OK, there's a lot of very weird stuff in the Washington Post. It's not a very good newspaper, and it's getting worse. (Not all of it, of course; and some of its reporters are the best in the biz ... even if they seem to save their best stuff for their independent books and not their articles in the paper.) One of the problems is the editorial page, which publishes increasingly strange things, like the following from Robert Maranto of Villanova University. Starting in the second paragraph of his piece, right after a brief quote from Larry Summers, Maranto writes:
I spent four years in the 1990s working at the centrist Brookings Institution and for the Clinton administration and felt right at home ideologically. Yet during much of my two decades in academia, I've been on the "far right" as one who thinks that welfare reform helped the poor, that the United States was right to fight and win the Cold War, and that environmental regulations should be balanced against property rights. All these views -- commonplace in American society and among the political class -- are practically verboten in much of academia.
Whaaaa? I supported and continue to support the replacement of AFDC with TANF ("welfare reform") on the grounds that the evidence shows that it has helped the poor. I certainly believe that resisting Soviet aggression was a good thing. And I happen to approve of applying cost-benefit analysis to environmental regulations.
Absolutely none of these positions has ever caused me political problems in the university. Obviously not in economic or political science departments, but not even in history departments.
In fact, I have a good friend in a major political science department who is advising Rudy Giuliani and a excellent colleague in a similarly major history department who is doing the same. We won't mention my opinion of their presidential choice, but I can't possibly think more highly of their academic work, and their careers are doing more than fine.
In short, I just don't know what to make of an editorial that starts by telling me that my own experience of reality is wrong, and then proceeds to make its argument via series of anecdotes reported in ambiguous ways. For example, is it the following really true?
Despite New York City's 15-year-long decline in crime, most criminologists still struggle to attribute the increased safety to demographic shifts or even random statistical variations (which apparently skipped other cities) rather than more effective policing.
Actually, considering how the above is phrased, how would you know it weren't true? It implies that any attempt to test the causes of the crime decline is "anti-conservative."
The whole thing is just a little ... bizarre.