The Right Coast

March 02, 2004
Social Forces in the Academy
By Mike Rappaport

One situation that Becker and Murphy's book does not address involves social forces in academia. If academics gain utility from holding the same basic positions as others, then there should be a tendency for academics to conform their views to those of the majority. In other words, there will be a force inducing people who enter a liberal dominated academic world to have their views mirror that world. Sadly, this effect will be reinforced by the incentive that academics have to follow the prevailing academic orthodoxy, since both consciously and unconsciously that world discriminates against those who hold views that it dislikes. What then accounts for the increases in right wing academics, in at least certain areas, such as economics and law? Part of the explanation seems to be that people with minority views form their own smaller groups and they gain utility from having the same views as those in their relevant group. Certainly, the Federalist Society, which was formed in my first year of law school, has made it much easier and more enjoyable to hold right wing views.