Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Intellectual diversity

I should know better than to ever read something by right-wing hack Thomas Sowell, but his most recent column titled "Left’s intolerance discourages diversity" that ran in the Express-News on Tuesday is just appalling.
My first thought was if the Left has discouraged diversity, what would our nation be like if it had all been left up to the Right? Would we still have Jim Crow laws and segregated schools and separate lunch counters? Who are they trying to kid here?
Sowell begins his column by mentioning the recent end of Albert Hunt's weekly column on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Hunt was the sole liberal who was given space on those pages and I was distressed last week when I learned that his tenure there was ending, and here we have Sowell using this as an example of the Right’s superiority in supporting ideological diversity. Let's see.... One column per week in an editorial section that is otherwise solidly hard-right - and it is ending with no new liberal taking up the vacant slot. And this is Sowell’s idea of diversity.
Imagine for a moment if the Express-News tried something like this. The paper is constantly berated by the Right as a bastion of liberal bias, and yet they make a point of having not one, but usually two or three conservative columnists on their page everyday - not just once a week. What if they had only one conservative once a week. Would Sowell applaud them for their ideological diversity too?

So the question really is whether or not Sowell is competent enough to be writing a newspaper column in the first place. But let’s go on.

Sowell goes on to talk about when he used to be a professor at UCLA (out in that liberal paradise of California) and notes that they had a "staunchly conservative" economics department there. Hmmmmm. But because they were so interested in having ideological diversity they deigned to hire one professor with more liberal ideas even though he wasn’t really up to snuff with the rest of them, or so Sowell says. Well, there you go. Once again Sowell has demonstrated the Right’s vastly superior interest in maintaining a diversity of ideas in academia.
Next, Sowell claims with no supporting evidence that academia today consists "soley of people ranging from the left to the far left." I would assume he means everyone except for UCLA, the University of Chicago, and those "few good small conservative colleges like Hillsdale or Grove City."

But the best part is when Sowell explains what happens to all those poor conservative intellectuals who are barred from entering the halls of American academia:

"One reason for the prominence of conservative think tanks is that so many top scholars who are not leftists do not find a home in academia and go to work for think tanks instead."

Oh, yeah. And maybe the other reason is MONEY$$$$!!! Did it occur to Sowell that the existence of so many conservative “think tanks” is due to the gobs of corporate money that funds them?? I don’t know for a fact, but I would imagine that most college professors make a pittance compared to what they pay at some of these big think tanks. Gee, why don’t we ask Sowell himself who gave up his job at UCLA to become a Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the conservative Hoover Institution. What do you think, Sowell? Would you like to give up your cush position at the Hoover Institute to go teach an economics class at some public university?

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