ArnoldKlingOnMovingToTheRightOutsideAcademia (ThoughtStorms)

Arnold Kling has a discussion on the real world economy pressures which push economists to the right : http://www.techcentralstation.com/082903A.html (Read with LiberalBias, MovingToTheLeftInsideAcademia)

The important points seem to be that :

Compare DanielDavies : http://d-squareddigest.blogspot.com/2003_06_29_d-squareddigest_archive.html#105733791393255893


Compare Academics more productive if they go outside, and then return : SuccessivePartialAdaptions


Thoughts

: All that personal responsibility is, is a certain kind of defensiveness against risk ... normally expressed as prioritising the aquiring and holding of wealth for yourself, and reducing generosity towards others. (1) That is all that Kling's personal responsibility can mean. The market certainly doesn't seem to teach other kinds of responsibility such as wage restraint (at either employee or board level), honest accounting, long term commitment to a company by board or shareholders, long term commitment to community or environment etc.

:Conversely, academics, through their privileged position, are the only people who've experienced freedom from this risk and can see how much nicer it would be for everyone to live without it.

: Companies also have a legal status which preserves their integrity. Even the most disastrously disorganized corporate still has limited liability and the right to protect itself from creditors through bankruptcy. This government given protection may be holding together a body which would have otherwise disintegrated if left to it's own merits. How does this bias the equation, when big companies can wait for smaller creditors to go bust?

that's not the same as saying centrally organized funding need be spent in a centralized or inefficient way. Universities and tenured academics have some autonomy (that's one of the points of the article). Schools, hospitals, welfare schemes etc. could also be organized that way. Tenure and autonomy protects workers at the edge of the network from the problems caused by centralized government control. (Most of which is introduced when government doesn't trust it's agents sufficiently and wraps them in red tape.)

democratic government has one huge moral advantage over the market. It has a constitution (or equivalent) which grants access rights** (for things like voting for representatives) equally. If you don't like the way government organizes things, you have some small power to change it, however poor you are. If you don't like the way the market organizes things, and you aren't rich, you have no rights which guarantee you a voice.

Having said this, he is of course right, academics should work in the other sectors to get a greater understanding of them.


(1) Generosity that is expressed either directly, or by voting for communal responsibility and higher taxes. Now a rightist may say that voting for higher taxes which will be payed mainly by other, richer people is not a very impressive notion of generosity. But those taxes will still have a disutility for him. So, regardless of how it impacts the rich, the professor is choosing generosity.


Gift Economy Argument

Or moving to the left inside academia

Perhaps there's a very different process at work. Think about GenevieveVaughan's theories of GiftEconomies. For Vaughan, "gifting" is a parallel economic mode to "exchange" based on attentiveness to others' needs and a desire to try to fulfill them. Some of the important work around this area is based on looking for "gifting" which may be neglected in some parts of life. Now, one thing I notice since starting teaching, is that a lot of the fun of teaching is seeing each student as a separate puzzle. Each student has a history, set of beliefs which are the causes of their confusion (eg. one has only used Fortran and isn't used to local variables and recursion, another doesn't want to write programs and is doing the course under duress etc). And your challange is to figure out what they don't understand, why they don't understand it and how to get from there to knowing the right stuff.

Now, of course, this is precisely having to practice attentiveness to the mental worlds and needs of others and to try to solve this problem. This in turn may very well flex the muscles of a type of mentality more attuned to gifting than exchange. And the counter to Kling is that economists who go into industry are simply leaving a world where gifting is a working part of the total economy, and useful skill to have, and entering a world where a ruthelessly alienated exchange dominates gifting and such sensitivities atrophy.


See also :


CategoryPolitics