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Even if what you are writing is innocuous, maybe some people are uncomfortable with someone (whether an employer or anyone else) being able to pull up your entire history of comments on the web. Google and Facebook probably know enough about you as it is.

So use your real name here, and use pseudonyms on the sports and porno sites.

To be clear, I think Pete's argument above is a really good one and I *wish* that folks would not use pseudonyms. But I'm not interested in enforcing that as a rule here because I think the benefits of keeping the conversation open outweigh the costs Pete rightly notes. I could be wrong of course.

And I still think the comments section here is one of the best on the web in terms of seriousness of content. The signal to noise ratio is actually pretty high in comparison to other sites, even good ones like Volokh or MR. And our s-to-n ratio is much higher than Cafe Hayek's, I would note.

“Really? What job could someone really have where it would be harmful to their career that they read the ideas of a Nobel Prize winner in economic science?”

Well, I’m a public sector worker in a Latin American country.

Being a Hayekian here means you are either extremely naive or plain evil: you are either not aware that in a free market the poor will die in hunger, or you want to sell the whole country to the U.S. while knowning that the poor will die in hunger because of this.

This is not Venezuela, but sometimes I think it is.

I know someone who uses a pseudonym for his facebook account and basically his entire social life because he is a libertarian working for an environmental firm. He's not the only one I know who has had to do funky things with his fb account to avoid retribution. So this doesn't really surprise me.

I agree with Peter Boettke.

First, if someone is using multiple pseudonyms, that's a major problem. At The Liberty Papers, that behavior is one of the few reasons you'll get banned. I'm okay with pseudonyms, but there is such a thing as an online reputation (if even within the comments of a single site), and the requirement that someone hold a single pseudonym is the little bit one can do to ensure they behave as if their reputation depends on it.

That said, I don't begrudge pseudonymous posters. Separating online from offline life is understandable. Things said "between friends" online are not private, even though they sometimes feel so. And they're permanent. Wanting to make it a little harder for prospective employers to trace your online life (particularly if you're in an apolitical field and you comment on political topics) is understandable. And per Ryan above, I'm quite sure there are places where there would be more overt retribution.

I personally use my real name (made possibly tougher for me re: Google searches because Warbiany is an uncommon enough name that I'm related to all the others), but I understand the motivation of those who don't.

I don't read pseudonym comments.

Nor comments with only a first name.

It's completely understandable to avoid leaving behind an electronic paper trail which may come back to bite you in the ass. We all make mistakes before we realize it. When we do it's usually too late.

"I know someone who uses a pseudonym for his facebook account and basically his entire social life because he is a libertarian working for an environmental firm."

No doubt. Here's a good example of what he would not want himself associated with:

http://mises.org/Community/forums/t/24391.aspx

Surely, multiple pseudonyms would be "ok" for those who are clinically shown to have multiple personalities.

In this case, "inside" one might be simultaneously a "Misesian," a "Hayekian" and a "Rothbardian." And the multiple pseudonyms permits such a person to "express" each one of himselves, including arguing with what one of himselves has just said.

Such a person would be suffering from multiple "disequilibria," and failure to respect their need for multiple pseudonyms could prevent their attempts to work through multiple competitive processes of thought and expression.

Richard Ebeling

@Daniel Klein
"Nor comments with only a first name." Too bad. If you would you can also read my last name :~) And I do occasionally click on commenter links. Your link tells me you have a major problem with your IT department. "500 Internal Server Error".

I agree with Peter Boettke about not being ashamed of your views/ideas, but I wouldn't get uptight about anonymous names.

"In the scientific commons these rules of self-governance apply just as much as any other area of social cooperation. Assigning accountability is a necessary component of that system of governance; otherwise the discipline of the graduated penalties cannot work. Anonymous and pseudonym postings can destroy the scientific commons."

Are there any rewards/penalties (reputational or otherwise) for blogging let alone blog commenting? I can see why the mechanisms work for refereed journals and books, but for blog comments? And for those who do publish I think it is their reputation for doing that which provides them with a reputation as a blogger/commenter. Everyone else is just noise (libertarian activists and similar types from whatever bits of the political spectrum).

Are there any regular commenters here who do not also publish articles and books who have any kind of reputation in the scientific commons?

People choose anonymity for all manner of reasons. People who are rude get banned by Professor Horwitz and rightly so, but that aside, I do not see what the positive or negative payoffs are for commenting.

If I ever publish a journal article (unlikely) I'll be sure to put my real name to it. But blog comments? Fuhgeddaboudit

I would leave out my political life on job applications. Heated political arguments could lead to lower job productivity so I could see employers favoring apolitical types.

"Are there any regular commenters here who do not also publish articles and books who have any kind of reputation in the scientific commons?"

Yep. Me. My poor soul. Doesn't matter: I'm just noise.

Any site Richard Ebeling where comments will have a high signal to noise ratio ..

Two big problems with pseudonym postings is the barn door this creates for dishonest and nasty people -- not just technical trolls but unethical and vicious people.

Rich and healthy communities are made possible by the exclusion of those who will not abide by minimal membership rules.

If you don't know who people are, you can't figure out who has shown up just to make waste of the place and exploit others.

Of course, vicious and dishonest people can and do run blogs, and set up participation rules that are dishonest and nasty (we know a few of those in tenured academic economics, don't we?).

And people have a choice to avoid those blogs.

What you don't want is to have a comments section where the nasty and dishonest fakes drive out good faith participants.

A sometimes costly part of running a comments section on a blog.

And so sayeth Greg Ransom; the guy for whom any disagreement with his views (whether Cowen, Caplan, DeLong, anyone) is a clear sign of leftist plots, or Marxian scheming, or lefty smears and hackery, or trolling. He sounds like a Randroid sometimes.

Ya gotta love the guy. He is entertaining.

Okay, boys, to your corners please. Both of you are demonstrating Pete's point better than he ever could.

Let's leave the personal stuff out, whether direct or oblique, and return to the topic at hand.

"Of course, vicious and dishonest people can and do run blogs, and set up participation rules that are dishonest and nasty (we know a few of those in tenured academic economics, don't we?)"

Delong can and does delete your posts on his blog. But he does not control the Austrian friendly journals (there are many). I'd suggest writing up an article evaluating DeLong on Hayek and submitting it. Then, if accepted, he'll have to respond. Ask the Profs here what they think of that idea?

Apologies to Dr Horwitz for any curtness (intended or otherwise when referring to other commenters).

Are blog comments just electronic noise or are they of any real scholarly value? To return to the point, does a blog commenter who is not already known for some scholarly achievement have any kind of a reputation that counts for anything equivalent to a stack of journal articles or books?

Please explain this "moral equivalence" between those who flag anonymous trolls and those who are anonymous trolls ...

I'd put down a $100 "Perlexed Hayekian" is the same stalker who's trolled me on other cites and this one in the past.

The MO is exactly the same.

Last time I tracked his IP address I came up with all sorts of profanity and found the guy wishing people to die of cancer.

When I guy hides behind a pseudonym, misrepresents himself repeatedly, and then begins personal attacks of exactly the same kind I've seen before, I have every right to make that assumption.

Not me I am afraid who is stalking you (you made the same charge against someone else a few weeks back as I recall when someone was rude about Gene Callahan) and I don't see how I can be accused of misrepresenting myself when I ask for more info on Grandin's accusations; you reply to accuse him of making up quotes; I do some more work on google and find the same quote at a reputable source; and then you accuse me of being a lefty smearer. Roger Koppl now thinks Grandin's claims about Hayek's letters merits further investigation (see other post). Unlike him I could not find the letter initially, but they allow advanced searches if you pay (any volunteeers?).

Pete's point is important in general but we need to cut some slack for people in awkward situations and we should welcome their comments if they add value.

In the 1980s I went through a period of using pseudonyms as well as my own name to give the impression that there were more of us on the ground. Especially when putting letters and comments into leftwing media, on the ground that they won't come to us, so we have to go to them.

Pete, Steve.

"Perplexed Hayekian" is a troll.

He's crapping up the place.

He's trolled me repeatedly (have you ever looked up the definition of this word? Anyone running a blog comment section needs to know it.)

He's done it again several times here.

When is enough enough?

I don't know whether to weep or be flattered when the arch 'Hayekian' troll on the internet calls me a troll (visit DeLong's site for a measured assessment). No more on this topic from me unless addressing something substantive such as Klein's anti-Hayekian charges and Grandin on what Hayek is meant to have said about dictators. All charges beg for rebuttal.

On the substantive issue --- didn't Hayek actually just argue that (a) a liberal dictator is preferred to a illiberal democracy, and (b) that the Allende regime engaged in behavior that was oppressive and confiscatory to property owners.

On (a) this is an important observation about the nature of liberalism (a theory about what the law should be) and democracy (merely a mechanism), and (b) is a comparative historical point.

As for Hayek's involvement with the regime. From what I can figure out, Hayek was honored by a free market think tank, he never was involved with the government directly. This think tank supported the _economic_ policies of Pinochet, but it was about destatization of the economy.

I have not studied these issues very closely --- I agree that as a matter of history of thought it would be valuable to sort out. Just as it is valuable to sort out the record on Keynes, or any other significant historical figure.

I do think there is an attempt to paint Hayek as something much more sinister than his personal biography would warrant. Hayek was a pointy headed academic; not half as politically engaged as Keynes, or even Friedman. The idea that he was an "advisor" to Chile in any real sense seems to me to be silly. And "scholars" the keep pushing this idea are being silly in my opinion, and perhaps even irresponsible.

Should Brad DeLong be held responsible for Clinton's policies toward Bosnia? toward Monica? or just about the economic ideas that were discussed. And Brad clearly worked closer and in a much more official capacity than did Hayek for even Thatcher's UK, let alone Pinochet's Chile.

So the claims by thinkers that Hayek has some intellectually consistent justification for Pinochet's crimes against humanity have to be dismissed in my mind. I think claims don't fit the historical facts, nor do the commentators understand Hayek's position on the relationship between liberalism and democracy, and politics and economic development.

Pete

Dear Greg,

If you think he's trolling, stop responding to him. You are perhaps the easiest person on the internet to troll because you feel obliged to respond to every single thing anyone says about Hayek. You have no one to blame but yourself.

Steve

PS: Mr. Hayekian has done nothing to deserve banishment once he decided to stick to one name.

I stopped engaging the troll at the time I recogmized what he was.

It's your choice Steve to allow dishonest people who make personal attackes to have free reign here.

Harvard philosopher Hilary Putnam was a supporter of Mao & his regime in regime in China.

No one says a word about it.

But I've often heard Willard Quine attacked for once being a Nixon supporter.

Such is academia.

The discussion has mostly been instructive. My priors are with Pete. Some folks made a case for using a monicker under exceptional circumstances. Not for others in my opinion.

I saw no convincing argument for the use of multiple pseudonyms. I know Steve has policed this practice in the past, and I commend him for his diligence.

I don't think Greg is to "blame" for being trolled. But he makes himself an easy target. His choice.

And the sad fact is there are trolls who use their own name. Go figure.

Folks who run blogs are providing a public good. They have the right to set any rules they want.

Greg,

Life isn't fair. We live the life we have chosen. So did Hayek.

I greatly admire Edith Piaf and her signature piece: Je ne regrette rien.

^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5gpBncR8zI

Pete,

Unions, professional societies & professional guilds are well known for protecting their peers from consequences, even from the worst sorts of behavior.

There is a lot of empirical evidence of this; I don't know if any academic has studied it.

In the LA & NY school districts, teachers who've come to school drunk or who have been accused multiple times of sexual improprieties with student remain on the payroll until retirement, and "work" in a holding room where they mark time.

Police are known for their silence about police crimes.

Politicians pal around with and say nice things about and cut deals with their most partisan "rivals".

It's naive to think that academic guilds and political communities are radically unlike all other such communities.

So the idea that peers are going to enforce consequence on powerful peers is hoping for a lot -- and more than empirical observation typically supports.

It's rare for something like the autism / Lancet case is rare.

More typical is the global warming / East Anglia / Penn St. whitewash, or the
harvard law plagiarism whitewash.

So, the idea that being wrong should be "painful" has to be taken with a grain of salt. I'd suggest especially so in the humanities and human sciences. People are wrong all the time, repeatedly and for decades with little visible sign of "pain".

This is esp. true where rivals are engaging essentially contested ideas.

Did the Cambridge controvesies hurt Samuelson? Not much.

The examples could be extended indefinitly.

May I suggest a basic rule of the game: Those of us who are not professional economists should make it clear periodically that we are simply interested bystanders who may be interested in the ideas being thrown around, but that we concede that there is no expectation that our opinions would carry the same force as those of credentialed scholars who are are most often very well recognized by name. A little humility goes along way (and yes, I am hearing my own sermon).

For me, my participation here is strictly about learning some economics from some master economists. However the reason I comment periodically, sometimes in a provocative way, is to try to discover if my personal understanding of a particular idea is well-founded, or if I'm off the deep end. Often this may evoke a rebuke, or Steve Horwitz may remind me that I have not yet mastered basic terminology and that I get an F in the particular discussion. Hopefully, I don't get mad, but have the smarts to dust myself off and go back to the literature and see where I went wrong. In the end, I may have learned something for the effort.

My own philosophy of learning has been shaped largely through the ideas of Polanyi, and that is that the student must first voluntarily submit to or respect the overriding authority of the maestro. If we don't trust, there often is no learning taking place. This goes for any area of intellectual pursuit. Even if an Austrian is convinced that Keynesianism is horrible economics, unless the Austrian economist submits momentarily to the argument of the fellow weighty Keynesian scholar, he is not likely to feel the full intellectual weight of the opposition's position.

Saying that, my particular style of learning often requires that I be put in my place and have my pride ruffled a bit. Hopefully such experience serves as the motivation to go back and read a work more carefully under the guidance of the master instructor. Let me give a particular example:

My subjective and isolated interpretation of Hayek and Mises each read in isolation first led me to conclude a major epistemological division between Hayek and Mises. Yet several of the scholars suggested that this is likely a faulty approach which yields a very limited or even inaccurate understanding of the arguments that these two economists are putting forth.

Now I could pretend that my ideas on the subject had equal force as those of Boettke. However, I am not dillusional enough to actually believe this is true. Though I do have credentials in another field of science and am confident that my intellect is likely up to the challenge of understanding the nuances of some arguments in a field of study not my own, the fact is that I am not quite presumptuous enough to think that the years of research put in by an academic economist who has devoted their life to understanding these problems does not trump my amateur survey of the subject.

Instead, I go back to Mises and Hayek and look for the connections. Hopefully at the end of the day, I have learned something for the effort.

So in the end, I do want to thank the hosts for their willingness to open this discussion up to the intellectually curious non-economists. I'm not sure what the gain is for you, but maybe someday some tycoon might show up and learn some economics, and donate a significant amount of money to endow a chair at your department in your name as a thank you card. You just never know.

I have been told by someone who teaches graduate students in English and Austrian economics that he helps them eliminate any such references on their CVs in order to ensure they have a much better chance at getting hired. I am sure he only started doing this once it became clear that his students were not getting hired. As someone who has had a Ph.D. for 7 years without an academic appointment, and whose scholarly work has involved two, shall we say, "unpopular" theoretical approaches to literary analysis (Darwinain and Austrian economics), I can understand why he advises his students as he does. I rather unpragmatically believe as Pete does that one should not hide who one is. But there are consequences. I am sure that the fact that I voice my every opinion on my main blog Interdisciplinary World", and discuss by approaches to literature on two other blogs, "Evolution and Literature" and "Austrian Economics and Literature," does not help me in the least.

If Hayek is to be believed, Hayek thought his popular political theory work got him effectively black balled from the economic profession -- he attempted to redeem his scientific reputatin with _The Sensory Order_. But Hayek seems not to have understood the modern credentials game -- top people in the field thought highly of his work, be Hayek would have to pursue that field full time to be accepted. Hayek turned down conference invitations from top people, and from that point was not appreciated by lesser lights throughout the acadamy as a leading global brain theorist -- as he is recognized today by Fuster and others.

steve -
re: "And I still think the comments section here is one of the best on the web in terms of seriousness of content."

Strongly agree.

I feel like it's one of the few places where "I think you have some great elements to your position but this is what I can't swallow" isn't taken as a Trojan horse.

The problem with interdisciplinary scholars is that the "credentials game" doesn't quite work for them. Which gets people like him (and me) in trouble. I do at least attend everything I'm invited to, though! And write papers when asked. I refuse to learn most of the lessons of being a narrow disciplinary scholar, but I have at least learned that much. :-) Nevertheless I keep getting told by people that they don't know what to do with me, or that I'm overqualified (for positions that require a Ph.D.!).

Pete,

I think you have forgotten how tolerant economics has become.

But first, to recall Alchian and Kessel (1961), the tendency to discriminate will depend on the property rights structure of the hiring firm. For-profit firms face capital losses from not hiring on merit. The managers within not-for-profit universities and in bureaucracies face fewer competitive disciplines from indulging in ideological purges.

Who you or I cite in argument is a summary marker of your framework of analysis and policy outlook.

When certain ideas are on the outer, so those the dare to speak the names of their authors - Friedman and Hayek and so on – a tarred with the same brush.

Back in the 1980s, Milton Friedman was still just graduated from a wild man in the wings to just a suspicious character in policy circles. He certainly had no influence on macroeconomic policy in Australia at all in the 1980s.

Mentioning Friedman’s ideas such as freezing the monetary face did me no good in a job interview with the Australian Treasury.

I could see it from the look on the interviewer’s face. I had worked with Rob Brooker before so I knew him and his expressive facial expressions well.

Australia was the last country to accept that inflation was a monetary phenomenon. Those that were ahead of that time in receiving this revelation were not welcome at the inn.

I wrote two papers in the mid-1990s for the then Industry Commission on merger policy. I was required to delete all of my references to Posner and Bork because they were too contentious. There were merely the spawn of the Chicago school.

Stigler (1976) argued that economists whose skill or experience is convivial to special interests will become leaders of opinion while economists who skill or experience is not convivial to special interests become writers of letters to provincial newspapers.

The demand for economists is a derived demand for labour based on the demand for the product that the employer sells.

To end, Murray Rothbard had a good record of publishing in leading journals in the late 1950s to early 1960s and published plenty of books but could not get a decent post.

Hayek and Mises could not get paid academic posts despite their formidable reputations of several decades, frequent journal articles, and numerous books.

Times are better, but not perfect simply because there are many more students attending many more universities.

Most everyone finds a post under Gary Becker’s employment segregation hypothesis with the more irascible economists being hired by the least prejudiced or unprejudiced universities, of which there many more these days. There are also more internal government think tanks paid to keep challenging ideas.


There are pseudonym postings at some sites with profile link that offer options to link to Facebook bios. Those who do not know this might want to rethink their rule of thumb to read nothing under a pseudonym. Pseudonym can be for a variety of reasons, only one of which is desire to cloak identity. In my case, I use "indianajim" at Cafe Hayek, with Facebook bio linkage on my profile there, to provide information about my geographic location. I'm proud to be from a "fly over" state with a history of support of liberty: from the underground railroad to Liberty Fund, to the Friedman's voucher effort office in Indianapolis. Again, a pseudonym can be for a variety of reasons; those who talk here as if there is just one reason (disguise) should reconsider their pretenses of knowledge.

Is the value of an opinion necessarily linked to the pseudonym used? By some opinions I can gather here, it seems so. And it is really sad, as the relevance of an intervention should depend on its content and reasoning, not a "name-surname" label which can even be false too.

I fear this way of thinking, as it is just a step afar from considering worth-reading only intervention from well-known your-School economists (so how could new talents emerge?).

Of course, by a legal point of view the owner of a site has the power to set the rules he prefers, like "no-speudo" names; but by a phylosophical freedom-oriented point of view I cannot find an absolute reason for someone to "impose" a "no-pseudo name" rule.

Here I use my name (is it really my name? who knows?), in MY blog I use a pseudonym, on other sites I sometimes use a pseudonym or my name... so what?
I am Italian. On english-written sites I can use my name as it sounds to "more serious", but it's just a matter of "me and my opinion", and I am quite sure my collegues and bosses will never approach a site they cannot even read. On italian sites I use a pseudonym 'cause I don't want collegues or bosses to recognise me, I think they would label me in a way not consistent to my opinions. Have I to be blamed for this?
I think people should be "free" to use pseudonyms as nobody else can know why; it's a knowledge problem, in a sense.

So, I humbly say, the owner of a site can decide to accept only full-signed comments, his own right, but please don't tell me it comes from an absolute principle.

Pete--
I agree with your position; hence the very few times I post I use my full name. However I find it ironic that you suggest there are really no penalties for having an interest in ideas--on the same day I read this book review in the WSJ:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703778104576287043835803026.html
This individual was denied tenure and removed for the audicity of studying the effects of religion on crime...


"I simply do not believe that any employer would discriminate against holding intellectual conversations about economic thinkers"

Pete, this simply is not always true and I think may represent your particular vantage point from academia.

I happen to work for a giant public corporation as a senior researcher on the front line of some things that often do have large political ramifications. For this reason, even a hint of my libertarian political leanings can be percieved by the public in ways that are detrimental to the interests of the stockholders of my employer. If you want specifics, I will be happy to provide them to you offline.

I have been specifically instructed to stay out of the limelight, since my name is associated with the company who signs my paycheck, and my personal views on political economy certainly do not necessarily represent the views that senior management desires to be circulated.

For this reason, I indeed need to be careful about how I approach public blogs such as this. I am not willing to become entangled in a situation which might bring unwanted publicity and get me fired.

Secondly, I do get some things published occassionally, and when someone from another field is playing around on an economics blog, it looks weird to colleagues. Sorry, it just does (even to me sometimes), and I cannot afford to be labeled a crank. The label of crank ends one's carreer quickly in my profession.

However, my first initial and last name are really mine, and if you want to contact me to verify that I am really me, you are always quite welcome to do so.

Dear K Sralla,

Perhaps. I just don't see it. I agree that libertarianism as a political movement maybe, but discussion over fine points of economic theory and the philosophy of science?! I just don't believe it.

As for in academia, as Troy brought up, I actually think this idea that you can hide yourself on your cv is just about as wrongheaded as possible. It reflects a disrespect to your academic peers and an overestimation of your own abilities to compete in a very competitive world.

I think the marketplace of ideas is pretty efficient, not perfectly efficient, but pretty effective at assigning rewards and allocating scholars. Of course there are "errors" that need correcting, but I also believe the marketplace in academia works to do that (correct those sorting errors).

You just have to be ruthlessly self-critical, and continue to work to get better and better everyday.

So finally, I understand if your employer doesn't want you saying things that are publicly embarrassing, but I don't believe that discourse on economic theory and philosophy of science results in such embarrassing statements. Public policy opinion, yes, and especially the way you say it.

Perhaps I am wrong. If I am, then I am very thankful that I work in a world that ideas are taken seriously and diversity of opinion is encouraged and the contestation of ideas is not something to suppress.

Pete

It's about politics, Pete. And politics are divisive. Declaring yourself a Hayekian (or Misesian, or Friedmanite, etc) is declaring a political position. No one protested when Ostrom got her prize, buy they did protest at Hayek's and at Friedman's.

Maybe you won't get fired for stating your politics in most jobs, but it can make your work life less pleasant. And in some cases it will get your fired. I myself was once fired for writing an op-ed to the local newspaper.

There is an myth that the academic worksplace is different. I don't know, because I've never worked in the academic sphere. But considering that academics are still members of species Homo Sapiens, I highly doubt it.

Sadly Pete, I'm afraid you may be wrong.

As a scientist who works in an international arena that is politically supercharged, a false move gets one fired. If I am doing research in certain places in the world and my political views are disclosed, I can promise you it can have consequences for my employer and ultimately me personally.

I have had this happen to me. I was recently outside the US talking over dinner about the political economy of a country in Africa (where we were located at the time). Others at the table became insensed at my views, but were totally ignorant of basic public choice theory, and I had to very delicately extricate myself from the discussion. Two of my fellow colleagues began shouting at each other and yelling obsenities, and the scene became complete mayhem. Everyone involved were PhD scientists. Yes, there was alchohol involved.

For much of the world, economics and philosophy are not discussed in a vacuum apart from politics. And yes, people get amazingly angry over these kind of issues which in most cases, they do not understand. That's why many of us have learned to know when and where it's safe to discuss deep thinking.

Be thankful that you can freely discuss ideas without fear of war breaking out, but unfortunately much of the world does not live in your world.

Thanks to all for helping me make the case for why pseudonyms are okay in the world of the blogosphere. Not the first best world, but it's better to have good commenters with pseudonyms than to exclude them.

Pete,

You should be very happy you aren't in the humanities, like me. There entrenched opinions dominate, and new ideas are marginalized (especially if they are pro-science and/or pro-markets). Do you know how many literary Darwinists teaching in Ph.D. programs? Neither of the two main scholars are. Do you know what the likelihood of my getting hired in an English department is the more articles I publish on Austrian economics? My blog Austrian Economics and Literature doesn't help matters there, either. That's the way things are across a wide swathe of academia, I'm afraid.

I agree with this. I allow them on my blog.

But there are real down side costs, and I really do believe that blog owners owe it to everyone to weed out certified trolls.

It's like a knowingly exposing people to vandals or pick pockets or physical hazards -- there's a moral duty not to subject people to time wasters, attacks, etc. just like there is a duty not to expose people to physical harm on your business premises.

Steve.

"Thanks to all for helping me make the case for why pseudonyms are okay in the world of the blogosphere. Not the first best world, but it's better to have good commenters with pseudonyms than to exclude them."

I think the discussion indicates that some people do have good reasons to hide their true identity in engaging in discussions on blogs etc.
But that doesn't excuse the people who hide behind psuedonyms as they litter forums with random thoughts and personal abuse.

Pete,

The witch-hunt within academia that passes itself of as a search for truth over global warming is another example of the derived demand for academic labour and the limited labour market demand for genuine academic debate.

The name calling over global warming is ugly and is too passionate, too frequent and too quick on the draw to be strictly honest disagreement.

The global warming debate is a gravy train funding many millions of dollars in academic research grants and the employment for many thousands.

Less of a witch-hunt on global warming in economics because, if I recall Richard Tol correctly, few academic economists work full-time on climate change in part because of a lack of research funding and this in part because policy makers and sources of research grants do not like the answers that economists give.

You have to get hired first and some views are not welcome so you are not hired.

Milton Friedman wrote, I think, of the three phases of academic denial which he often experienced, which ran something like:
1. there is no merit in what you have said;
2. there might be some truth in what you have said; and
3. There is merit in what you have said and I said it pretty much a while ago.

My name is Eric Noam Rodriguez Suazo, but on the net I'm toxicafunk, that's how I think of myself in the web, it has nothing to do with being ashamed or anything like that, you can think of it as my signature if you want.

As noted by Troy above. Anything we write online (blogs etc, e-list archives) can potentially be found by a potential employer (even if a site is removed there is still google cache). There are many reasons for wanting to maintain anonymity and the one noted by Troy is a good one I think. Potential employers can and do run google searches for people and biases (political, religious, etc) are rife (as attested by many of the excellent comments above).

Pete, you seem to have no idea what it must be like to do academics in a department of sociology, history, women's studies, ethnics studies, or psychology.

And you seem not to be aware of the growing literature on this, in all sorts of forums.

At Harvard in most departments there is not a Republican. In social psychology there is hardly a single conservative or libertarian in the whole profession.

Many history departments in America are ideologically Left, and they want to keep it that way. Ditto sociology, women's studies, ethnic studies, etc.

Pete, you studied with an Austrian at one of the most conservative colleges in the country, Grove City College. In grad school you studied with Austrian at the most free market graduate school in America, utterly unlike every other graduate department in the country. You have then taught the two grad departments with formal Austrian programs and many free market economists.

Your academic career has been unlike that of anyone else of your generation, excepting perhaps one or two others who went through the George Mason experience.

The real world is utterly unlike that.

I'm wondering, Pete, if you have read this article about bias in discipline of social psychology:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/science/08tier.html

I can remember when a leading leftist historian of ideas spoke on his book about the death of "public intellectuals". The book and talk were really about the death of the role of leftist public intellectuals.

Everyone in the history department was there, and they were all leftists. They were totally on board with the thesis.

I was the only conservative / libertarian in the room.

I mentioned a number of well known public intellectuals, with millions of readers and listeners and viewers, Thomas Sowell, George Will, Paul Johnson, Walter Williams, etc., etc.

The audience went crazy in attacking me, arguing against these idea that these were real intellectuals, and really, arguing against the whole notion that I dare speak and raise such issues among them.

That was the real world, at a top 30 university, among professors in history with degrees from the top history departments in the country.

The history of academics is unlike the myth you have of it Pete.

The "fat is bad" scientists actively have attacked and marginalized and hurt the careers of the "sugar is bad" scientists.

There was a long pitched battle in psychology between the behaviorists and the cognitive psychology people.

In philosopher, the pitched battles are too many to name.

Academics isn't bean bag, and you see the political battles between contending forces and paradigms every day.

That's reality.

We are not talking about a fairyland "Republic of Science" of some ideal version of the best of the very hard experimental sciences.

We're talking about the humanities and the human "sciences".

Greg,

Not disagreeing with you about my unique educational and occupational background. But just to set the record straight --- I taught at Oakland University (1988-90), where I taught not only in economics, but in the Honors College; I taught at NYU (1990-1998), where in addition to teaching in economics I also taught in the Honors College with colleagues from the humanities as well as social sciences; I taught at Manhattan College (1997-98), where I also ran an interdisciplinary college wide seminar; and I have been at GMU since 1998, where in addition to being in the economics department I have taught in the Honors College again with colleagues in the humanities and social sciences.

In addition, I have had visiting professorships/research positions at Stanford, Stockholm, Max Planck, Russian Academy of Sciences, and the LSE.

I mention this not to deny again my unique educational background, but to say that I do exist in the world of academia and I understand that some people have unreasonable views. But I think the only way to address them is to meet them head on, engaged in the contestation of ideas in a professional and civil manner, and to be as competitive as you can be in your truth tracking activity.

These ideas cannot win if we don't have people willing to represent them honestly and forthrightly and in the best possible way.

Greg is also going to have to explain why my university-wide colleagues here at SLU were perfectly happy with my 6 years as associate dean, voted me into a prestigious named chair, and have awarded me our highest faculty award.

Apparently, you CAN be an "out" libertarian and Austrian and still have constructive and respectful relationships with the left.

It helps, of course, if you actually show THEM some respect instead of treating them all like Stalinists-in-waiting.

I think libertarian economists have it easier because the academic market is better in economics.

I'm not really sure, but I bet libertarians who are medical doctors, finance professors, or accountants have it easier still in academia.

Sure, your unconventional views may result in your being a bit further down the academic ladder than otherwise (4 year teaching college rather than Harvard or Yale,) but you can have an academic career. (If you did finance, you could have been a step or two higher.)

I am aware of stories where austrian/libertarian economists get the go ahead for tenure from the department and even the school of business, only to get nixed at the college-wide committee level for their excessively right wing agenda and then overuled by the university president.

But that was a Ph.D. granting state university. There are plenty of schools that are happy to have a Ph.D. willing to accept the modest pay they offer. The publications are all in obscure journals? AACSB so far considers "quality" of publications a matter for the school. Helping your MBA granting school improve its numbers for the next reacreditation visit is a plus.

English, History, Philosophy.... well, that might be a bit more challenging. Or so I hear.

Personally, I haven't had any problem with colleagues in the humanities. I have served 3 terms as chair of Faculty Council. It is The Citadel.

No, I don't have to explain that, Steve.

How does this effect anything I've said? It doesn't.

Surely one implication of your argument Greg is that anyone who utters radical libertarian ideas or professes respect for conservative or libertarian academics (or, god forbid, appears on Fox Business) will be treated like crap by the rabid, wild-eyed lefty academics out to destroy anyone who disagrees with their agenda of indoctrination, is it not?

Cuz that's sure the way it sounds sitting here.

I've existed for 22 years right smack in the middle of lefty academia and I've had nary a problem with my colleagues. Isn't that just a little bit of counter-evidence for your worldview? Shouldn't I, by all rights, be treated like a pariah (outside of my department at least)?

I had hoped to communicate my point about the real world sausage factory functioning of the the filter / replication mechanism of academics by giving examples from outside the realm of "left / right" politics.

I seem to have failed -- despite the widely known faction struggles in psychology, philosophy, sociology, political science that have little or nothing to do with "left vs right".

The key point is that when "whack a mole" is ruling the roost in these struggles it often makes sense to produce work that doesn't flag itself as a mole needing whacked by the dominant and most aggressive faction.

And you can find examples of very important academics who made there way doing non-whackable work that allowed them to produce later, whack-worthy work, often from secure positions at high replication institutions.

I can point to a few major contributors that _just_ escaped whacking by folks enforcing the ruling paradigm of the day.

(Exceptional, extra-ordinary exceptions that prove the rule don't help much in looking at the big picture.)

Departments fight all of the time over which factions add more members, and which factions lose members.

And it's a hierarchical system, it makes a difference which grad programs churn out grad filling the top grad producing departments and who doesn't.

And note that faculty departments have actually been shut down and restarted because the department got off track the most prestigious fashion track in the profession -- e.g. Yale's philosophy department, Notre Dame's econ department, etc.

Let's not forget the U. of Virginia econ department ...

Whack!

Academics care about who the fellow members of their own department are -- often (but not always -- ask Larry Summers) not so much about other personal issues.

Well, economics is probably the most science-y of the humane sciences, so even among the left (who are less left in economics than in the other humane sciences, let alone the humanities), well-argued facts tend to win out. The more things are open to interpretation -- again, the humanities comes to mind -- the less facts matter, I'm afraid. I mean, did you see what I posted on facebook? This is what I have to contend with:

http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-05-roots-consumerism-disney-cartoons.html

And this is not marginal -- it is dominant in literary studies, cultural studies, etc. The literary studies people all seem reasonable to the outsider, but the fact is that they don't even let people in the door who aren't doing what they consider to be "legitimate" scholarship, meaning using theories they don't agree with (including Darwinian, cognitive psychological, non-Marxist economic, etc. approaches). I think I did just fine on a phone interview right until they asked me what evolutionary aesthetics (the title of my dissertation) was. It's not just politics in literature departments, but a much wider set of views that are not allowed.

Thought experiment.

What would Pete Boettke be doing right now if he'd pursued a research agenda / career in Women's Studies on the biological, non-socially constructed basis of gender and gender identity, etc.?

"What would Pete Boettke be doing right now if he'd pursued a research agenda / career in Women's Studies on the biological, non-socially constructed basis of gender and gender identity, etc.?"

The fact that no one would do that has a profound implication for what find "Women's Studies" as a discipline to be ....

The bottom line is this.

The idealized "Republic of Science" image of a neutral judge of experience assigning "true" and "false" or "good work" and "bad work" to academic work and to the realted replication of research programs and world views -- something like a simple empirical test conducted within an established paradigm in high school science class -- isn't reality.

Tenure is granted or denied in astronomy on the basis of how much outside grant money has been awarded.

The "fat is bad" and the "sugar is bad" rivalry takes place on all sorts of levels, including funding, hiring, publications, government agency politics, etc.

We may think there is no better system -- but that doesn't change reality of the current "2nd best" system into an idealized and "best of all possible worlds" fantasy of what real life is like in say the world of Women's Studies or in History or in Sociology or in Ethnic Studies or in the English Dept., etc.


Economists Stephen Williamson would like to eliminate economic history and the history of economic ideas (and those working in those areas) from the University. And economists frequently have taken action on this sort of agenda.

MOST mechanisms of filtering and replication in academia aren't this direct.

The fact that they are not this direct counts nothing against their actual existence. I refer folks again to this article on the filter mechanisms at work in psychology:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/science/08tier.html

Over time we have beat this topic to death.

I see overwhelming evidence of all kinds on my side.

Pete advocates a position grounded in his faith in his ethical ideas, and in his training in the vision of science produced by Polanyi, and in the achievements he and his research group have made motivated within that idea.

I understand all that and admire the achievement.

But what I'm interested in understanding actual mechanisms at work in science and throughout academia, and I'm interested in some of the consequences of that, both in the short run and in the long run.

I think the differences in the scope and focus of our interests accounts for the endlessness of this conversation.


Larry Wright's work in the literature of argument and explanation, and the hard road which the fameworks of Wittgenstein & Hayek & Kuhn have had in academia highlighted for me one of the most significant bias / distortion / filter elements in academia -- the bias toward formal puzzles and formal metrics as a criterion for identifying cognitive merit, whether in dissertations, for publications, or what have you.

I.e. formal "analytic philosophy" puzzle research programs of every kind provide endless formal criteria for excellent publications and dissertations -- no matter how ill founded the starting assumptions.

The same sort of thing has been reported in economics by countless tenured professors of economics -- take your pick in naming names. (Read Robert Higgs or current grad student Noah Smith just this month.)

There is something very important about this, and it is directly tied to the results of the socialist calculation debate and Wittgenstein's private language argument and Kuhn's account of scientific advance.

This stuff isn't a tempest in a teapot.

It get at the core of a serious issue in the human sciences.

The point is, social institutions can't be capture fully within a formal construct, or in terms of math quantification. But academia rewards the pretense that they can.

"It helps, of course, if you actually show THEM some respect instead of treating them all like Stalinists-in-waiting."

Bravo! Very well said Professor.

Love the red herring ....

"It helps, of course, if you actually show THEM some respect instead of treating them all like Stalinists-in-waiting."

Steve, I say X, and you say I say Y.

What does that contibute?

There appear to be parallel universes in the US universities. There is the one where Steve and Pete live, where you can be a libertarian and make progress, even among lefties, and there is the one described by Troy and Greg where the non-left suffer serious disrimination to the point where they are hardly represented on the faculty.

I think both universes exist, the first one is the hope for the future and the other one is a problem that is not going to go away any time soon (as James Buchanan pointed out). And that is why it is ok for some people to post under false names, regrettable as it is.

@ Greg, I have got a problem with "the hard road which the fameworks of Wittgenstein & Hayek & Kuhn have had in academia"

Hayek yes, but Wittgenstein and Kuhn had a royal road, out of all proportion to the value of their contributions. Wittgenstein's towering achievement was to lead philosophy into two contradictory but equally useless dead ends and Kuhn did much the same. So press on with Hayek but give us a break from Wittgenstein and Kuhn:)

Rafe, we disagree on this:

"Wittgenstein and Kuhn had a royal road, out of all proportion to the value of their contributions."

I considered using fate of Popper and Popperians in academic philosophy as an example of the rivalry between camps in academia, but the example is complex, and there's too much to it.

Yes, it is a very interesting story and it reflects very poorly on the credibility of the philosophical fraternity. It is also a massive impediment to the progress of Austrian economics and classical liberalism. There are hardly any Popperians left in academia, thanks to the followers of Wittgenstein and Kuhn. As noted on the HOPOS list, Popper is still the 800 lb gorilla in the room thanks to the "turns" that he initiated - the conjectural (hermeneutic) turn, the objectivist turn (from belief philosophies), the social (institiutional) turn and the return of metaphysics. In your face Ludwig W and Tom Kuhn!

http://www.the-rathouse.com/Pop-Schol/PopperTurns.html

Interesting to see the demographics, interests and the Big Player in philosophy at present.

http://philpapers.org/surveys/demographics.pl

Well, Wittgenstein & Kuhn are marginalized figures in modern academic philosophy, actually. Folks with those paradigms did not and do not rule the roost.

Rafe writes,

"There are hardly any Popperians left in academia, thanks to the followers of Wittgenstein and Kuhn."

Kuhn may be maginalized in modern academic philosophy because he was not really a philosopher at all and his impact was in other areas like history and philosophy of science and the soft social sciences (and for a while in philosophy and methods of economics).

Wittgenstein is not marginalized if you judge by demographics table above where on "non-living philosophers most identified with" he ranks fourth behind Hume, Aristotle and Kant with 360 votes compared with Quine 250, Russell 211, Rawls 154, Carnap 116, Marx 91, Hegel 63, Rorty 14 and Popper 12.

Contemporary philosophy is not in good shape. Being wrong should hurt but in fields where there is next to no practical testing it often does not.

Oh the joy of being a nobody. Today I was labourer, helping to demolish and construct someone's floor. I don't think any of my colleagues care that I am a radical libertarian Austrian Popperian.

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