Todd Zywicki has a great post refuting some of the left's explanations for academia's pervasive political divide. He points out that the typical answer these days appears to be some variation of self-selection -- "rightists don't want to work here or aren't qualified". Mr. Zywicki uses statistics to explain why this isn't a likely answer, and then makes a very important observation:
Even if this is self-selection, this [explanation] is not necessarily responsive--when the elite academy is confronted with other examples of "underrepresented" interests, they do not simply throw up their hands and complain of a shallow talent pool. Instead, at Columbia for instance, the diversity committee is "tasked with finding ways to strengthen the pipeline bringing women and minority students into the University's undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral programs" and not merely take what the pipeline produces. ...
In conclusion let me add a thought--it seems utterly absurd that people are still making uninformed armchair speculation about the causes of the prevailing ideological imbalance in the academy. Is it self-selection? Conservatives are greedier? Conservatives are dumber? When it comes to addressing the issue of other "underrepresented minorities" on college campuses, the record overflows with high profile blue ribbon panels of leading scholars and administrators. No stone is left unturned and no penny left unspent to try to determine why women are "underrepresented" in teaching math and science, or the underrepresentation of minorities. I think maybe it is time to take even a small percentage of those tens of millions being spent at places like Harvard and Columbia and perhaps do a study of the causes of the ideological disparity in the academy, rather than simply speculate and pontificate. At the very least, such a study would eliminate some of the more preposterous hypotheses (such as the idea that conservatives generically like money more than liberals or that conservatives lack the intellecutal frame of mind to succeed in academia).
I love economists... maybe that'll be my next degree.