Jason Stanley on the Free-Speech Fallacy

The focus of the piece is on claims by Jonathan Haidt and others who are part of the Heterodox Academy that academia needs to be diversified by the addition of conservative voices.  Stanley responds:

The political diversity at issue in the writings of Heterodox Academy members is the narrow spectrum between liberals and conservatives. These categories are occasionally used as if they naturally corresponded to “Democrat” and “Republican.” This bizarrely narrow view of political diversity conveniently fits into an argument to hire conservatives, but not Marxists or critical race theorists. “Liberal” and “leftist” are used interchangeably throughout their writings, as if there isn’t a feminist critique of liberalism. Where are the Marxists or feminists in economics, a discipline that is, according to Haidt, “the only social science that has some real diversity”?

In a 2014 paper published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, a Heterodox Academy member and professor of law at Georgetown University, decries liberal overrepresentation in law schools. But again, most feminists, Marxists, and critical race theorists do not identify as liberals, and law schools notoriously lack advocates of these standard leftist positions. This failing of political diversity is rendered invisible by the partisan setup of this research program.

7 thoughts on “Jason Stanley on the Free-Speech Fallacy

  1. I don’t want to suggest that this example is worse than any of the others, but it stuck in my craw:

    In 2006 Steven Pinker, a Heterodox Academy member and Harvard psychologist, lamented the lack of investigation into certain “dangerous ideas.” An example he gives: “Would damage from terrorism be reduced if the police could torture suspects in special circumstances?”

    This is an idea that has in fact been extensively investigated–not just in the academy–and found to be wrong. (And that is entirely outside Pinker’s area of expertise.) Apparently what Pinker objects to is not that his dangerous ideas are not investigated, but that they’re not accepted.

    Which just reinforces what Stanley says; the Heterodox thinkers’ case that free speech rights are in danger is not that any conservative ideas are being prevented from being presented, but that they are subject to vigorous criticism. Apparently conservative ideas need to be protected from this kind of criticism. Coddled, one might say.

  2. The reason there are not many Marxist economists is that Marx was a naturalistic thinker. As such he made predictions based on his theory. Since these predictions did not pan out, researchers tried to make the paradigm work, but to no avail. In the end, the theory had to be abandoned; there is simply nothing for a Marxist economist to do. Because a downturn in the business cycle is not a “contradiction of capitalism”. According to Marx, by this time we should be in a downturn that never ends because investment in new capital should no longer be profitable.

    Of course, this does not mean that Marxism is totally dead; it can still work as a political ideology to motivate armed rebellions in the Third World. But as a theory of some area of study, it’s as dead as can be, and that means I’m out.

    Feminism is in a much better position because it can be interpreted as an agenda dealing with a set of related problems. But feminists bring scorn on feminism for treating it like a “theory of everything”. In this false view, the answer to every problem is “What Would a Stereotypical Feminist Do?”. Examples of this are Radical Feminism and Ecofeminism, both of which see sexism as the root of all evil. While sexism is an evil, it is not THE evil. Unfortunately, these schools are not as naturalistic as Marx and therefore do not bother to follow naturalistic methodology. This means that they don’t even know how to answer the question “What is the basis of your philosophy?” at the same level that Marx could.

    On the other hand, the study of political and ethics from the school of Haidt and Pinker is only just now getting started. I understand why people don’t like it because it took me a while. If you are a researcher into social science and you ignore it, you are screwing yourself. Read “The Righteous Mind” and then some evolutionary theory.

  3. Adding to what noetika says, this argument is largely about academia in the United States–for instance, the Heterodox Academy’s statement of “The Problem” begins “American universities have leaned left for a long time,” and in the quoted passage Stanley invokes the two major American political parties. So the presence of Marxian economists in British universities (if that’s even an accurate description of Ha-Joon Chang) isn’t really on point.

  4. BTW, I was not aware that Haidt said that about torture; he should have chosen a different example. Since he is a psychologist maybe he knows something I don’t, but a better example would be the ethics of sexual “purity” and marriage. The existence of purity as an entire module of morality (in Haidt’s view) seemed rather weird to me (since I am not very prudish by temperment) until I looked into it from the perspective of evolutionary game theory. In that light, it makes sense that sexual morals would be antagonistic to modern conceptions of liberty. I will look into this in my blog soon, but have already outlined the basic approach in earlier posts.

    Of course the efficacy of torture for getting good data is relevant to the ethical issue of whether it should be done, but I fail to see why this is a god example of something that would be helped by a conservative perspective. As far as I know, conservatives have the same ideas on this as liberals.

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