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Political Implications of Over-Bashfulness in The Non-Economics Social Sciences

By Matthew Yglesias on September 5, 2010 at 12:57 pm

"Political Implications of Over-Bashfulness in The Non-Economics Social Sciences"

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Scott Eric Kaufmann says that yes indeed academics are generally discouraged from communicating about their work to popular audiences. Neil Sinhababu notes the political implications:

It’s a problem specifically for progressives because a lot of the areas where they’re concentrated have exactly these norms against doing public intellectual work. Meanwhile, economists are free to go out there and mostly spread right-wing dogma across the galaxy. And it’s a problem for everybody, because you’d want the knowledge that’s contained in academia to find some way out. Lots of resources are expended on producing this knowledge, and the personal advancement of academics is all about creating more of it, and then nobody has any way of accessing it.

I suppose one might speculate that this is actually one of the causes of the “economists are different” phenomenon. Academics are, on the whole, pretty left-wing. And yet their business model is basically “persuade a bunch of rich guys to give us money in order to enhance their prestige.” Insofar as rich people are more likely to feel flattered by the kinds of things economists are likely to say to a non-specialist audience, why not be disproportionately welcome to them communicating to such audiences. Larry Bartels’ discomfiting findings should maybe be kept off the radar.

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