A little more on my ongoing favorite subject of the causes of leftist numerical dominance of academia:
Some of you may have seen this Jonathan Chait LA Times piece (requires quickie registration and hat tip to PrestoPundit). There are some decent points in this piece, but this paragraph caused me to reach for the Maalox:
The main causes of the partisan disparity on campus have little to do with anything so nefarious as discrimination. First, Republicans don't particularly want to be professors. To go into academia — a highly competitive field that does not offer great riches — you have to believe that living the life of the mind is more valuable than making a Wall Street salary. On most issues that offer a choice between having more money in your pocket and having something else — a cleaner environment, universal health insurance, etc. — conservatives tend to prefer the money and liberals tend to prefer the something else. It's not so surprising that the same thinking would extend to career choices.
Of course the notion that conservatives/libertarians are so strongly interested only in their financial well-being and don't care anything about a cleaner environment or better health care, etc., is offensive enough, but we've seen that before.
What strikes me more this time is that Chait and other lefties tempted to make this argument need to remember the other side of their brain's focus on the "vast right-wing conspiracy," which is full of all of these "corporate-funded" think tanks all over the place. Well just who the hell is it who is working at those places for $30K/year? Lots of people who would prefer the world of ideas and policy to the business world and its higher incomes. Those of us here know many of them. Numerous conservatives and libertarians have chosen the world of ideas (and its associated relative poverty), but they didn't make that choice in academia. The world of the think tanks (and the blogosphere) are among the most intellectually exciting places I've ever been, and are filled with people committed to the importance of intellectual activity without being too concerned about how it increases their bank accounts.
Not only is Chait's answer wrong, he's not even asking the right question. The question to be answered is not why are there no conservative and libertarian intellectuals, but why they are engaged in that activity in places other than academia. Whether it's accurate or not, the perception of many of those folks is that academia is not open to them, and it's not because they don't have the "chops."UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge raises many of the same points in a TCS column from earlier this week.