MUNGER: Equal time

I hear from leftist friends who ask, “Why are there so many well-funded right-wing ‘think tanks’?” My friends don’t really like my answer, but I stand by it: There are lots of large, well-funded left-wing think tanks, too. They’re called “universities.”The policy shops that the left hates — John Locke and Civitas in Raleigh, or Heritage and Cato in Washington — are inadequate counter-balances to the taxpayer funding given to leftist initiatives and research justifying Democratic policy proposals. This wouldn’t be acceptable if things were reversed. The civil rights laws, and the judges who interpret them, have concluded that “disparate treatment,” in terms of a pattern of substantial differences, is enough to conclude that there is discrimination.Now, our General Assembly recently created a “N.C. Policy Collaboratory,” where scientists and experts will do environmental policy research and give advice on new technologies. Why not simply do this through existing academic structures? After all, the taxpayers of this state are forking over millions of dollars to those big state-funded think tanks at UNC Chapel Hill, N.C. State, and so on.The answer seems to be that the legislature doesn’t trust the partisan and ideological bias of those “experts,” since they are all Democrats. It may seem strange to think that science can have a partisan bias, of course. But then, think about it this way: If science has no partisan bias, why are there no Republicans in the existing departments of science policy and study of the environment or climate? Doesn’t that mean that the hiring process is biased, just as if a hiring process never happens to hire African-Americans or women?If the universities are supposed to “look like the population” — a common civil rights goal — then shouldn’t the partisan balance approximate the general population? And since about one-third of our voters are Republican, shouldn’t about one-third of our university faculty be Republican? Remember, if you answer “no,” you have to explain why “looks like the population” makes sense for race and gender, but not for ideas, which is what universities should be focused on.But, okay, lets’ suppose that the problem is that there are far fewer Republican scientists than there are Democrats. Perhaps only one in 10 people getting a PhD in the relevant science discipline is conservative. The problem is that there are entire Schools of Indignation, and Task Forces on Life-Arranging, with zero Republicans. Nada, none, bagel. If the blind chance of hiring a conservative is one-tenth, what is the probability of having 30 leftist faculty? The answer is less than 5 percent: if the process is fair, there would be one or more conservatives. If there are 100 faculty and no conservatives, the probability is 0.00003. So, the hiring process is not ideologically neutral.But then how can some people — including Dr. William Snider of UNC — make the following kind of statement?”In 17 years of experience with hiring faculty, I have never heard political affiliation mentioned…. There is certainly no place for information about it on the application form. I have never heard any member of a search committee ask a candidate about political preference, and… I have never heard party affiliation or political leaning raised in the final committee deliberations that determine which candidate is selected.”Is he fibbing? No, I’m sure he’s right. No one needs to have meetings, or say anything about hiring and partisanship. The problem is can be stated simply, and I have heard it said this way, verbatim: Asking the environmental department to hire a conservative is like asking the biology department to hire a creationist. It’s not an intellectually respectable position. That’s why are none. Not few; none.So, when people want to add ideological diversity to the new “Collaboratory,” they are missing the point. It’s not that the left needs “equal time.” The Collaboratory is equal time, a way to add balance and ensure other points of view are represented in the policy debate for our state. It’s not ideal, but then this wouldn’t be necessary if the universities had done their job better in the first place.