Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Kleiman/Krugman vs. Kerr/Non-Volokh

Orrin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy rightly criticized Paul Krugman's column in the NYT for making broad caricaturish statements about conservatives. In response, Mark Kleiman slams Kerr and Co-Conspirator Juan Non-Volokh:


Orin Kerr twists Krugman's meaning completely out of shape, transforming a legitimate attack on the nutty positions taken by specified Republican officeholders into a character attack on "consevatives" generically.
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Yes, Krugman's column shifts between explaining why conservatives mostly don't become professors and explaining why professors, even those not liberal by inclination, might refuse to vote for the current crop of Yahoo Republicans. But Krugman never does what Kerr accuses him of doing, and what my post criticizes Kerr for saying that Krugman did: caricature conservatives in general -- as opposed to conservative politicians -- as a bunch of ignorant religious fanatics.
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Orin Kerr can't figure out why I'm upset about his attempt to portray liberals, and Krugman in particular, as foolish bigots who think that all conservatives are obscurantist religious fanatics. Juan non-Volokh points to one sentence in which Krugman, having pointed to several conservative leaders by name, then makes a general remark about "conservatives," as if that backed up Kerr's original attribution of foolish bias to Krugman, and by extension to liberals generally.

The relevant graf in Krugman's screed is:
Conservatives should be worried by the alienation of the universities; they should at least wonder if some of the fault lies not in the professors, but in themselves. Instead, they're seeking a Lysenkoist solution that would have politics determine courses' content.

But that's not all, Krugman earlier writes:
One answer is self-selection - the same sort of self-selection that leads Republicans to outnumber Democrats four to one in the military. The sort of person who prefers an academic career to the private sector is likely to be somewhat more liberal than average, even in engineering.

But there's also, crucially, a values issue. In the 1970's, even Democrats like Daniel Patrick Moynihan conceded that the Republican Party was the "party of ideas." Today, even Republicans like Representative Chris Shays concede that it has become the "party of theocracy."

Seems to me like Krugman is trying to paint conservatives and Republicans in general, not just some select Republicans who hold public office, as religious zealots, people hostile to science, and people who want to make money in the private sector rather than choose an academic career. I find it odd that Mr. Kleiman didn't get that general gist from Krugman's column. It appears that Krugman is making the general claim about conservatives and the Republican party in general -- that they are obscurantist/Lysenkoist/hostile to research -- and then using particular Republican office-holders as evidence that indeed he is correct. This is a pretty standard method of argumentation and is pretty transparent in Krugman's column. So, I don't understand what is Kleiman's beef here.

But to make things worse, he then continues his post with a gratuitous attack on both Non-Volokh and Kerr:

Wouldn't you expect a pair of lawyers to be a little bit better at reading documents?

Even if he were right, which he isn't, maybe such attacks are a little unwarranted?

I will soon post a general response to Krugman's column. I spent part of the day thinking about why, as Krugman notes, there are few Republicans/conservatives in the hard sciences, where bias based on politics is pretty much nonexistent (since it's more objective what is good scholarship and what isn't and since most faculty's political opinions are probably unknown in those fields to hiring committees).

1 Comments:

Blogger NoTONoEagles said...

Help Mommy, there are Liberals! underneath my bed!!! (No, seriously, that's the name of the book...) Don't believe me? The dang thing's on Amazon, not some hippie-press bullcrap ;) Anyway, thought you might enjoy, pinko ;)

11:48 AM  

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