Thursday, March 31, 2011

Richard Vedder v Paul Krugman on the Cronon Affair

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
I laughed reading this, because Krugman shows here a lack of perception that almost equals that shown in his views on the economy. Remarkably, like Cronon, I have been forced, by a  public records request, to make available vast numbers of e-mails to a critic. A former student who became a minor Ohio political operative—and a Republican one at that—with whom I publicly disagreed once accused me of being “a slobbering, drunk old fool.” When a newspaper reporter asked me to comment, I replied, “I don’t slobber.” The critic got mad and tried to intimidate me by demanding my e-mail records.

I would agree with Krugman that this sort of tactic is an inappropriate way to deal with critics, and even is inconsistent with academic freedom broadly defined. I certainly agree that Cronon has a right to speak his mind. But Professor Cronon, like me, is subsidized in his speaking and writing by the public, including taxpayers, and they believe that they have a right to know what the people subsidized by them are doing. I don’t like it, Krugman doesn’t like it, and Cronon, no doubt, doesn’t like it, but that happens when public employees start speaking up on policy issues on what some taxpayers perceive to be their dime. The more higher education is dependent upon government support, the more the freedom of expression of those within the academy is likely to be subject to scrutiny.