Friday, April 6, 2012

Not Enough Conservo Profs in Academia? DUH!

What is it that conservos don't understand in regard to the liberal dominance in academia? Why are they so puzzled over the fact that a plurality of professors - almost across the spectrum of disciplines (with the possible exceptions of Business and Economics) are of the liberal mindset? Yet this entrenched cluelessness came up again in a recent op-ed by Peter Berkowitz ('How California's Colleges Indoctrinate Students', WSJ, Mar. 31).

Fortunately, in the wake of his piece, at least one Berkeley prof (Gerald Lubenow, WSJ letters, April 6, p. A12) did insert the metaphorical "cat" amongst the "pigeons" of dismay that occurred to most of us on reading Berkowitz's piece:

"Rather than complaining that so many professors are liberal, Mr. Berkowitz should be examining why so few conservatives want to be professors. He could start by looking at conservative anti-intellectualism...."

Excellent first step! This was actually first pointed out decades ago by Richard Hofstadter in his book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Vintage Books, 1963. Hofstadter notes ('Business and Intellect', p. 263):

"The anti-intellectualism of businessmen, interpreted narrowly as hostility to intellectuals, is mainly a political phenomenon. But interpreted more broadly it's a suspicion of intellect itself. It is part of the extensive American devotion to practicality and direct experience which ramifies through almost every area of American life. "

Since the Reagan era of de-regulation and the rise of junk bonds and the speculator culture, this grip on practicality has metastasized. We went from a nation that was invested in pure science research and we used government to subsidize the fruitful transition to applied science applications. Grants thus supported research through the 1970s on infrared astronomy, quasars, solid state physics (which then was applied to solid state electronics, computers) and other fields.

The rise of speculator culture and financial games, investment emphasis, changed this dynamic which saw grant money ratcheted down as Reagan commandeered ever more for military defense boon doggles such as space lasers (which never worked beyond a certain distance due to attenuation of beam intensity) and 'Star Wars'. All these sucked up money that otherwise would have supported pure science, including sustaining a healthy space program.

It could even be argued that had not so much NASA budget money been cut, the short cuts with the Shuttle program wouldn't have been taken - resulting in the Challenger disaster in January, 1986.

Meanwhile, applied science transitions ground to a near halt as the capital needed to support it went instead to the speculators, including the emerging hedge funders, investment bankers and securities outlets and bond traders. Those who ordinarily would have pursued pure science careers, were deviated instead to pursue finance....usually as "quants" the perverted -deviated physicists who spent their energies now devising obscure financial derivatives including the credit default swaps that brought down the whole financial system 3 1/2 years ago.

Through all of these changes, it was liberal profs in academia who remained a constant, as conservatives rushed to where the money was in finance, or politics finance more and more corrupted and contaminated the political establishment with filthy lucre. The apotheosis reached with the horrific Supreme Court decision three years ago allowing unlimited corporate PAC money to be infused into elections.

Thus, Gerald Lubenow's observation (ibid.) is spot on that:

"There can be little doubt that the lopsided ratios Mr. Berkowitz sees on campus would be reversed if he were to peer into the high rise offices of hedge fund managers who, other studies confirm, much prefer trading securities to teaching school."

Indeed, a conservo letter-writer backs take up in his own snarky way:

"Would those on the Right prefer that the movement's greatest minds toil in academia rather than create real wealth in the private sector?"

Of course, little appreciation is forthcoming from the writer that this "wealth" is not real at all, but based on phantom (variable value) money stashed in obscure (usually unregulated) devices - derivatives that do not lead to a single creative or constructive idea or useful invention to benefit humanity - say like nuclear fusion power.

To put it another way: Had all the trillions lost in the financial markets since the 1987 stock market crash (through at least four different bubble-bust cycles) been invested instead in nuclear fusion, we'd not now have to be fretting about fracking-shale drilling all over hell's half acre or worrying about when the last of the (cheap) oil reserves will run out.

In this sense, even if they don't dominate in academia, conservatives can pride themselves on having siphoned vast sums of money into their speculator realm, leaving many academic departments bone dry.

The cost, however, is one that will never be recovered, and one reason this nation is in a permanent decline.

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