Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hypocrisy? No... Us?

Tyler Cowen comments on the hypocrisy of academics engaging in discussions about unemployment:
I am struck by the difference between how some economists talk about “the job market,” and how they talk about the job market in academia, which of course is the job market they know the most about.

When it comes to the job market in academia, most economists have few hesitations about blaming many of the jobless for their fate and applying extreme meritocratic views. “He spent seven years finishing.” “Her specification was not robust.” “He self-destructed in the interview.” Or, believe it or not, “We don’t even look at people from that school.”

(And as Robin Hanson noted, there is little talk of redistributing grades, Ph.d.s, enforcing mandatory co-authorship for job market papers, or redistributing other measures of academic accomplishment.)
(Read the rest here.)

I also found this video interesting (which Cowen alluded to in the above):

I think something helpful to point out is that, contrary to popular belief, socialist sentiment in the academy really is far from egalitarian. Of course not all people are equal; of course not everyone is cut out to be an academic. The kind of society envisioned by many an academic is not one in which the playing field is made equal, but rather one in which the playing field is umpired by us, the smart people, who understand all the social factors that determine inequality and contribute to injustice.

The right cure for this kind of attitude is summed up in a quote (perhaps my favorite quote) from F. A. Hayek: "All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wistest." (Constitution of Liberty, Chapter 2)

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