Paul Krugman's "academic question"
Dr. Sanity is not pleased with today's Paul Krugman column in the NY Times, in which Krugman attempts to deal with the question of why there are relatively few Republicans in academia--not only in the humanities, but in the sciences, as well.
Krugman's answer? "It's the evangelicals, stupid!" (Or, rather, "It's the stupid evangelicals.")
Krugman has become somewhat of an evangelical himself, on an anti-Bush crusade. Krugman seems to think that the Republican Party is dominated by people who are anti-science, anti-ideas, and pro-theocracy. No doubt there are Republicans who fit that description, but Krugman fails to give any statistics on how many. But, after all, Krugman is a famous economist; he don't need no steenking statistics.
But I'd like to point out that a kernel of actual good sense is nevertheless embedded in Krugman's column. He writes: One answer [to the question of the lack of Republicans in academia] 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.
I think Krugman is correct, although he spends the rest of his column ignoring this excellent point in favor of railing against those pesky creationists and their friends the theocrats. So he leaves it up to me to ask the question: just what sort of person might prefer a career in the private sector to one in academia, and why?
Well, I can come up with a few speculations. Academia is notorious for two things: relatively poor pay, and a liberal atmosphere. Republicans may shy away from academic careers, even in sciences such as engineering, because they a) would like more earning power; and b) would like to be in a place where their fellow colleagues are more simpatico. My guess is that there are many Republican scientists who are neither at war with ideas nor with science itself; they simply find a home in other arenas, such as aerospace, the military, NASA, and private industry of all kinds.
UPDATE: Going back to Dr. Sanity's, I noticed that she's posted a link to Stanley Kurtz's remarks at National Review's "The Corner" on the Krugman column. In his early paragraphs about political bias in the universities, Kurtz seems to ignore the fact that Krugman is referring to the lack of Republican representation in the sciences, not the humanities. In his last paragraph, however, Kurtz makes essentially the same point I make here about self-selection among scientists.