduced the work and compulsion formerly required for sustenance); globalization hurts the poor of both the first and the third worlds (despite the fact that true globalization fosters overall efficiency and thereby both improves and reduces the inequality of global living standards); the pathologies of the underclass in the United States are due to racism, and the pathologies of the third world are due to the lingering effects of colonialism; natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate and human activity is an ever-increasing threat to the environment; Western civilization is uniquely oppressive; socialism is desirable, and its luminaries, especially Marx, have much to teach us (despite the tyranny and incompetence that it turned out to exhibit when implemented over the past century).
That modern universities have come to be dominated by statists has been well-documented in a number of scholarly articles by Robert Nozick (Harvard), Ernest van den Haag (Fordham University), Edward Feser (Loyola Marymount), and others.
Several theories maintain that there is something in the very nature of the profession itself that inclines its representatives toward statism.
One such explanation looks to the formative years of typical modern intellectuals, who did well academically and not so well socially. The intellectuals were rewarded by a central authority, the teacher, who implemented a comprehensive plan, the curriculum, within a regimented social setting, the classroom. They were not rewarded for any contributions made to the decentralized, unplanned sphere of voluntary interactions that constitutes the life of a young person outside the classroom (the playground, parties, dating situations, etc.). Thus they naturally favor policies that involve centralized planning by governmental authorities rather than the unplanned results of voluntary interaction by individuals in the marketplace.
The inequalities that result because individuals are different at birth and the inequalities created by the market process are considered by modern intellectuals to be undeserved and unfair. In the past, inequalities, however undeserved, were attributed to God's inscrutable will, or later to ineluctable nature. Today, they are often attributed to the social system, e.g., inequality of opportunity. And unlike government activities that intellectuals believe, contrary to the evidence, are motivated only by concern for the public good, market activities are undertaken for the sake of private gain, i.e., profit. Modern intellectuals regard the market process, once more contrary to all evidence, as a zero-sum game in that individuals succeed only by exploiting others.
Further, intellectuals see themselves as treated unjustly when compensated less than businessmen, athletes and entertainers. Intellectuals believe their work is of such great value that others do themselves a disservice in not preferring it, and thus the intellectual selflessly volunteers to run human affairs and direct the lives of others. Increasing the power that government has over people gives intellectuals an opportunity to implement their ideas, despite the information problem that F.A. Hayek spelled out so clearly and that partially explains the failure of socialism. The state is seen as a way to offset the "fact" that the market undervalues the contributions of many intellectuals.
Intellectuals are not likely to pay much of a price if their ideas turn out to be wrong-headed, as would entrepreneurs in the marketplace. After all, they have a captive audience of young, relatively na�ve people. In fact, Stanford University's eco-alarmist Paul Ehrlich, whose theories have been disproved, received a MacAuthur Foundation Genius Grant. And those who gave us the "great society" kept their tenure.
It has not always been true that intellectuals have held views that differ from common sense and thumbed their nose at it with contempt. This is a recent phenomenon that is widespread in the modern university. But, of course, one must remember that much of the funding for intellectuals at universities comes from the state in one way or another. It does indeed pay to support statist policies that amount to jobs programs or higher incomes for intellectuals. Thus it is not surprising that most modern academics bow to the hand that feeds them.
I decided to post this oldie but goodie because the very question that Professor Saliba answers here was asked on another thread. I decided to let The Man answer it.
By the way, the title is wrong thanks to a screwup at the newspaper. It should have been "Why Universities Are Dominated By Statists." But rules are rules, so it remains.
Oh, and ping.
Thanks for the heads-up. Great post.
Ot, in shorter terms,
"Those who can, do.
Those who can't, teach.
Those who can do neither, get other government jobs.
Those who fear chance, demand protection.....
I agree. This guy is brilliant.
"Those that can't DO, teach."
My father used to tell me that. Now my sister is a teacher. At least shes a conservative teacher.
Check the first comment. The newspaper got the title wrong. It was supposed to be "Why Universities are Dominated by Statists."
My Economics teacher, Mrs. Beutenmuller, rocked and rolled. She made exactly the same points discussed in this paper. Magnificent woman. When I entered her class I felt as if I had dropped into the Cato Institute.
Awesome. Most exciting classes I have ever taken.
I loved Microeconomics. It completely rearranged the way I think.