Why do business people lean right and academics lean left?
It’s not that business people are greedy exploiters and academics are compassionate analysts. And it’s not that business people are practical realists and academics are idealistic dreamers. We’ve all seen plenty of counter-examples to put the lie to these stereotypes.
One possibility has to do with status. In business your status comes from market acceptance. Holding onto your status requires you to compete for consumer acceptance. In academics, status comes from credentials. Achieving higher degrees confers increases in both pay and influence. Maintaining your status means maintaining a good working relationship with the conferring authority, usually a centralized body.
People on the right tend to be distrustful of centralized authority and skeptical of claims of market failure. People on the left tend to see market failures all around and rely on governments to regulate markets. Both sides have a point—but where you stand may depend upon where you sit.
The question is how we handle the inherent conflict. A 50/50 political world isn’t necessarily dysfunctional—it’s more competitive. And healthy debate usually leads to better outcomes. The key is respect. Respect for differences, respect for integrity, and ultimately respect for the process. That’s what’s made the American Experiment prosper thus far.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
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