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September 28, 2007


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"There's also email"

I've had a mixed experience with this. I'm a Hayek scholar and a philosopher of science and economics. I belong to several academic email list and once belong to several now defunct leftist economics elists. I also for many years ran the Hayek-L email list with several hundred academics and journalists, etc. from around the world from a dozen different field. Among other things I invited Steven Fuller on the list to discuss his work on Thomas Kuhn, and I invited left-leaning academics to discuss such things as Hayek, Keynes and Laski, and problems with neo-classical economics.

A lot of this stuff worked out wonderfully -- with a lot of editorial work by me as editor and moderator. Hugely diverse and stimulating conversations broke out to the benefit of many.

On the other hand, although my posting on email lists have been almost exclusively academic in nature, dealing with questions of the history of economic thought and current theory, on several lists I was routinely hounded and sometimes viciously attacked because my academic research centered on the work of Friedrich Hayek (yes, you read that right Cass.) These attacks where not only political, they were sometimes personal, and included one incident where my reputation was smeared and the moderators of the list felt it OK to prevented me from clearing my name.

I found this all shocking and I was truly stunned by the nastiness of these academics -- perhaps I was simply naive. Some of these folks seemed to think their job was to act something like an enforcer -- letting folks know in no uncertain terms what kinds of things were beyond the bounds of the acceptable -- such as working on the ideas of Hayek. (Yes Cass, Hayek.)

So on my Hayek list, folks from a diversity of backgrounds were welcomed (and protect from attack by the moderator -- though not something that happened much.) On some of these left-leaning lists (and even some without any particular lean) a student doing research on Hayek could be made to feel unwelcome and under attack, and even badly mistreated. It was a small minority who did this, but it was done under the sanction of the list owners and moderators.

It's sort of the story many tell -- there are two sets of rules out there in some forums. "Conservatives" and "Libertarians" (i.e. classic liberals) tend to run things by the rules and treat everyone with respect -- but some bastions of the academic left don't run things this way when they are dealing with "Conservatives" or "Libertarians" (think of the treatment of conservative and libertarian speakers on many college campuses.) Email list can be like that. Think what kind of treatment say Bill Bennett can get on a college campus -- and think what kind of treatment he might get on a left-learning academic email list. Often he could easily get better treatment on the speaking platform.

Something for Cass to think about -- because I really do think there is a problem here and the problem in strongly asymmetric. It's far worse on the left and among liberals than it is among conservatives and libertarians.


Another good blog aggregator is the Economic Roundtable:


The site aggregate economic blogs from all across the ideological spectrum and from all sorts of different economic specialties.

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