Two of the weblogs that I read seem to have touched on what might be the same topic without realizing it. First up was Asymmetrical Information with this:

There’s an assumption among the humanities types I run with that lacking the particular things that make you good at being a journalist, a professor, or an analyst, such as interest in academic research and discussions, good research skills, a good prose style and a quick tongue, are what make you good at any important job, and especially a president’s job. But Jimmy Carter had a PhD and he was a hopeless ditherer. Harry Truman was not particularly bright, and he desegregated the damn military. Leadership is not an academic excercise.

(I’ll point out, now, in a turnabout-is-fair-play way, that there’s an assumption among many of the MBA’s I hang out with that the things that made them good at business school — mathematical ability, organization and detail-orientation, competitive instinct and an unflagging willingness to jump through seemingly pointless hoops in order to get ahead — are what make you a good leader, and in some cases, a good person. This is also silly.)

Next up is Crooked Timber with this:

I’ve never found the argument that conservatives are discriminated against in academia terribly compelling. But it does seem like an interesting case, if only because in making it common or garden conservatives are forced to admit the existence of institutionalized inequality, something they are usually loath to acknowledge. Andrew Sullivan just bumped into this question. (Via Pandagon.) He raises and then dismisses the most parsimonious explanation for this inequality, namely that conservatives are just not as clever as liberals and so don’t get hired. He quotes a tongue-in-cheek line from a Duke Prof, who says “If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire. Mill’s analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia.” Andy is not persuaded, of course. But why not?

Does anyone else see the connection here? What if the arguments made about the differences between “academic intelligence” and “business intelligence” actually relate to why liberals are more attracted than anti-liberals (my term for both conservatives and libertarians) to academia? Academics in any field have to develop a certain facility with words and with various foms of persuasion (sometimes even crossing the line into sophistry). Academic pursuits are primarily investigative and deliberative. By contrast, business types rely on very different forms of persuasion and are more focused on choosing one possibility than on exploring all.

My point is that the same distinction largely applies to liberals and conservatives. Keeping an open mind and considering different viewpoints is an essential part of the liberal philosophy. Choosing one idea and sticking to it through thick and thin is a conservative hallmarks. Liberals delight in skewering sacred cows – even their own. Many conservatives believe that is not possible for the conventional wisdom – whether passed down from the traditional trinity or that of Rand, Friedman and Hayek – to be wrong. Anti-liberals on the net certainly engage in certain kinds of verbal persuasion, but it’s usually limited to obvious tricks such as redefinition, false dilemmas, and argument by repetition; theirs is the verbal bludgeon, not the rapier, and that’s a comment on style rather than intellect (this time). The predominance of liberals in academia might be simply a matter of style and perceptions of value, not ideology.