Inconsistency is a Two-Way Street

Kieran Healy highlighted the inconsistency of conservatives who believe in institutionalized inequality of political ideology but not of race or sex.

But inconsistency runs both ways. If it is inconsistent for conservatives to believe in institutionalized inequality of ideology but not of race or sex, then it is also inconsistent for left-liberals to believe in institutionalized inequality of race or sex but not of ideology.

If anything, the conservatives have the stronger argument. Discussions of institutionalized inequality on college campuses tend to focus on the presence or absence of ?diversity.? But since it is bad form to speak explicity about diversity of skin color, we all pretend that what we are really talking about is viewpoint diversity.

And insofar as viewpoint diversity is the desired goal, it seems plainly obvious that the viewpoint divide between conservatives and left-liberals is much larger than the viewpoint divide between blacks and whites. Unless, of course, one wishes to argue that there is a ?black viewpoint? and a ?white viewpoint,? and that we can determine who holds these viewpoints according to the viewpoint holders? melanin levels.

Update: I just read the link that prompted Kieran's argument. As Ezra Klein of Pandagon argues, the claim that "conservatives are discriminated against in the hiring process [is] nonsensical for two reasons":

First, it's utterly unproven. Second, this overwhelming liberal tilt had to occur somehow. Theoretically, there had to be a time when there weren't professors, and then that had to merge into a time when there were many and they were overwhelmingly liberal. Since academia did not start out as an arm of the Left, it doesn't work to argue that conservatives faced discrimination from the beginning.

Wait a minute. Utterly unproven? By the left's own standards, it's already been proven. According to many on the left, the fact that there are fewer black students and professors in academia relative to the population as a whole is ipso facto evidence that blacks are being discriminated against in the admissions and hiring process. So the fact that there are fewer conservative professors in academia relative to the population as a whole is ipso facto evidence that conservatives are being discriminated against in the hiring process.

Oh? What's that you say? There might be other factors at work here? Conservatives might simply choose other careers, or as John Stuart Mill said, and Robert Brandon seems to agree, stupid people are generally conservative? But the left rejects these factors (and with regard to intelligence, rightly so) when speaking about race; why suddenly bring them in when talking about political ideology?

And as for Klein's second criticism, the standard conservative response is that academia did not always have a leftist bias. What was once a relatively apolitical arena was infiltrated by left-wing ideologues who realized, correctly, that whoever controls the creation and dissemination of ideas controls society.

One more thing. This whole discussion originated in response to a comment made by Robert Brandon, the chair of the philosophy department at Duke. Brandon said:

"We try to hire the best, smartest people available," Brandon said of his philosophy hires. "If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.

"Mill's analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia. Players in the NBA tend to be taller than average. There is a good reason for this. Members of academia tend to be a bit smarter than average. There is a good reason for this too."

But as Kieran notes, and John Stuart Mill specifically mentioned as a caveat, "I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative."

So if stupid people tend to be conservative, but conservative people do not tend to be stupid, then doesn?t Robert Brandon?s argument fall apart? As Brandon says, ?Members of academia tend to be a bit smarter than average.? In which case, it doesn?t really matter what stupid people believe in terms of politics; all that matters is what smart people believe, because only smart people are selected to be academics.

Unless I?m missing something elementary, it seems that stupid people can in fact be chairs of philosophy departments.

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