Liberty & Power: Group Blog
I've been thinking about the issue Radley raises about the same-sex marriages in San Francisco as well. And I think he's put his finger (or Insta's I guess) on the puzzle for me too: is it a legitimate form of civil disobedience for an agent of the state to violate a law he or she has sworn to uphold when he or she believes that law to be immoral? My own view is that the constitutional principle at stake trumps the importance of the "rule of law" in such cases. If the Mayor of SF genuinely believes that the current law that prohibts same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, then I see nothing wrong with him attempting to violate that law, peacefully, to make a point. Radley's race analogy is very telling.
But here's another fly in the ointment: As Rod Dreher points out in The Corner, what precisely is the difference between this situation and Judge Moore's refusal to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom? Surely Judge Moore perceived himself in exactly the same situation as the mayor: caught between obeying the law as written or obeying a more abstract moral/constitutional principle. My own view of the constitution leads me to believe that the mayor is right and Moore is wrong, but that judgment rests on my reading of equal protection and separation of church and state. In some objective sense, I'm not sure there is a difference between the two cases.
On the subject of intellectual diversity on college campuses, I call your attention to this lengthy piece by Ed Feser at Tech Central Station. I don't have the time to tackle Ed's various arguments about why academia leans to the left, and I should wait until Part II comes out before I respond anyway. For now, I'll just say that I think he raises some interesting arguments, only a few of which ring true for me. The one that rings most true is this one:
Here we have in effect the ideal of the "philosopher king" and with it another possible explanation of why intellectuals tend toward the Left, viz. the prospect that increased government power might give them an opportunity to implement their ideas. As F.A. Hayek suggests in his essay "The Intellectuals and Socialism," for the average intellectual, it just stands to reason that the most intelligent people ought to be the ones running things. Of course, this assumes they are in general capable of running things better than others are, an assumption many of these purportedly always-questioning minds seem surprisingly unwilling to question. Yet there are very good reasons for questioning it, some of which are related to the failure of socialism discussed above.
As Hayek himself has famously argued, large-scale social institutions are simply too complex for any human mind, however intelligent, to grasp in the amount of detail necessary to create them from scratch or redesign them from top to bottom in the manner of the socialist economic planner or political or cultural revolutionary. The collapse of the French Revolution into bloody chaos, its immediate Napoleonic sequel, the long decay and sudden collapse of the Soviet empire, and the institutionalized lunacy that was communism in general are only the most vivid and undeniable confirmations of this basic insight.
Still, the intellectual is forever a sucker for the idea that things would be much better if only everyone would just go along with the vision of the world he and his colleagues have hashed out over coffee in the faculty lounge and in the pages of the academic journals. As Hayek put it in The Fatal Conceit, "intelligent people will tend to overvalue intelligence," and they will even find it scandalous to suggest that intelligence is the sort of thing that can be overvalued. But of course it can be, as long as it has limits, which even the most brilliant human being's intelligence does. To see this requires nothing more, though also nothing less, than simple humility -- something intellectuals tend to have in short supply, especially if their intellectual accomplishments are great.
I do think that many intellectuals overvalue book-smarts. This is an attitude I do see in many of my colleagues, and one of the beautiful things about Hayek's vision of the catallaxy is that it is "fueled by" the bits and pieces of often inarticulate knowledge possessed by anyone and everyone. The engine of economic growth, and the spontaneous ordering processes of society more broadly, is knowledge, but not intelligence. In an academic world where knowledge is valued if it is rational, "scientific," articulated, and defended with explicit arguments, it's easy to understand why intellectuals might distrust the spontaneous ordering processes of the market and culture that are based on knowledge that is frequently tacit and "unscientific," and believe that they can construct institutions that would improve upon their admitted imperfections. And, as Feser points out elsewhere in his essay, such intellectuals are apt to be contemptuous of the claim that traditions and institutions can embody important social knowledge that we will lose if we attempt to ignore or reconstruct them. To me, this is the supreme irony of the post-modern Left: if they really believed what they say about the "subjectivity" of knowledge and the limits to rationalism and scientism, they ought to be reading Hayek and recognizing the market as the embodiment of how knowledge is really discovered and communicated. But for some reason, they aren't.
One way this overvaluing of intelligence plays out is in the critique of Bush based on his grades at Yale. Without defending his policies, it is certainly plausible that the president is not particularly book-smart (compared to Gore and maybe Kerry), but nonetheless has the kind of knowledge that leadership requires. Certainly that description would apply to many CEOs and many shop-floor folks as well. Again, not saying this is true of Bush, but lord knows I'd prefer a politician full of common sense knowledge and trust in the same knowledge of the citizenry than one who has lots of book-learnin' but not much horse sense.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
In that Farewell Address, Washington warned against the peril of foreign entanglements. He understood the necessity of certain alliances in dire emergencies, but his general view of foreign policy encapsulates a wisdom that has been forgotten by today's generation of political leaders. As we near"President's Day," I thought I'd post an excerpt from Washington's famous address:
Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. ... In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded, and that in place of them just and amicable feelings toward all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.
So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. ...
Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand, neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the Government to support them, conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that by such acceptance it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.
David T. Beito
So far, the military has avoided using a draft by satisfying its manpower demands through "stop loss" orders. Since last November, the US Army has extended its stop loss orders to cover active-duty soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, preventing some 7000 soldiers from either retiring or being discharged." In an article entitled "Draft Creep" - by which term he refers to stop loss orders -- David Wiggins comments,"Draft creep is a sneaky draft. There is no congressional debate, and no new law is passed for the President to sign. Nonetheless, people are being forced into military service against their will. In other words, they are being drafted, conscripted, or whatever you care to call it. The government chooses to call it"Stop Loss," and it applies to members of the armed forces. After all, what better way is there to initiate a sneaky draft than to start with the group of people least likely to object to a draft, and at the same time, with the least legal rights to fight one?" But stop loss orders are a short term fix, at best. Already the murmuring of discontent within military ranks (not to mention their families) is rising. Enlistment in those agencies is also falling due to such draconian measures.
On the state level, there have been unmistakable moves in that direction. For example, in Alaska, Selective Service registration is now a requirement to get a Permanent Fund check - the annual"oil dividend" check that amounted to over $1,000 last year. Almost every eligible Alaskan registers for the check."The state plans to forward information from the dividend applications to the federal government, which will automatically register the eligible Alaska males who haven't already signed up. Under federal law, men are supposed to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of turning 18. Failure to register is technically punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000. But a lot of people don't do it."
No one expects such a dramatic and controversial move as the imposition of a draft prior to the November elections. Until November, everything Bush does will be about re-election. Even the release of those explosive military records is an attempt to defuse the controversy surrounding his possible-AWOL and to do so in February rather than in October. The Bush administration wants to explode any political bombshells right here and right now while there are several months of recovery time possible. The clumsiness with which the administration is proceeding may negate the strategy, of course, but I'm betting (and so are they) that people will soon be bored with hearing about Bush's military dental records. Nothing short of a sleazy sex-scandal or the spousal murder of a pregnant wife can sustain public interest for a period extending into months. But, if Bush is re-elected, then I expect a draft to be imposed in early '05.
If Kerry is elected, then probably not. I say"probably" because Kerry is not in principle but merely
For more commentary, please see McBlog.
For more commentary, please see McBlog.
Roderick T. Long
Suppose you owned a mostly vacant lot that happened to contain a famous historical landmark, one that attracted visitors from all over the world. What would you do?
Would you put a fence around the site and start charging admission?
Or would you plunk a 300-pound concrete slab down on top of the site"to prevent it from becoming a tourist attraction"?
Guess which option the U.S. Army chose in connection with Saddam Hussein's"spider hole"?
Such is the difference between governmental incentives and the incentives of private enterprise.
(Of course it’s debatable who owns the hole; but that's another issue ....)
In my prior post, I promised some unoriginal theorizing about the heightened interest in the classroom bias issue. As the example I used there suggests, I think much of it is related to 9/11. What 9/11 did was to blow the lid off of the politics of many faculty, and make those politics clear to the broader public. Those of us in academia have always known what many/most faculty thought about the US and its foreign policies, but I doubt that Joe and Jane Sixpack did. The events of 9/11 changed all of that. The combination of a perceived "blame American first" on the part of faculty with an "America, love it or leave it" instinct on the part of students, made for a dangerous brew. The result is that many conservative students all of a sudden felt the perceived classroom bias more palpably and, more important, they found support for their reaction in the media, both print and electronic. The bias was in their face, and their perception of it found sympathetic ears elsewhere.
Now feeling empowered that their perception of bias is right, conservative students have gone on the offensive. I don't think this is a bad thing, in and of itself. Of course, it's even a really good thing when it translates into more than just whining and complaining and maybe even leads to real intellectual and political activity. I'm willing to predict that this issue will not go away. I think we're entering an era of a widening gulf between the mean political position of college students and that of their faculty. This gulf might have been wide 30 years ago, but with students on the left and faculty on the right! Now, the positions are reversed and I'd argue the gulf is even wider.
I think another factor in the rise of the classroom bias issue is the Internet, and the blogosphere particularly. Students can more quickly identify support for their perceptions of bias, and the outrageous examples can more easily get press coverage. Groups like FIRE are doing great work in shedding light on real problems. In addition, students who wish to take advantage of it can easily and quickly find arguments and evidence that contradict what they are hearing in class. This enables them to label things as "bias" much more frequently than has been the case in years past. Thinking back to my days at Michigan, if I wanted to prove some faculty member wrong, it would have required some serious research at the library. Today, a student can just Google up a bunch of material in 30 seconds. Part of me would like to think that left-leaning faculty are more frequently being challenged in substantive ways by well-informed conservative students. I'm not sure though. If not, there's no excuse for conservative students not trying. The information is out there for the taking.
If I had the time and energy, I'd set up a web site that served as an information clearing house for students (of any political persuasion) who wanted a perspective on an issue that differed from what they'd heard in class. The kid who wants a history of the Middle East that doesn't turn the Israelis into Nazis and the Palestinians into innocent victims could go to the site and get an info sheet and/or links to other well-respected scholars and writers. Same for the kid who wants to defend same-sex marriage at a religiously-oriented school.
One last thought: it's easier to use the classroom for "indoctrination" when your institution doesn't put much weight on teaching, and especially when it doesn't talk about teaching very much. If nothing else, a politically correct classroom is really bad pedagogy. If, and it's an if, we really do care about student learning, then staying away from the forms of bias that are the subject of so much discussion today is a very good idea. Students learn best when the classroom atmosphere is both open and full of intellectual challenges, from faculty and from peers. Another prediction (who says Austrian economists can't predict?): if American higher education paid more attention to the quality of undergraduate instruction, concerns about political correctness and classroom bias would begin to fade away fairly quickly.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
I've already written about Communist parasites, in an effort to draw attention to the mass internal chaos that was the Soviet Union. There is probably no greater misnomer than the word"totalitarianism," because no matter how much a coercive statist apparatus tries to control the totality of a society, such control will elude its grasp. That's because planners of all kinds—whether they be Soviet commissars or Wilsonian nation-builders—simply don't know enough to forestall the unintended consequences of their plans, which are a perennial aspect of human sociality.
Well, the knowledge problem, a problem manifested in the fragmentation of knowledge, power, and function, seems to have been felt big time in Iraq.
William Safire thinks he's uncovered yet another"smoking gun" in Iraq, which proves a" clear link" between Hussein and Al Qaeda. (There might be clearer links between Al Qaeda and Brooklyn or between Al Qaeda and flight schools in Florida, but nobody has suggested—yet—that we invade Brooklyn or Boca Raton.)
What this"smoking gun" proves, however, is that Iraq was, and continues to be, a smoldering kettle of conflicting interests, whereby different elements engage in power-plays against one another. The only difference, in this regard, between the Hussein regime and post-Hussein Iraq is that the"balkanization" process has intensified, as noted by David below, because there is no central apparatus attempting to keep it at bay. (The same balkanization has taken place in post-Communist Russia.)
Even within Hussein's Iraq, fragmentation of power and function was more the rule than the exception: the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. As this story in The New York Times suggests, the regime itself was ill-prepared for the US invasion partially because Hussein himself was busy deploying"Iraqi military to crush domestic uprisings rather than defend against a ground invasion..." A recently uncovered" classified log of interrogations of captured Iraqi leaders and former officers" provides us with"a scathing history of a Stalinist, paranoid leadership circle in Baghdad that guaranteed its own destruction." Hussein's government was"disconnected from reality in peace and in war." Even"members of Mr. Hussein's inner circle routinely lied to him and each other about Iraqi military capacities." (On the organic connection between war and deceit, see Arthur Silber's superb post They Are The Damned.)
Lies, deception, exaggeration,"mistakes"... inside and outside of Iraq. Even gung-ho conservative Bill O'Reilly is now apologizing for accepting the WMD claims of the Bush administration. The cloud of disinformation is almost as poisonous as the mushroom clouds we all fear.
It is ironic too that, as Maureen Dowd states, the President is busy warning us that"the greatest threat before humanity" is"the possibility of a sudden W.M.D. attack. Not wanting nuclear technology to go to North Korea, Iran or Libya, the White House demanded tighter controls on black-market sales of W.M.D., even while praising its good buddy Pakistan, whose scientists were running a black market like a Sam's Club for nukes, peddling to North Korea, Iran and Libya."
Isn't it amazing that the biggest threats in the region, Pakistan—for its export of toxic nuclear technology and Saudi Arabia—for its export of toxic Wahhabi ideology, remain among the closest of US allies?
Whereas Friday the 13th gives way to Valentine's Day, this Middle East horror story is starting to feel more and more like the movie Groundhog Day: it's just an endless replay of the same themes over and over and over again. Kinda like that broken record that President Bush talked about.
David T. Beito
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
The right-wing"Reason" magazine is hardly a pillar of intellectual inquiry, rather a right-wing propaganda sheet that consistently argues against any attempt to make our society more humane. It attacks any efforts to enact policies which would support our own country's basic values, such as:"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [ let's assume this means" all people" in contemporary English] are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights .... life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.""Reason" respects only corporate rights to build wealth and power at the expense of the vast majority of people in our society. [Half the population of which earns below the median household income of about $37,000 -- less than what it would take to provide a"middle class" lifestyle !!]Sorry Steve, but I'm not sure where better listening skills would help in a case like this.
CU Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Ronald Stump told the Colorado Daily Tuesday the bake sale was in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights act and mandated it be stopped."According to federal law, state statute, and University policy, we believe it is illegal to sell goods or services with differentiated prices based on race or ethnicity," said Stump."It's not a free speech issue. They need to find another means which is legal to make their point."The CRs changed the wording to"donation" and made payment optional. Now this is rather hypocritical of any university. A financial aid package changes the price for college faced by different students. Use of minority scholarships, then, would be a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Wouldn't CU be obligated first to throw out those programs before pursuing the discriminatory cookie sellers?
(Crossposted from SCSU-Scholars.)
With President Bush strongly behind him, [U.S. Trade Representative Robert] Zoellick had cleverly exploited the tragedy of September 11, 2001, to get the new trade round launched at Doha. Nonetheless, the Bush administration then proceeded to harm the cause by taking a number of protectionist actions. For example, in March 2002 it succumbed to the steel industry's demands for protection and enacted steel tariffs, invoking the safeguards provisions of the WTO. Two months later, it also increased government support for American farmers under the U.S. farm bill. Washington claimed that both measures were compatible with WTO rules and within its rights. But even if they were (and the steel tariffs have since been declared illegal by the WTO), the symbolism was bad: one cannot start negotiations to reduce protection and then follow immediately by raising subsidies and trade barriers.I suspect Bhagwati is overly generous in saying the"administration had not realized" that other countries would not be well received; there was plenty of opinion-page articles telling him precisely that even before he adopted the steel tariffs. But in a strategic game, the threat of defecting from the free-trade position needs to be credible to condition the behavior of other countries. I think it was calculating along those lines, as well as the fact that it protects industries in key battleground states for the 2004 elections.
To give it credit, however, the Bush administration recognized that the hostile foreign reaction to its protectionist actions undermined its free trade credentials. Unless they were reestablished, the Doha Round would have been jeopardized. Had the United States persisted in asking for freer trade while taking protectionist measures, many countries would have retreated behind their own trade barriers rather than join an effort to dismantle them.
And thus, as this danger sank in, Washington turned its policy around in a remarkable fashion. The administration had not realized how badly its earlier missteps would be received elsewhere; once it did, Washington beat a rapid retreat on the most damaging of these measures -- specifically, those relating to agriculture. Together, Zoellick and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman secured political support for a substantial offer in June 2002 to reduce agricultural subsidies and trade protection, putting the ball in the EU's court. That summer, Zoellick also managed to get the president's fast-track negotiating authority renewed, something Clinton had failed to achieve in two attempts.
The"free and fair" quote from Bush thus fits the overall pattern of trade negotiations as involving both carrots and sticks. FTAA does no good for the countries of Africa, but it could be used as a threat to induce those countries to reduce their tariffs, even for agricultural products (Bhagwati notes these are 112% for India compared to 12% in the USA).
David T. Beito
David T. Beito
Roderick T. Long
As a longtime believer in greater cooperation between libertarians and the Left, I was pleased to hear that the Libertarian Party has invited Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club, to speak at the LP's upcoming national convention. (See the story here.)
I've long been puzzled by the hostility between libertarians and environmentalists. Environmentalists warn against the unintended consequences of ignorant intervention into self-ordering ecological systems, but have no similar qualms about intervening in self-ordering economic systems; libertarians have precisely the inverse set of concerns. These are two groups that really need to sit down and talk with each other.
Having read a number of Pope's articles, I fear I'm rather skeptical of LP National Chair Geoffrey Neale's insistence that Pope is already quite market-friendly. But as Neale says,"you can't learn how to talk to the Left unless you're willing to occasionally listen to the Left as well." And Pope certainly deserves credit for fighting to resist the looming takeover of the Sierra Club by eco-terrorist and anti-immigrant activist Paul Watson.
Just a very loud "second" to Rod's last post about libertarians and environmentalists. Economy and ecology share more than some alphabet letters, and Rod has it just right. Many years ago, as part of a team-taught course, I had to read Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac, a classic in ecology. There are a number of passages where if you substituted "market" for "ecosystem," you'd have sentences that could have been right out of Hayek. Or me, for that matter!
And a second "second" to Rod's call for more conversation and listening between libertarians and the Left.
I was at this year's AAC&U meetings and saw Stanley Fish's talk. It was about as entertaining a piece of rhetoric as I've ever heard at a professional conference. I was there with a group of 5 other St. Lawrence folks, including my dean and president, and all agreed that it was a brilliant talk. Of course, as one colleague put it, "he's totally wrong of course, but it was a brilliant talk." The context was AAC&U's push for bringing "civic engagement" into liberal education. The idea being that the work that's done in the classroom has to be connected to "real world" concerns about democracy, participation, etc.. Fish eloquently argued that all we should be concerned with is truth, qua academics, and nothing else. (Disclaimer: my campus has had several AAC&U grants and has been a participant in many of their events. I'm on the organizing committee for an upcoming one this fall.)
I'm sympathetic, of course, to Fish's position, especially when a concern with "civic engagement" becomes using the classroom for political advocacy (a trend that has become very explicit pedagogy among a few colleagues here). There is a line, I think, between trying to get students to understand that classroom knowledge should matter for making the world a better place and making advocating a particular vision of what constitutes that "better place" part of one's pedagogy or part of what it means to succeed in the course in question. I don't object to the claim that the classroom is, in the broadest sense, a political place and that none of us can be truly unbiased as teachers. What I do object to is when this point becomes a rationalization for claiming a monopoly on the moral high ground (my own definition of "political correctness"), or for evaluating students based on their conclusions not their arguments.
One can have a strong point of view in the classroom but not engage in advocacy and not grade students based on their politics. If one views "civic engagement" as being about helping students to connect their learning to developing a concern about the broader world and the potential role they might have in improving it (whether through politics, education, or even business), then I'm all for it. Of course, my reading of "civic engagement" is not the same as many of those involved in the AAC&U project, hence the link to the issues of intellectual diversity and advocacy pedagogies.
For me, the issue of campus intellectual diversity isn't to be addressed by hiring more non-Leftists. As Duke political scientist Michael Munger put it:
"The solution is not to have 15 Republicans and 15 Democrats in one department. If everybody forced students to write papers based on a faculty member's particular perspective, that's still not diversity," he said. Rather, he said, the classroom, not the department, must be depoliticized.
That last sentence is the key: those of us who resist Leftist orthodoxy must continually ask our colleagues to check their premises and continually challenge their claims to a monopoly on the moral high ground. We have to turn our differences into debates over the means and not the ends. We need to find our shared values and then engage over the best ways to achieve them. No one, I think, likes poverty. We'd all like to reduce/eliminate it. How we do so, however, is another story. And to the extent we can never let our Leftist colleagues forget that we care too, perhaps we can make some headway toward diversifying colleges classroom by classroom, rather than by changing hiring practices in ways that threaten both academic freedom and our sense of justice.
It's difficult for me to make too compelling a case that libertarians are victims of political correctness on college campuses when I've not only never had a problem on my campus with such things, but I've been continually rewarded for my work both in the classroom and in my discipline. To throw out a somewhat more provocative claim: campus conservatives and libertarians are not always very good at being good colleagues and, as Rod suggested earlier, they aren't often good at actually conversing and listening to their Leftist colleagues. This doesn't mean you have to kiss up to them, but it does mean you have to know something about their interests and conversations and be willing to be a part of them. And, at places like mine, being a good teacher helps a lot!