The Power of Ideas . . . ?
| Peter Klein |
Back to sociologists and economists. Brayden King says the leftward bias of academic sociology is largely due to selection. I think the same is true for economics. That is, crunchy, communitarian, big-government progressives are more likely to specialize in sociology or community development, while pro-market, steel-and-concrete individualist libertarians and conservatives are more likely to choose economics or finance.
What does this say, however, about the power of ideas to influence political beliefs? If scholars select into one scientific discipline or another based on prior commitment to a particular social and political worldview, then what generates those worldviews in the first place? Is it possible to change hearts and minds with reason and evidence?
Hayek reports that he started out a Fabian-style socialist but was converted to laissez-faire after reading Mises’s Socialism in 1922. Hayek says the same is true of Lionel Robbins, Bertil Ohlin, and Wilhelm Roepke. These cases seem highly exceptional, however. Can readers suggest other examples? In particular, are there any cases of free-marketeers converting to socialism or interventionism through the study of sociology?