29 comments on “The other 20% are lying about their views

  1. The other 20% turn up on blogs all the time. The people who call the BBC right wing. I expect they all belong to a perfectly mainstream centrist group – like the Socialist Workers Party.

  2. Not quite true. I’m here!
    I’d guess about 10%.are not “of the left”.
    The problem is that we (who are not on the left) are very nervous about expressing our views and this encourages many to think that “only stupid people believe that”. We are in echo-chamber territory but not irredeemably so yet.

    I would point you at the Heterodox Academy, which is an initiative by Jonathan Haidt to encourage “viewpoint diversity” in universities.

    Maybe another problem is that only the left encourages people to be academics? I’m strongly of the opinion that there are too many of us (particularly in “soft” subjects), but even in STEM subjects there is a trend for those who are sensible (and thus not on the left) to feel encouraged not to become an academic.

  3. I heard this being discussed on R4 this morning.

    Chap from the ASI: we’ve found this result, we think it’s interesting, and we wonder why it happens and whether it has any effect – groupthink, for example.

    Chap from a university: I don’t accept these results. The methodology wasn’t the same as 50 years ago, it was only a sample of 1,000 of the 200,000 in the population (and I will therefore imply that a sample cannot be statistically useful, you need a census); and in any case my university says that there must be freedom of speech and of thought, so clearly there isn’t a problem and this study should be disregarded as rubbish. The consensus is that groupthink could never be a problem.

    His arguments left me convinced… but not, I suspect, of what he wanted me to believe 🙂

  4. “Maybe another problem is that only the left encourages people to be academics?”

    I think that is true, most of my friends who have now become academics were on the left when I was a student.

    I am a big fan of intellectual inquiry and knowledge for its own sake and think despite political distortions universities still produce valuable soft subject knowledge even if a lot is turgid.

    I think the trend to going into academia is that often very left wing people dont fancy plying their skills in the marketplace, as a deep knowledge of politics is only marketably useful if you make some concessions as to how you use it (lobbying, finance, civil service, mainstream electoral politics).

    So not fancying being a highly educated average worker and the fact the left dont have hard power, they go into soft power institutions. Furthermore, in my opinion, the many people on the proper left are the last people I would ever want to give actual power or management of anything to and nor do they have the skills or strategy to ever be in charge of something important, so better to be a big fish in people talking narratives (of variable quality) to each other than get stuck into our imperfect world and face the reality of having to make hard choices, your assumptions destroyed and failure.

    Also I would imagine academics in the business and economics departments are ‘right wing’.

  5. The only outright non-left wing lecturers I came across at my uni were in the economics department (although a good number of them were still left-wing). I imagine there are some in the STEM fields as well as although I have limited first hand experience. I just notice that students studying STEM were less likely to be left-wing than those not and I assume the lecturers would reflect this.

  6. What kind of left-wing are we talking about here? Is it the more-tax left or the fagina-monologues left? I imagine most university profs want more tax (for obvious reasons of self-interest); but the radical feminists are limited to the social sciences departments.

  7. No, silly.

    Almost every student is a leftie. Being right-wing is something you have to earn, in general, because only once you have a non-zero amount of money do you realise it has value. Only once the tax man starts taking your pennies away and spending them on a quango measuring the happiness of Welsh sheep do you realise that everyone giving away all their money for snowflakey purposes isn’t necessarily a great idea.

    Lecturers are generally left wing because they never make it out of university into the real world and they never make any real money.

    Some professors are right wing, but only usually the really good ones, because they’ve managed to start earning a decent salary. Like the Professor of Mathematical Genetics at Oxford University, who filled in for some lectures when I was an undergraduate and proved hopeless at teaching us abstract algebra but fantastic at getting a daily parking ticket on his Lamborghini and not caring, and even better at handing out a half-hour rollicking to the idiots who’d skipped a lecture to go on a Stop the War march.

  8. Mal Reynolds,

    I wouldn’t bet on that. Lecturers, like most public servants, have a self-interest in being lefty – Labour will spend more money on government, the Tories won’t. The likes of Brian Cox and Hawking have campaigned for Labour.

    But this is the financial left rather than the politically correct left.

  9. And of the 20% who are supposedly not ‘left-wing’ I’d expect that 20 to be made up of 10 who are ‘centre-left’ rather than explicitly ‘left-wing’ – still wouldn’t dream of voting further right than Labour or the Lib Dems – while 5-9 will be ‘centrist/moderate’ in that they probably consider voting for the modern, wet, social democratic and liberal incarnation of the Tories.

    Leaving 1-5% who might (maybe) be secretly ‘right-wing’ in any meaningful sense.

  10. Most economists are centre left. Financial economics has more right wingers. Management has many lefties.

  11. I was talking a while ago to a former senior staffer at the BBC. Working closely with someone who showed free-market leanings in a discreet way, it took SIX MONTHS of guarded conversation before they both felt comfortable admitting to each other that they were Tories, such was the institutional bias against right-wingers

  12. Students being leftie?
    Would that not depend on their upbringing and experiences to date?

    I was a student, I was probably at that time not what the Labour fan club would call left wing.
    Quite a number of mature students on my course, a few of them were pretty left wing but likely left wing before they started uni.

    A good chunk of the uni students of course go straight through the school system and straight onto uni.
    Were their teachers lefties? Were their parents?

  13. I work in a university, and have worked as an academic before discovering that being an administrator gave better hours, similiar pay and actually more time to do my research (yes, I’m in a ‘soft’ subject, so sue me…). I’m pretty confident my political views (not exactly a secret) were not a block to me getting jobs – my incompetence at interviews was the major problem there…

    A lot of academics are personally left-wing, although in my generation (and also in the younger generation that I grudingly admit exists) this is less obvious. But most in my experience are open about this, and happy to allow different viewpoints. The number of dogmatic lefties, who only teach that view and try to indocrinate students, is quite small nowadays, and most are older academics.

    Frankly, to be an academic nowadays you need to do interesting research (which in almost every field now rules out ‘Marxist’ critiques – even social psychology is facing up to the problems of group think (mainly by the worst culprits claiming its not happening…)), teach well (which precludes focus on particular ideologies), and to engage with partners internationally. It is becoming more of a regular job for people with a skill set and less of the ivory tower ideal. I can’t say many academics are happy about this, but those that cope with it are the ones that get promoted in the main.

    Of course there are universities with different cultures – I’d pick out the University of Western Australia and, to a point, Sussex (the VC there seems to be trying to change the culture though) – where ideology is important. And there will always be shared assumptions – e.g. that the EU referendum vote was a disaster, or (more surprisingly) that Jeremy Corbyn is a very bad idea – but that happens in any workplace.

  14. Watchman’s comments are interesting and quite encouraging to me.
    Maybe I’m just extremely libertarian/right, but I get the feeling there is still a lot of unreconstructed leftist groupthink and an atmosphere of “these people on the right are terrible” in my university.
    Things are more hard-edged at the mo because the left are flailing after the Brexit vote and Trump’s election. Maybe that’s why I feel threatened.
    FWIW I have worked outside academia and that helps a lot to give perspective but when I read Research Fortnight (aimed at University researchers) and see that the editorial line is resolutely of the left I get a bit depressed.

  15. Perhaps the other 20% are left-wing, but are too scared to admit it because they fear a right-wing backlash from the higher education establishment?

  16. As another academic (though not in a ‘soft’ subject), I have not found there to be any particular problem with “unreconstructed leftist groupthink”, at least not in the places I’ve worked.
    I note that when I worked in the field of climate change research my colleagues were well aware of my political position and didn’t seem bothered by it, even on occasion asking me to solicit libertarian opinions on their work and lamenting the lack of interest in the problem from free-marketeers.

  17. One of our Vote Leave crew (we still meet for pub quizzes) is an academic. He says he dare not admit he voted Leave at work.

  18. Years ago, when I was interviewing candidates for admission to Natural Sciences for a Cambridge college, an interviewing partner wanted to turn down one young man because he’d let slip that his parents took the Telegraph.

    This twerp – the interviewer not the candidate – went on to be a Head of Department, a pro-Vice Chancellor, and to sport a gong.

  19. My experience in academia (which I have now thankfully got out of) is that academia has become more left-wing — centre-left, that is — over the last twenty years.

    These days the leftism is more pronounced in regards to SJW issues like immigration, feminism and racism than wealth redistribution, although that’s still an issue.

    When I say it’s become more left-wing I don’t mean that it’s gone further to the left, but rather that the numbers of right-wing (or non-left-wing) academics has reduced, and also that the intolerance of anyone having a non-left wing viewpoint has greatly increased. In fact, since Brexit I’d say that political intolerance in the Academy has ramped up to mouth-frothing levels.

  20. but even in STEM subjects there is a trend for those who are sensible (and thus not on the left) to feel encouraged not to become an academic.

    I think this is a lot older than people think — it’s not a trend.

    My Chemistry department 35 years ago was very heavily Labour, back when NZ Labour was still very Socialist. Given that the town itself was marginal, they didn’t represent the normal balance at all, even back then.

    Purge them all and let the dole office sort them out.

    They’d only be replaced by others of their sort. Purging isn’t effective when the replacements are of identical or worse characteristics. Sacking the current holders to replace them with ones who couldn’t previously even make their grade doesn’t seem a step forward.

    If you want to make academia less left wing then you need to change the basis of employment so that right-wing people find it more congenital.

  21. Chester Draws: I was piss taking with a play on the old “Kill “em all and let God sort “em out” line.

    So called “Humanities” we really have no need of. Sack ’em and don’t replace them. They can teach privately to students paying for themselves if they are interested.

    Science leftists need to have it made clear they are there to teach science not Marxism. And if you are a scientist you can hardly peddle Marxian subjectivism one minute and scientific objectivity the next. It would likely be a small problem. And serious science/tech/engineering students surely have to work too hard to have leisure for leftist antics anyway.

  22. Watchman – “Frankly, to be an academic nowadays you need to do interesting research (which in almost every field now rules out ‘Marxist’ critiques”

    The last time I wandered past a group of academic books, I saw one on Gender, sexuality and Heavy Metal music. Not an article. Some real academic press had published an actual hard cover book.

    So I am not sure I am inclined to believe this.

  23. “Frankly, to be an academic nowadays you need to do interesting research (which in almost every field now rules out ‘Marxist’ critiques’ ”

    Yes, this is horseshit. Sure Marxian analyses are old hat, but generally what passes for ‘interesting’ in the Humanities is often dire rubbish.

  24. So that’s me, Clovis and Watchman for free-market supporters in universities. And I know of perhaps half a dozen others across the UK. It would still round to 100% leftie.

    Watchman, interesting comments, thank you. My impression is that things are indeed moving the way you say, but that it varies very much between institutions.

  25. In my field there used to be 5 people in the whole of the UK who could be described as right-wing, or free-market, or libertarian, or conservative. (And not all of them would accept all those labels). But one of them went into freelance writing/business consultancy, two are now retired, and I’ve left, so now there’s only one. And he’s no spring chicken.

    (Possibly there are some newer people in the field who are right-wing. I doubt it, but if there are, they’re keeping very quiet about it.)

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