Why do academics oppose capitalism?

A few weeks ago, Megan McArdle, the business and economics editor for The Atlantic, wondered why Academia treats its workforce so badly.

Academia has bifurcated into two classes: tenured professors who are decently paid, have lifetime job security, and get to work on whatever strikes their fancy; and adjuncts who are paid at the poverty level and may labor for years in the desperate and often futile hope of landing a tenure track position. And, of course, graduate students, the number of whom may paradoxically increase as the number of tenure track jobs decreases–because someone has to teach all those intro classes.

There seems to be a paradox here:

What puzzles me is how this job market persists, and is even worsening, in one of the most left-wing institutions in the country. (…) Almost every academic I know is committed to a pretty strongly left-wing vision of labor market institutions. Even if it's not their very first concern, one would assume that the collective preference should result in something much more egalitarian. So what's overriding that preference?

McArdle’s solution to this paradox is that that Academia's leftward drift (some of it at least) can be explained by the fact that it has one of the most abusive labor markets in the world. I’d rather say that it’s probably the other way around and that it is the academics’ moral judgements that permitted these inequalities. But in order to see why, we first need to understand why it is that so many academics oppose capitalism.




Why do academics oppose capitalism? Ten years ago, Robert Nozick offered an interesting answer, namely that intellectuals feel that they do not get what they deserve. They should get much more than what a capitalist society offers to its intellectual elite. Nozick wondered…



What factor produced feelings of superior value on the part of intellectuals? I want to focus on one institution in particular: schools. As book knowledge became increasingly important, schooling–the education together in classes of young people in reading and book knowledge–spread. Schools became the major institution outside of the family to shape the attitudes of young people, and almost all those who later became intellectuals went through schools. There they were successful. They were judged against others and deemed superior. They were praised and rewarded, the teacher's favorites. How could they fail to see themselves as superior? Daily, they experienced differences in facility with ideas, in quick-wittedness. The schools told them, and showed them, they were better.

The wider market society, however, taught a different lesson. There the greatest rewards did not go to the verbally brightest. There the intellectual skills were not most highly valued. Schooled in the lesson that they were most valuable, the most deserving of reward, the most entitled to reward, how could the intellectuals, by and large, fail to resent the capitalist society which deprived them of the just deserts to which their superiority "entitled" them?

To go back to McArdle’s paradox, the solution to Academia's tolerance of inequalities may lie in the fact that, contrary to what we may think, academics do not oppose inequality. They are meritocratic, just as other people are. If they oppose capitalism, it is just because they do not evaluate their own contribution in the same way as pro-capitalism folks do. During the first 20 or 30 years of their life, they have been told that their contribution (to the classroom) was very valuable, and they think that they deserve a bigger share of the pie than what capitalism offers.

Thus, academics oppose capitalism, but they are not egalitarian. Indeed, according to egalitarianism, à la Rawls, distribution is not based on merit. Everyone deserves an equal share of the benefit of the society and one should depart from equality only if it improves the welfare of the worst-off. Contrary to egalitarianism, academics are perfectly fine with the idea that professors should earn more and that you have to suffer to deserve a tenure position. They are meritocratic and that stance is precisely what makes them oppose market economy. To sum up, one can be leftist and be fine with inequality.

What’s interesting with this hypothesis is that it is testable, as Nozick pointed out:

First, one might predict that the more meritocratic a country's school system, the more likely its intellectuals are to be on the left. (Consider France.) Second, those intellectuals who were "late bloomers" in school would not have developed the same sense of entitlement to the very highest rewards; therefore, a lower percentage of the late-bloomer intellectuals will be anti-capitalist than of the early bloomers.

I do not know any study that tests Nozick’s first prediction. But Diego Rios and Raul Magni-Berton have tested a variant of the second prediction, namely that scholastic performance (independent variable) has an impact on political attitudes vis-a-vis the market (dependent variable). They have surveyed the political opinion of 271 French academics. Not surpringly, they are much more leftist than the average French and even more leftist than the average French civil servant. More interestingly, they asked them if they were good at school. Strikingly, the better they were at school, the more leftist they ended up being. The data thus seems to confirm Nozick’s hypothesis.

To test Nozick’s hypothesis from a slightly different angle, Rios and Magni-Berton asked the same academics the following question. Let’s say that you have to choose among these five distributions between academics and football players (other sources of income are kept constant), which one would you prefer? (FF : French Francs 100 000 Francs = 15 000 euros).


Note that the distribution 2 is the only meritocratic distribution: it gives more to the ones who studied more. Distribution 1 is egalitarian. Distributions 3, 4 and 5 are the distributions that maximise the salary (a Rawlsian egalitarist would pick up one of these since it maximizes the welfare of the worse-off – except, perhaps, if we take envy and other problems linked to inequality into account).

Contrary to what one could expect from some academics discourse, academics are not egalitarian, the relative majority of them choose the distribution 2 – the meritocratic one. More strikingly, the better an academic was as a student, the more she chooses the meritocratic distribution! In further analyses, Rios and Magni-Berton show that the choice of distribution 2 is the best predictor of leftist political opinion.

In the 'Football players vs. academics' question, the amount of education was a proxy for merit. It was assumed that academic would think that football players do not deserve their salary because they have not studied enough. To control for this hypothesis, Rios and Magni-Berton now opposed academic and engineer – who have studied a lot too. And, in line with Nozick’s prediction, very few people now chose distribution 2.


Of course, research is needed but the conclusion is striking (see Rios and Magni-Berton's book La misère des intellectuels). Intellectuals do not seem to be motivated by egalitarianism (as they obviously say), but by meritocracy. Meritocracy can be strongly inegalitarian. Note that the theory they propose not only explains the attitudes of the intellectuals. It also explains the attitudes of liberal professions, who tend to be favourable to the market. The explanation is that they do not see the discontinuity between markets and schools. Lawyers, doctors, etc, have done good at school, and done good on the market; they inevitably perceive the market as fair – even “meritocratic”, because it coincides with the selections operated by the school! In places where lawyers have high rates of unemployment – Spain, for instance – they normally behave as the theory predicts they should do: against the market! And the better they were at school, the more leftwing they became!

I shall conclude with a 'Cognition and Culture' note. Nozick’s theory is a very good example of the fact that the same moral principle or the same cognitive mechanism (meritocraty) can lead to very different moral judgements (in favour or against capitalism) depending of the belief one’s hold (academics’ contribution is great). As I noted in an earlier post, this logic may explain a range of cultural variation in economic games.

Many thanks to Olivier Morin, Paul-Antoine Chevalier and Diego Rios who helped me write this post.


  • comment-avatar
    Olivier Morin 14 June 2010 (23:58)

    Thanks Nicolas, for telling us about Raul and Diego’s fascinating research. But let me try and bring a slightly less extremist viewpoint to the issue. – To say that ‘(most) academics oppose capitalism’, even with the appropriate statistical caveats, is a gross overstatement. Academics vote for what, in their country, stands as the left, granted. Perhaps, in the Western world, you find more committed Marxists in Academia than anywhere else (you also find more committed supporters of weird political theories than anywhere else, because, as we know, [url=http://cognitionandculture.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=601:no-such-thing-as-sexual-intercourse-the-key-to-academic-success&catid=57:pascals-blog&Itemid=34]academics are trained to believe impossible things[/url]). Yes. But the great majority of academics votes for liberal parties that dropped the overthrow of capitalism from their agenda a long while ago (if it ever figured). Not even Nozick could seriously think that the Democrats would be the bane of capitalism. – I’d like to see the 2 experiments being run on non-academics. I have a strong intuition that most non-academics would also go for distribution 2, because a) many people (in polls, etc.) are shocked by the fact that footballers earn more than doctors, engineers, etc., and b) distribution 2 is egalitarian, and people are very sensitive to equality (though they take other things into account). – As for the correlation between past academic performance and the choice of distribution 2, I see a billion of confounding factors that might account for it. For example, people who respect learning and science (be it in teachers or in engineers) are more likely to do well in school, and also to value these professions more. – One last suggestion: if the majority of people who are trained to think hard about cultural, political and social issues rejects, [i]not[/i] capitalism, but right-wing policies, as opposed to liberal policies that (among other things) try to reduce inequalities, one might conclude that liberal policies are better able to convince critical, educated people than right-wing discourses. The old trick of portraying liberal intellectuals as a) leftist, b) embittered by their lack of success and consequently spiteful has been tried by many a brilliant right-wing intellectual, from Nozick to Aron. I have always seen this as a caricature, not a serious conjecture to spend precious hours of research pursuing.

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    Nicolas Baumard 15 June 2010 (01:13)

    Thanks, Olivier, for helping me nuancing this post! 😉 I agree with you that this is only a partial explanation and that there are others exaplanations. For instance, some academics may favour redistribution because they are truly egalitarian (as Rios and Magni-Berton’s survey suggests). They may think that no-one deserve one’s skills, talents or education and thus that everyone should receive the same share of the benefits of social cooperation. Also, some may think that academics deserve more because the market does not work well. Etc. So of course, further research is needed. But, a least, Rios and Magni-Berton have launched a whole testable research program. Finally, I do not agree with your last two statements: 1) Academics are on the left (as you say in your comment) and opposing capitalism here only means opposing a purely market-based distribution of income; 2) Nozick’s hypothesis may not be as ideological as you may think. Indeed, this theory is not about spitefulness. Academics are not vengeful. They oppose captalism for genuine moral reasons.

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    Olivier Morin 15 June 2010 (10:13)

    ‘Opposing capitalism here only means opposing a purely market-based distribution of income’ But almost everyone (except Nozick) opposes capitalism in that sense – Hayek did, Friedman did… If that is the left, then everyone is on the left.

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    Diego Rios 15 June 2010 (21:42)

    Dear Olivier, Thanks very much for your comments. I just want to add a few notes to what you have said (maybe Raul agrees on what I will say). a. The notion of “left/right” is alien to our claim; these are “folk political” notions. Our point was simply that intellectuals do not like systems of pure procedural justice. This goes against their own “perfectionist” beliefs on merit. They hate the market for this reason. Hypothetically, they should also consider other mechanisms of pure procedural justice as unfair (lotteries, for instance). We are currently working with Raul on a test trying to confirm this hypothesis, using the idea of democracy by lottery (Bernard Manin). We think intellectuals will resist the idea of democracy by lottery because it does not contribute to pick up the more deserving (say, the better) candidates (we might end up having official that have no education whatsoever!). b) In fact the theory applies also for non- academics. The idea is more or less this one. If you have been good at school, and you end up unemployed, then you will perceive the market as unfair. Intellectuals just happen to be overrepresented amongst the good students, and also amongst the poorly rewarded by the market (because, after all, they provide public goods – ideas, say). So they are strongly pushed toward perceiving the market as unfair. c) As presented in the blog, the question on the distributions looks a tiny bit crude. In fact the interesting point is not that most intellectuals have chosen distribution 2. The crucial point is that those that have chosen this distribution have ALSO replied other questions in the same direction (they are more unhappy about their salaries, the think that the best method to be selected for a job is…., doing an examination, etc!) . It is the whole package what is striking. Everything connects! d) Final comment. Nicolas is right that the issue is not about spitefulness. Intellectuals believe that they are right on moral grounds. Spitefulness does not prompt public, overt behavior as the one exhibited by intellectuals (The case of France is particularly telling on this point). Intellectuals honestly believe that “les des sont pipes”: the market is only contingently sensitive to scholastic merit. They sincerely believe that a just society is a society governed by scholastic merit. The sad fact is, however, that the market just take into account marginal contribution, not your “felicitations du jury a l’unanimite”! Thanks again for this nice discussion. Diego

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    Olivier Morin 16 June 2010 (10:35)

    Thank you very much for these answers. I am impatient to see your work on casting lots to select leaders (you might find some confirmation of your predictions in Plato’s rambling about the democratic rule of incompetence).

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    Pascal Boyer 18 June 2010 (16:47)

    Although there is an academic field of political psychology, there are surprisingly few studies of “folk-politics” from a cognition-and-culture or evolutionary angle in political science (see an exception [url=http://brill.publisher.ingentaconnect.com/content/brill/jocc/2009/00000009/00000003/art00011]here[/url]) which makes Rios and Magni-Berton’s contribution all the more interesting. Folk-politics probably consists of [url=http://cognitionandculture.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=653:believing-maurice-bloch-on-doubting-doubting-him-on-believing&catid=29:dan&Itemid=34] reflective beliefs[/url] on the basis of intuitions evolved in the context of small-scale, personal interaction. Because large societies do not often match the input formats for these intuitive systems, we also use other kinds of intuitions to understand social dynamics, e.g. intuitive biological essentialism to understand group-level differences, contagion intuitions to make sense of ostracism and despised minorities, agency intuitions to explain how groups can “act”, etc. We should expect to find interesting differences in the way these different intuitions are activated in different social contexts. Which leads me to Olivier Morin’s trolloid remark: “[…] almost everyone (except Nozick) opposes capitalism in that sense [of a purely market-based distribution of income] – Hayek did, Friedman did… If that is the left, then everyone is on the left” Mmmmh… only up to a point, my lord. If we are talking about folk-models and preferences, it seems that many people in the world do reject the notion of a state-enforced ‘redistribution’ of income. On the basis of an informal eight-year long ethnography of the American MidWest, I would say that many people actually find the notion of ‘income distribution’ baffling and alien. In some groups many people have the intuition that wealth is a common pot of money that can and perhaps should be ‘distributed’ according to their contributions, or needs. But many people in other places, in the US in particular, do not seem to have this intuition of a common pot and a zero-sum allocation. Their folk-model of the economy seems closer to say agriculture. To a large extent, the crop I get depends on my labour and some luck – and the crucial point is that my gettng a good crop does not in any intuitive way make other people less likely to do well. The distribution is non-zero. This is just as intuitive and self-evident to many of my informants, as the ‘common pot and zero-sum distribution’ model is to many Europeans. The implications are of course different. People of my village, so to speak, are highly sensitive to injustice (e.g. discrimination) and highly motivated to help others (e.g. through charities, common collective work, volunteering for schools etc.) but they do not see vast accumulation of wealth (Bill Gates, basketball players) as unfair – in fact talking about it in terms of fairness would strike them as odd, since they do not see this wealth as ‘taking’ anything from anyone. So more work needs to be done!

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    Christophe Heintz 18 June 2010 (19:42)

    Nicholas’ ‘culture and cognition’ rendering of Raoul and Diego’s research on the origin of academics’ folk political intuitions is great. As far as I understand, Nicholas explains that the political intuitions of academics are framed by: 1) a sense of fairness that is universal (in this case a preference for meritocratic allocations of resources) 2)an understanding of what is fair in a given context that is informed by the specifics of institutional reputation systems. Academics have gone through a very specific reputation system : the one that is implemented in schools and universities. These reputation systems specifies what it takes to be considered as deserving. Unsurprisingly, those who did well according to such systems will tend to find them adequate (even though they are, as any reputation system, limited). Yet the culturally and social-group specific intuitions about what is fair, the feelings of entitlement that Raoul and Diego describe, largely under-determine the political ideas. They probably are, as a cultural epidemiologists would say, stabilising factors of non-capitalist ideas, but the account of the not so minute aspects of political ideas, to which Olivier Morin draws attention, would require further explanations, right? Historical explanations, in particular, seem highly relevant : as they take into account the many contingent factors that do indeed have a causal role (e.g. ’68 mouvements mainly took place in universities). Unfortunately, thus, rather than a straightforward « intuitions of fairness + reputation systems ==> political views », we cannot do better than write a cognitive history of political ideas. One way to pursue investigation would be to look at the generation of feelings of entitlements in several historical contexts with different reputation systems and see whether it predicts political views. For instance, I think that early members of the Royal Society (late 17th, London) were pretty conservative (c.f. Shapin ‘A Social History of Truth’, who describes the reputation system of the Royal Society as giving much importance to nobility): does that fit?

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    Christophe Heintz 18 June 2010 (19:45)

    Nicholas refers to his post « [url=http://http://cognitionandculture.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=630:innate-psychology-does-not-oppose-cultural-variability&catid=37:nicolas&Itemid=34]Are variations in economic games really caused by culture?[/url] ». I’d like to push further the assertion that there are similar underlying cognitive mechanisms at work in political choices and economic decisions in experimental games. The subject in experimental games play according to their understanding of what it takes to be considered as being a good cooperator, which is informed by the specificities of their local reputation systems. I would hypothesise that the cultural variation in subjects’ decisions in experimental games is to a significant extent caused by cultural variations in reputation systems.

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    Radu Umbres 18 June 2010 (19:45)

    A rather different story can be told from post-socialist countries. In Romania (that I know best) and probably Moldova, Ukraine and Russia the vast majority of the academics are right of the centre. Pradoxically they share an inequality disconfort with their Western counterparts, but for different reasons: they believe that the (corrupt) state stops the market from supplying them with the just reward for their efforts and skills. And I have a feeling that lower in the education system (primary, secondary, etc), people get more left-wing in the East. How about the West? And a minor observation for Pascal Boyer – the folk model you sketch is not quite appropriate for agriculture, at least not as peasants see it. They of all people are the most inclined to see wealth as a limited good and the economy as a zero-sum game. My neighbour’s so-much-better crop makes my crop smaller in market and personal value. I think that the Ricardian model of commerce is what you are looking for. And maybe something about the way people think about the morality of the division of labour is a way to inquire the political values of academics.

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    Pascal Boyer 18 June 2010 (21:32)

    Christophe Heintz wrote that “[…] Rather than a straightforward « intuitions of fairness + reputation systems ==> political views », we cannot do better than write a cognitive history of political ideas” Could Christophe elaborate on that? It seems that the “intuitive systems + local cues” framework does (or, will do) a good job of explaining a lot of variance in cross-cultural studies of political folk-models. Obviously it does not explain local idiosyncrasies of folk-models. An important question is, how much path-dependence is there in folk-models and their epidemiology? Christophe seems to suggest “a lot”, and it would be great if he could illustrate that. Incidentally, this debate also shows how difficult it is to keep a clear distinction between folk-models and what they are models of. Radu’s remarks about farmers are quite right – but I was not talking about agriculture, only about the folk-notion of agriculture as a model of the economy, a (no doubt unrealistic) model held by my informants, who of course have never practised farming.

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    Rita Wing 20 June 2010 (00:47)

    “Strikingly, the better they were at school, the more leftist they ended up being”. -couldn’t that just mean that brighter people are more left-wing? 🙂

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    Christophe Heintz 21 June 2010 (14:00)

    I agree with Pascal that explanations of political views should certainly be explained as the result of intuitive systems + local cues. What else could figure in the explanans of a naturalist? Also, there is no opposition between path dependency and resulting from, or relying on, the activation of intuitive systems. Path dependency only results from the fact that intuitive systems are taped in by cues that have a history of human making. So my point was that the local cues provided by reputation systems (specifying who is deserving and who is not) may not be sufficient for explaining the content of Academics’ political views. It can only explain their dissatisfaction with their salary. As Radu Umbres signals, the dissatisfaction can lead to different views about what is wrong with the political system. Other explanatory local cues most probably include communicated political views from parents and teachers. I do not know much about political history or theories of voting behaviour, so I had only truisms in mind when I talked about the importance of history: Take academics who are in their 30s. In France (as elsewhere) there is a social reproduction of the educated social class. So the age class of academics in their 30s will have been raised by parents who have most probably been at University in the late 60s early 70s … and thus strongly influenced by the University mouvements of those years. By contrast, in Ceausescu’s Romania, being in Academia was a way not to be too involved with the communist regime. The intellectual climate led intellectuals to think that all the opportunities for them were in the West, with capitalists regimes. If I understand what Radu says: Academics think that the problem is not in the distribution of the public funds, but in the gathering of these funds. I do not think there can be an a priori answer to Pascal’s question about “how much path-dependence is there in folk-models and their epidemiology”. One can only figure it out with empirical social studies. A safe bet, however, is that the more a folk model include “reflective beliefs”, the more the spread of these beliefs will depend communication (cultural transmission), and thus, the more they will be entrenched in past beliefs and systems. The more a behaviour will depend on reflective beliefs (and training), the more it will be path dependent.

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    Brian Malley 21 June 2010 (19:04)

    A couple of commentators have suggested that differences in the quality of the ideas on the political left and the political right may explain academics’ leftward leanings: most recently, Rita suggests that “brighter” people are more left-wing. If there is an “old trick of portraying liberal intellectuals as a) leftist, b) embittered by their lack of success and consequently spiteful” (and I am sure there is) then this is the left wing version of the same: “We believe what we do because we are brighter; those on the right are uneducated/uninformed/small-minded.” I have heard a lot of assertions like these over the years, but when I have pressed people for actual evidence, I have never found any. People who make such claims don’t seem to have applied any of the dimensions of evaluation common in IQ testing. This is particularly striking when it comes from academics,who one might expect to use an informed standard. It seems as if mockery is much more common than actual reasoning.

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    Olivier Morin 21 June 2010 (19:23)

    ‘People who make such claims don’t seem to have applied any of the dimensions of evaluation common in IQ testing.’ You are right, but that kind of research exists – for example,[url=http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W4M-4TKXD92-1&_user=7105836&_coverDate=12%2F31%2F2008&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1376795179&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000071140&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=7105836&md5=0ae87ee86cf22b5137e3952f7172280f]these authors[/url] have been looking at correlations between childhood IQ and voting habits. This is the kind of things that set statisticians on fire, but I find it intriguing nevertheless. (Smart people, regardless of social class, prefer Nick Clegg ; other smart people vote Green but not more than people of similar occupational status.)

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    Diego Rios 21 June 2010 (19:53)

    I must say that Rita Wing’s interpretation is not entailed by our argument. The [i]explanandum[/i] in our framework is not why intellectuals are on the left, but rather why they oppose the market as a pure procedural distributive mechanism. They might be on the left or they might be on the right (in fact, in France there is an old tradition also of right-wing intellectuals, less well known than the left-wing one!). A complete theory of intellectuals’ attitudes must explain [u]both.[/u] Note, furthermore, that the [i]explanas[/i] in our framework is not intellectual brightness but simply scholastic performance (these two variables might or might not be correlated). So, there is no grounds to hold the interpretation of Rita Wing. Interestingly, the behavior of intellectuals is just a sub-set of a much general case. When an agent (intellectual or not) perceives herself as (a) having achieved high scholastic performance; and (b) as not being rewarded by the market according to her scholastic achievement, she tends to perceive the market as unfair. This is the case of intellectuals; they see the [u]discontinuity[/u] between schools and markets. When an agent (intellectual or no) perceives herself as (a) having achieved high scholastic performance, and (b) as being rewarded accordingly by the market, then she will consider the market as fair; she will see a [u]continuity[/u] between the meritocratic standards of the school and the distribution operated by the market. This is the case of liberal professions.

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    Hugo Mercier 22 June 2010 (13:06)

    Maybe I missed this in the previous, very interesting discussion… but could one explanation be that intellectuals tend to not perceive that they derive benefits from the market, and that if you don’t perceive these benefits, the default option is to dislike market mechanisms. After all, intellectuals are hardly alone in their dislike of market mechanisms, including (I assume) quite a few people who were somehow less successful at school. On the other hand, some people who did well at school (econ professors, MBAs) like markets because they have learned (econ professors), or learned and witnessed (MBAs) that it can work well for them. I realize that this doesn’t explain the results described in the post, but I wonder if it could account for the larger picture.

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    José-Luis Guijarro 23 June 2010 (13:06)

    [i](…) the market just take into account marginal contribution, not your “felicitations du jury a l’unanimite”! [/i] This is absolutely true, of course. But I hate to think that intellectuals’ dislike for markets is based on just this felt [i]injustice[/i]. I would like to believe, instead, that intellectuals who have lived in capitalist based societies are better equipped to THINK about the evident shortcomings of such an overall political arrangement and prefer the solutions that anti-capitalists offer. Alternatively, as someone said above, intellectuals who have suffered anti-capitalist policies are also better equipped to THINK about the evident drawbacks of such type of policy. The question, then, would be, why are intellectuals at large unable to put on the same level of THINKING (for which, by definition, they must be better equipped) what they experience, which is full of inconveniencies, and what is offered as a solution intellectually? If I am allowed to use Dan’s distinction, between [b]facts[/b] and [b]reflective representations[/b], the problem would perhaps be that intellectuals prefer to abide by reflective beliefs (which after all may have been arrived at [i]intellectually[/i]) to disgusting facts that make our life so problematic.

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    scott howard 3 July 2010 (18:17)

    An interesting phenomena is that academicians are probably better off in the long term economically than athletes. Professors can work well into their 60s and 70s or often beyond. A sports career is usually less than a decade for most. A common lament of million-dollar athletes is they are often broke 5 years later. Compare a 25 year old sports hero with a 25 year old professor and the pay discrepancy is huge. However compare a 65 year old athlete and the same age professor and the pay gap is meaningless as the sportsters are earning zero dollars. So perhaps the capitalist system is more egalitarian to academics in the long term. Perhaps society really does value them more that athletes. Sports heroes are quickly discarded for the next big thing. A wise old professor is sought out as a valuable commodity. Finally academics are not against capitalism from the point of the how they much are paid. They are against capialism from the point of the consumer. All kids should be able to get a top education, not just the rich kids. The greatness of public education is that all citizens, rich and poor are educated. Thus this helps stablize society. If you compare societies that offer egaltarian public education vs those that are based upon ability to pay then you can easily see how unstable those pay only societies are. Thus the academics are merely selfish and greedy when they say they are against capitalism in regards to education. So now they sound more like capitalists, they are just trading cash for societial stability.