My colleague Bill Turnier just sent along Stephen Carter's defense of "the faculty lounge" (though not this faculty lounge!), which appeared on Bloomberg.com. Here area couple of excerpts:
To believe in the faculty lounge is to believe that ideas matter, that people can and often do respond to appeals not to their self-interest but to their reason. As the economist Deirdre N. McCloskey argues persuasively in her excellent book “Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World,” it is better ideas more than anything else that have built the West. You cannot explain the Industrial Revolution, for example, simply by “adding up the material causes.” There are reasons that some countries adopt particular technologies, laws or norms that others could but don’t. One of those reasons, McCloskey contends, is better ideas. ...
Why, then, this urge to attack both university faculties and the lounges where they gather for coffee and argument? One answer was offered half a century ago by Richard Hofstadter in his Pulitzer-Prize-winning “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.” The disdain for the highly educated, he points out, stems from the supposition that the dominance of the intellectual is undemocratic.
Read the rest here. At some point I want to return to the topic of anti-intellectualism in American life. I'm not sure the problem is that academics are anti-democratic as that they are so often wrong on issues for which there is no certain answer. Throughout much of our history, the academy worked in conjunction with the powerful and the affluent, not in opposition to it. In fact, this is a key theme of University, Court, and Slave -- which I discuss in early form here.