The Corner


Professors Shouldn’t Write Screeds

Suppose that a college professor whose academic field is something other than climate science were to write a book arguing that all the furor over global warming was wrong and merely cover for a stealthy plot by a cabal of leftists with oodles of money to capture control of the commanding heights of the economy so they can revel in their authoritarian desires. Think the Left would complain? Sure. And I’d complain too. Academics should stick to books that advance knowledge in their fields and leave the politically inflammatory stuff to others.

But it’s a sign of the times that we find leftist professors writing screedy books on topics they know little or nothing about in order to confirm the biases of their fellow lefties. That may sell lots of books, but it’s disreputable and further lowers the standing of higher education in America. In today’s Martin Center article, I look at two recent books in the “Right-wingers are just evil people so don’t bother with their arguments” genre: Economism by James Kwak and Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean.

The first is by a law professor who contends that we are kept from adopting the policies we need to address what he thinks is our crucial national problem (inequality) because so many Americans have been brainwashed with what he calls “economism.” What he means by that is “simplistic” thinking derived from Econ 101 courses that makes people skeptical about such measures as minimum-wage increases and higher taxes on the rich. In his telling, America used to be a fine, more equal place under enlightened New Deal regulations, but then a bunch of greedy right-wing businessmen cooked up a plot to regain power. That plot involved pushing “economism” so as to deregulate and block new policies they don’t want. It’s a silly and uncharitable argument made by someone who obviously has no familiarity with the limited goverment, free-market movement, but it will reassure leftists that their ideological opponents are bad people.

MacLean’s book has gotten far more attention. For her research (such as it was), she garnered a National Endowment for the Humanities grant of more than $50,000. She is a historian but wanted to write a hit piece on that same cabal of right-wing billionaires and their nefarious plans to subjugate America as Kwak attacks, so she concocted an outrageous claim that the late James Buchanan — Nobel Prize winner in 1986 and founder of Public Choice theory — was the evil genius they chose to advance their case. Ever since Democracy in Chains was published last month, it has been taking fire from people who actually knew Buchanan and understand what Public Choice is all about. Rather than trying to answer her critics (including some who have pointed out that she’s guilty of simply making stuff up so her argument seems plausible), MacLean has taken to whining that she’s a victim of “coordinated attacks” by people funded by the Koch brothers.

But Oprah calls it a great book!

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.