The Right Coast

December 09, 2004
Should academic diversity be tolerated?
By Tom Smith

Well, John Holbo certainly seems sincere in not wanting to pick a fight with me, so that's fair enough. He even mentions me by name a couple of times, and that alone gets a link. I don't have a lot to add to John's interesting post, which is quite discursive and makes many different points. So, as usual, I will just add my personal, subjective and only dubiously valuable ruminations.

I realized recently I am probably in a very poor position to form any reasonable judgments about how dominated by liberal orthodoxy, smelly or not, the academy is. As a not very rigorous Catholic at a not very oppressively Catholic university, I am comfortable. I suspect I'm known among the students as an arch-conservative, but it has been years since I've received any death threats, and that was from a mentally ill student and had nothing to do with politics. And he taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of being polite to mentally ill students who own firearms, as well as giving me some insight into the other side of the gun control argument. I just don't really know whether I would be happily tolerated at a big state university in a liberalish state, for example. Would I be thought a harmless eccentric or would I be shipped off to a reeducation camp, plaintively begging Glen Reynolds and the Tennessee Volunteers to come rescue me?

And also, I think law probably is more diverse and tolerant than Transgender Studies, or whatever is going on across the quad (figurative in the case of my university). Certain non-liberal orthodox legal movements, to wit, originalism in con law and law and economics everywhere, have been very influential in the legal academy. Moreover, law and I suspect plenty of humanities are so influenced by networks of friendships and favors, it is very difficult to sort out what is bias and what is merely that Baxter Yaffie, president of the Federalist Society, is just not hooked up with the notoriously liberal Professor Overhill Clerkmaker. As a final rumination, I will add that thought on the right in law and politics seems somewhat afflicted right now with a more than optimal degree of self-satisfaction, cant, laziness and demagogery, which is not to say anything in defense of the liberal varieties of the same, but just to express an impression I have. This does not mean there is not discrimination against conservatives in the academy; it just would be easier to make the case if we were in the middle of some sort of right-wing intellectual renaissance, which we ain't.