quinta-feira, 6 de fevereiro de 2014

Economists and conservatism

Chris House writes that economists are more conservatives than the academics in other fields (via Noah Smith and Antonio Fatas):

It is not obvious why American college faculty members have such strong liberal political views. Many conservatives argue that it is due to discrimination in hiring and that the students receive a sharply biased education as a consequence. I don’t think that the intellectual capacities of conservatives are below that of liberals but I suppose it could be a possible explanation. My own guess is that it is due to selection on attitudes towards accepting received wisdom as truth. As I mentioned in a previous post, academics are encouraged to break new ground or even to overturn established ideas. Einstein is an excellent example of such a thinker. So are Stephen Hawking, John Maynard Keynes, Alfred Blalock, etc.* Deliberately setting out to tear down established parts of your field requires a certain mindset and this mindset might be more common with people who have liberal political views.


The 2005 study presented results on political views by department. As a field, economics ranks as one of the least stereotypically liberal, and most conservative, fields on campus. While I cannot think of a single Republican in my own department (and no, I’m not a Republican), it is quite common to hear faculty members emphasizing the benefits of limited regulation, the gains from trade, and the harm caused by market intrusions like minimum wages, capital taxation and import tariffs. I am quite sure that many of the economists in my department would be viewed as radical right-wing conservatives by members of other departments at Michigan.
I suspect that, in a north-american context, to compare the number of "conservatives" in a Social Sciences Department and in a Economics Department is a bit of comparing apples with oranges - a conservative sociologist (someone like James Q. Wilson or Robert Nisbet) usually is really a conservative; but I suspect that most of the economists classified (or even self-classified) as "conservatives" are not true conservatives - they are classic liberals, who only are classified as "conservatives" because of the bizarre north-american political terminology; this is relevant because a libertarian / classic liberal economist (even if he calls himself "conservative") does not need to have none of the beliefs and attitudes (caution, preference for experience over reason, distrust in abstract theories, etc.) that "true" conservatives are supposed to have (perahps much the opposite. at least neo-classical microeconomics and rational expectations macro - associated with classical liberalism, that in USA is considered "conservatism" - are more in abstract rationalism than keynesians), then the problems of intellectual style that in other fields could make academics uncofortable with conservatism don't occur in Economics.

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