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Posner's closing remark about a two tier system at universities is dead on. I am curious how long a culture that oppresses its workforce like graduate school can continue to thrive. My personal experience in graduate school was bleak. Professors taught 1-2 classes and rode their graduate students for every once of work that could be pushed out in a day. In return the wages came down to ~$3/hour for a 12-14 hour day and that included the tuition that was being paid on my behalf.

What about graduate school in the sciences is schooling that requires a tuition payment. The intellectual property that is a graduate students work product has direct financial worth to the university. Grant funded research is charged overhead for the space, professors are charged fees for their students, and patents resulting from the work are owned by the universities where they are produced.



I found your post revealing about the goings-on at elite unis, etc.

Let me tell you, as one +70 and studied in Bay Area as undergraduate during 1956-62, that academia seems to have changed dramatically into a thinkless-tank of "idiots" who have forgotten the purpose of a uni, in the first place.

What is relevant today is one's "market value" and NOT one's "real" knowledge, if I understand the input in this blog.

Yes! I'd have voted also for AdlaiStevenson(from Illinois) in 1956. Because he was (also) an academic, if I recall.

Yet, in my uni we'd profs who're conservative and those who're liberal -> but that didn't STOP our learning process! Why is an ideological criteria such an important element now in US academia?

I don't agree with Summers - most of the time when it comes to "globalization/trade policy".
But I don't dispute his intellectual power and what he has achieved in professional/govt. His pedegree is awesome, to start with!

Now, what Pres. of Columbia did when introducing and criticizing Pre.of Rep.of Iran, as his official guest, was Un-American in my opinion!
America was never afraid of "opinions" in my time!
Let alone Iran - an artifical ememy created by GWB to portray his devastating illegitimate views of an "evil empire"!

Methinks GWB is "evil incarnate" because he's devastated US image around the world! By invading Iraq on false pretence....

Eisenhower, if he was alive, would have found a way to recruit him in VietnamWar - to give him some real-life experience!

As a jurist, you should be bit more careful of your language when making a comparison between Summers rejection by Berkely students and what transpired at Columbia: they're very different cattle of fish!

Gibbons spoke/wrote about the fall and decline of a famous empire...I'm beginning to think/believe the American empire is finally in decline if universties have become enemies of "knowledge".

I was taught by my famous profs - who all came from Chicago (Hutchins!) - that knowledge is power!

What the hell is wrong with America today?


Posner missed one of the "live right" indicators at the modern college - the exploitation of their students to shady deals with major lenders.

College tuition has tripled since the 70s. Student loan debt is frankly crushing. The recent scandals of college administrations accepting kickbacks from the lending industry ought to be a wake-up call that these institutions are not primarily concerned with serving our kids.


We have absolutely not seen the "virtual disappearance in America of Christian anti-Semitism." As recently as last week, Ann Coulter said that the USA would be "better if we were all Christian" and that "we just want Jews to be perfected." I'm not sure who "we" is--but I find her comments to signify the strength of anti-Semitism on the Right.
An article about the interview is available at:


Posner is interesting as always. The comments are almost uniformly blinkered and ideological, if not willfully ignorant. The fact that universities are significantly to the Left of the American public has been verified in any number of surveys.

The interesting question is why. And whether the stated beliefs (and voting patterns) correlate with actual behavior.

The factors mentioned -- like jealousy and envy are clearly part of the answer. I think many political beliefs are largely class and tribal markers. Just as liking certain types of movies, books, restaurants, clothes, etc are ways of showing membership and allegiance to certain subcultures and tribes ... so, too, do publicly stated political beliefs serve to show group belonging.

People who want to belong to the intellectual, academic class of society quickly learn which public beliefs are required by the tribe. If you mouth enviro platitudes while jetting around the world for work, study, and play ... then you are showing your "progressive" membership badge.

I think tribal beliefs like this can become self-reinforcing ... and entirely separate from real belief or behavior. Enviro doom-mongering is a good example because the behavior of the elite is so opposite of their stated beliefs. No one really believes (as judged by behavior) the world is heading for catastrophe except for fringe kooks. It's just one of those religious articles of faith you have to parrot to be accepted in the tribe.

All clubs and tribes have irrational beliefs that members must publicly state, and they don't all serve a purpose outside of reinforcing group membership.


I don't see how so many people can suggest that universities do not in fact have a 'liberal' bias. Seriously, I don't fault Posner for not providing stats in this case. The fact couldn't be more obvious. Honestly. But to prevent further time being wasted on this silly point, I cite:


Which indicates that 77.6% of professors voted for Kerry in the 2004 election. With the tendency to vote democratic being considerably higher in the humanities and social sciences, fields in which professors are most likely to have the opportunity to incorporate their political views into the curriculum. Although we may note that preference for Kerry over Bush was roughly 3:1 in economics departments and 2:1 in business departments. So even these bastions of 'conservatism' were more 'liberal' than the population at large.

I scare quote liberal and conservative in the above discussion because, for my own point, I would like to argue that the very concept of left and right, liberal and conservative, is of dubious utility. The fact that the natural equilibrium of our American political system is that of a political duopoly seems to have lead to the de facto assumption that it is reasonable to express the universe of possible political viewpoints as consisting of a one dimensional spectrum. The implicit assumption being that each party represents a bundle of political views and that all other viewpoints can be defined by some linear combination of these two bundles. I would be surprised to find any educated person trying to support this assumption explicitly, but I wish we could acknowledge the absurdity of this common mode of thinking and abandon the entire concept of left and right in favor of a consideration of individual issues on their own merits.

The disutility of such linear thinking can be seen clearly in the above 'discussion'. The absurdity of creationism, or the misguidedness of the American invasion of Iraq, have no logical bearing on the merits of policies in health care, or energy. Yet representing political possibilities linearly allows one element of a bundle to taint the entire set of preferences and thus is expected to force reasoning individuals toward the opposite end of the spectrum.

In the spirit of this argument I will close by saying that I think that academics are biased in favor of socialistic policy. While I will not dispute that professors disagree with many elements of the republican platform for reasons that are merely logical, and that in this way the correlation is driven by their high level of education inspiring them to be more discerning than the general population, in the case of academic favor for socialism I see an ingrained bias. My disagreement with the policies of socialism stems form various empirical and theoretical economic considerations. I merely consider them inexpedient techniques, even if one were to aim primarily at the reduction of inequality and unfairness. I believe that a majority of economists would agree with this judgment, to one degree or another. But I believe that many professors in the humanities and social sciences provide an interpretation of their field that is skewed in favor of an interventionist, or planned approach to economics. Indeed, the above-linked paper indicates that 17.6% of social science professors would self identify themselves as Marxists (with 24% identifying as radical liberals, and a ratio of 14:1 voting democrat). That such a large number would make so strong a statement suggests to me that many more lean toward such ideas with slightly more moderation. It is my belief that this preponderance of socialist thinking is perpetuated by biased presentation of course material in the above fields and by the pressure of seeking peer acceptance in scholarly circles. I do not mean to say that these professors are not firmly convinced of the correctness of their view, merely that their conviction is the result of irrational processes.

I think that Posner's post implies that it is those attempting to support such biased illogical views who are forced, due to the inadequacy of their reasoning and argumentation, to resort to tactics such as politically ostracizing those whose conclusions (or even hypothesis) conflict with their views.


While I think Larry Summers was treated badly and unfairly, and to the detriment of our society, and while I believe much of academia has gone off course, joining in on the attempt to spin the Chemerinsky story into a gleeful cause celeb for the right is not this blog's brightest moment.


For sceptic:

Surveys have shown that professors in the humanities and most social sciences are more likely to be Marxists or to take Marx's ideas more seriously than economists or natural scientists. Economists and natural scientists are less likely to be on the political left and less overwhelmingly Democrat than those in English, history, or sociology [despite also having more Democrats than Republicans].
Moreover, even-self identified leftists in econ are less likely to believe that free trade is harmful or high progressive taxes are good than others in the social sciences.
Perhaps we have to consider the possibility that those in the humanities/soc sciences are not only biased but grossly uninformed as well. They were also most likely to harbor extremists who were quick to decry fascism or dictatorship while apologizing for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, or Pol Pot at their worst.

When you have a hierarchy that treats a Democrat like Larry Summers as being on the Right or that often treats Rush Limbaugh as more extreme than Ward Churchill, then you've moved beyond parody.

Hans Gruber

"We have absolutely not seen the "virtual disappearance in America of Christian anti-Semitism." As recently as last week, Ann Coulter said that the USA would be "better if we were all Christian" and that "we just want Jews to be perfected." I'm not sure who "we" is--but I find her comments to signify the strength of anti-Semitism on the Right."

Serious believers in all major proselytizing religions believe the world would be a better place if everybody shared their religion (especially when belief in that religion is a requirement for salvation). If Ann Coulter is anti-semitic for this belief, then virtually every believing Muslim and Christian is anti-semitic (really anti-everything). Coulter says lots of condemnable things, but this just isn't one of them.

Many atheists believe the world would be a better place without religion (some atheists conversely think it's a better place because of religion). I wouldn't say they were bigoted for wanting to see their views adopted or for even believing religious views were on the whole detrimental.


...many professors in the humanities and social sciences provide an interpretation of their field that is skewed in favor of an interventionist, or planned approach to economics ... their conviction is the result of irrational processes.Everyone has a different view of what kind of future they want to live in. The kind of future I want to live in is one where the robots do all the work and the humans balance their time between hobbies (e.g. scientific research and governance) and leisure (e.g. lounging on the beach with their families).Of course, at the moment robotic technology is not sufficiently advanced to do all the work so you need capitalism to "strongly encourage" people to do the work that needs doing. I see that as a temporary thing though. That is, I don't see that increasing the per capita GDP should be the ultimate goal of an economy.Instead, I'd like to see society moving toward an economic model where machines increase the efficiency of labor in order to facilitate increasing amounts of leisure time. I'm not saying that capitalism is bad at this particular time in history (in fact, I think it's necessary) but, in a certain sense, I see that the goal of capitalism is to invent enough technology to make capitalism unnecessary (and even undesirable).Is that a socialist view? Maybe. Is that an irrational view? Maybe, maybe not - but you'd be hard pressed to prove that it's any more irrational than rushing toward a future where everyone remains a slave to their work.




Wes sez: "The kind of future I want to live in is one where the robots do all the work and the humans balance their time between hobbies (e.g. scientific research and governance) and leisure (e.g. lounging on the beach with their families)."

......... I share your goals for the future and they seem to sum up the goals and achievements of the progressive era since the beginning of the industrial revolution, though from time to time we seem to "lose our way" or forget? The "age of robotics" seems already here in some areas where costs are dropping sharply. It seems obvious that if most are to participate in such a future that some mechanism would have be implemented to ensure that dramatically rising productivity does in fact "lift all the boats".

Otherwise, the middle class that is crucial to the operation of a democracy will be destroyed by "the Walmart" model of an extremely wealthy owner class while those doing the work live on the edge of poverty or below. It's not only democracy that will suffer but the economy itself that relies on there being markets for all the cheaply produced goods.

BTW in considering, perhaps a changing model of capitalism there's the Oct Atlantic has an interesting article about Clinton's efforts to provide low cost drugs to Africa. Instead of approaching companies for charity, they instead "partner" with the company and look for opportunities to lower costs by dramatically scaling up production. They then approach African governments for very large contracts, if the price is much lower. In once sense, as Clinton admits, "This is not rocket science" and it simple economies of scale. The "new twist" though seems to be the magnitude of ramping up tenfold or more which in an industry of high development costs, and two tier pricing that spreads those costs and provides higher margins on their traditional business.

I liked it as it seemed to take us beyond some of the real, imagined, or even artificial scarcity of today's capitalism, and provide a strong example of a win-win where both the company and millions of people benefited.

And Ha! we should talk more about using a GDP that is made larger by national disaster, engaging in wars, lawsuits, and a multitude of make-work built-in inefficiencies, as a benchmark of our standard of living.


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