Tuesday, April 12, 2005

So - here's my thought (or three)

Very rough, very preliminary thoughts, subject to change or clarification at a moments notice.

One argument I hear for why there are so few conservatives in academia is that they "self-select" out and get high paying jobs in the private sector, whereas liberals prefer to dwell in Ivory Towers and take the low(er) paying jobs in academia so they can espouse Marxism without the taint of market forces driving their jobs (or something).

It's not reasoning I really buy. Why? Well, mostly because that seems to implicitly insult the few conservatives who do decide to serve in academia by claiming they just can't get the high paying jobs.

Second, those conservative who get the high paying jobs have to get an education from somewhere, and it seems to me that argument encourages conservatives to see education as useless or at least secondary to the true goal of making lots of money. Maybe I'm just not cynical enough, but I would like to think that there are conservatives besides myself who see education important for its own sake, and not just because it will make them rich.


It would probably be useful to distinguish between conservatives employed by acedemia, and those simply passing through in pursuit of their degrees. As you point out, conservatives have to get their educations someplace... and you'll probably find that the folks working on their degrees have more immediate things on their minds than idle idealogical banter.


Also, keep in mind that the values of the marketplace and the values of the individual are rarely perfectly aligned. An economist--and I use that term in a narrow sense--would say that academics are a priori paid precisely according to their value to greater society. The same argument, by the way, applies to social workers, despite their sniveling.

That an academic chooses the ivory tower over, say, a corporate career is not an expression of inadequacy, but rather an indicator of precisely where that individual's values differ from those of the marketplace as a whole. There is--to miz up an atrocious cocktail of metaphors--no value judgment required.

The disconnect arrives when an academic, having made his choice with eyes wide open, then begins to gripe about how his level of compensation fails to reflect his "true" value. Nuts. The academic has selected a relatively low-paying job in order to enjoy a life of contemplation, complete with eternal summer vacations. The economic value of this comfy setting is precisely the difference between the academic's pay and, say, mine.

Sour grapes stink in any climate.

Jason G. Williscroft
The Dead Hand
Conservatives do self select out of academic careers, but, in the present academic environment, who can blame them? In an already crowded job market, they are at a further, significant disadvantage.
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