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February 24, 2016+Jonathan Haidt
+Viewpoint Diversity

Krugman is wrong - We are neither conservative nor outraged

The post below was written in February 2016, when we had only 27 members. But here’s the update on our political diversity as of June, 26, 2017: Now that we have opened up membership to any professor who wants to join, and we have almost 900 members, our distribution across political categories has gotten even better. We are now probably the most politically balanced and diverse organization in the academy. Here are the categories that HxA members chose when they applied for membership:

[Here’s the original post, from 2/24/16]

Paul Krugman recently said — referring to Heterodox Academy — that “conservatives are outraged at what they see as a sharp leftward movement in the academy.” This was funny for two reasons. First, we’re not outraged, we’re concerned, and there’s a big difference: emotions drive reasoning, and therefore outrage is usually incompatible with good scholarship. (You should be wary of scholars whose writing suggests that they are in a constant state of outrage.) The tone of the page that Krugman was reacting to, like the tone just about everywhere at Heterodox Academy, is calm and measured. We are concerned about the loss of viewpoint diversity in the academy because it means that we lose “institutionalized disconfirmation.” The quality of research produced by politically orthodox disciplines deteriorates. We are working within the academy to try to improve it.

Second, we’re not conservatives, we’re diverse. At least, that’s what we thought about ourselves, but we never actually checked. In our internal discussions, you can’t easily tell who is what. Now that we’re up to 27 members, we thought it was high time we found out. So we created a simple anonymous web survey and sent it out to all of our contributors. Twenty-five responded. [See post-script for update in Jan. 2017] Here are the results.

We asked: “During presidential and congressional elections, which political party do you generally vote for?” As the graph below shows, we’re evenly divided between the two parties. But only 9 (36%) regularly vote Republican:

We asked: “Which label comes closest to your overall political identity or self-description?” As the graph below shows, we are mostly “centrist or moderate” (36%) and “libertarian or classical liberal” (32%). Three of us (12%) call ourselves “Progressive or left leaning”. Only five of us (20%) think of ourselves as “conservative or right leaning,” so no more than one fifth of us could possibly be “outraged conservatives” at any given point in time.

When we asked about our contributors’ views on social issues, we discovered that we’re fairly left leaning. Only five of us (20%) are right of center.

When we asked about our contributors’ views on economic issue, the picture reverses: only four of us (16%) call ourselves left of center.

In conclusion, Heterodox Academy is very heterodox. How many departments in the social sciences, humanities, or law have as much viewpoint diversity as we do? And therefore, who would you trust to think more carefully about complex and politically charged matters of public policy: a typical academic department, or us? Pick us, or we’ll be outraged.

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