The Right Coast

December 02, 2004
Smelly little orthodoxy update
By Tom Smith

I half agree with Brian about this one. I do think there is bias against conservatives and libertarians in the academy, and that life will be much easier for you if you are leftish in an academic way. But that being said, how easy do you want your life to be? I mean, consider, fellow academics, what it would be like to have a real job. The most I can complain about is being stuck at an underrated good law school instead of an overrated not as good law school, where my politics would be less tolerated and I would have to exercise my own skills at politeness and tolerance much more than I do. And fine weather would be not sleeting. Been there, done that. But, as someone who worked in the Reagan White House, I can tell you that having any political principles whatever is a real career killer in Washington, and libertarians in Washington were about as tolerated as, well, nothing polite comes to mind. The people I know who went to DC in the Reagan years are now thoroughly disillusioned with the right wing think tank scene, and I doubt it's much better on the left. It's that whole power corrupts thing. I think George Will sometimes hits the nail on the head, but Washington lecturing academia on intellectual integrity is like Hollywood lecturing Wall Street on greed. And the whole phony baloney, I was reading Hamilton's letters again this morning act that Will affects got old about 20 years ago. George Will is the Bill Moyers of the right. I know that is a cruel thing to say, but there it is. We have to be brutally honest about these things. In Will's defense, I will say that he probably could be less trivial if he tried, while I get the sense Bill Moyers is doing the best he can, sobering as that is. I will also say that while the academy needs to much more diverse politically than it is, my sense is that it is slowly getting better. I think it was worse in the 80's, for example.