Research Institutions Now Cater to the Prejudices of Wealth

Research Institutions Now Cater to the Prejudices of Wealth, by Noah Millman.

Political scientist and blogger Daniel W. Drezner’s new book, “The Ideas Industry,” … [is] an account of how the marketplace of ideas, the metaphorical bazaar where academics and think tankers and pundits hawk their intellectual wares to policy makers, has changed over the past generation.

As he tells it, three large-scale forces have remade the marketplace of ideas. The erosion of trust in prestigious institutions has weakened the position of both academia and the traditional journalistic perches of public intellectuals. The polarization of American politics has segmented that marketplace into distinct and separate niches. Most important, the dramatic growth in economic inequality has made wealthy individuals and corporations into the primary buyers, dominating the market. …

On the perils of intellectual superstardom,  …[where] he discusses the takeoff phase of his own career, he expresses profound concerns about how the incentives of the ideas industry work against careful or serious thought. The thin reed on which he places his hopes for reform is the notion that intellectuals will police themselves.

The question Drezner doesn’t ever ask explicitly is: What is the ideas industry’s real product? If the plutocrats who dominate the market demand ideas that are already congenial to them, then they aren’t evaluating ideas based on their efficacy — as, indeed, they have little incentive to do if they are insulated from their consequences. It’s probably not an accident that the industry Drezner describes frequently sounds like a luxury brand of entertainment, the ideas akin to the witty confections served up by Louis XVI’s courtiers in the French film “Ridicule.”

hat-tip Stephen Neil