Saturday, January 20, 2007

Does what "elite professors" think matter?

Excellent point. The higher the education level the more specialized it is. Catch a prof out of there element and they usually don't have a clue.

From Stephen Bainbridge:

If all we know about a view was that professors held it more, and elite professors even more so, we would be inclined to favor that view.

I'm 48 years old. I spent 11 years in college and graduate school, with the latter 7 years spent at elite institutions. I've spent 18 years teaching at law schools ranked in the top 25, which I think safely qualify as elite institutions. Having thus spent 60% of my life hanging out with elite professors, I feel confident in saying that: If all I know about a view was that professors held it more, and elite professors even more so, I would be inclined to be skeptical of that view.
To be sure, when it comes to their area of expertise, elite professors deserve a degree of deference. When it comes to matters outside their area of expertise, such as whether God exists (the question Galt and Hanson are discussing), elite faculty deserve no more deference than any other smart people. Indeed, they may deserve less deference than a representative cross section of the general public. University faculties tend to be highly self-selected and appointments tend to be dominated by network effects that produce a remarkable homogeneity of belief (or, in this case, disbelief). Outside their areas of expertise (and sometimes even inside it), their beliefs tend to be colored by their ideology and by the need to conform to the expectations of their colleagues.

In his article, Academic Freedom, 77 University of Colorado Law Review 883, law professor Larry Alexander offers an observation that I think lends support to my claim:
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.

Precisely. So if all we know about a view of some economic or political issue was that professors held it more, and elite professors even more so, we should be disinclined to favor that view. Ditto religious questions, for much the same set of reasons. Read the whole thing.

No comments: