Wednesday, July 28, 2010
- Richard Epstein (Chicago), Liberal Bias in Law School?:
There is no question that if law professors were arrayed on a one-dimensional liberal to conservative line, the majority would be toward the liberal end. The interesting questions are two.
First, just what would the distribution look like? ...This is hard to gauge without some detailed work, but on average I would say that there are more left-wing democrats than center-left democrats. ... On the conservative side there is also a break of a different order, between social conservatives and libertarians. ... [M]y own sense is that a larger fraction of the right of center law professors are active in scholarship than on the left, which changes the public discourse.
Second, there is one factor that mutes these differences in many instances. Law is a profession, and you have to know such things as the civil rules of procedure and corporations. The subject matter requires technical knowledge. There are right and wrong answers. The gap therefore among law professors may be large on such questions as do we believe in constitutional originalism. But by the same token, the technical and professional anchor tends to bring the two sides closer together, for the great benefit of the profession. That is perhaps why it is often hard to figure out where academics stand on the political spectrum from reading their legal writings.
Professor Epstein has a post over at Ricochet. He agrees that there’s liberal bias, but notes that its effect is muted somewhat in the more technical areas of the law (a point that I also made in our debate). ...
Professor Yoo, commenting on the Epstein post, is less sanguine. He notes that the Berkeley study may understate the number of conservative law professors (a point that Elie and I also raised), and he views this possibility as exacerbating rather than ameliorating the problem of liberal bias, due to the problem of self-censorship by right-leaning law profs. ... And some conservatives never even make it into the academy, according to Yoo. ...
But the liberal Liz Wurtzel — John Yoo’s college pal and former colleague on the Harvard Crimson, by the way — is unconcerned. First, she questions whether conservatives are actually unwelcome in law schools. ... And if there is a liberal bias, perhaps it is warranted, Wurtzel suggests. Shouldn’t the fact that intellectuals tend to be drawn to liberal ideas tell us that liberal ideas are smarter?