What direction does the academy's leftwardness come from?
I was just reading a post of cephalicfurrow's, recommended from his archives by Andrew, and I started wondering about the anti-wealth choices of the academic.
As far as I can tell, a lot of academics, and most public servants have chosen a life that values a lot of other things higher than money. A professor in Math has the intellectual horsepower to make substantial $ in the private sector as a quant or an engineer or programmer/architect. Why does he choose professor? Either he's made a mistake that he needs to justify to himself, or else he's made a costly choice trading autonomy, self-directedness and such for a high initial salary.
If he has made a mistake, there are two choices. Either he can fix it, or he can try to convince himself that he ahs made the right choice. As we know an awful lot of folks choose the 2nd, and proceed to try to convince themselves that their choice WAS the right one. A particularly effective way of doing that is to shift your nominal values.
Also, if your values say wealth and productivity are relatively unimportant (the traditional position of the clergy), then there should be a substantial preference for other-serving pleasant life over hard-work, high wealth lives. Could this be a source of part of the liberal gradient in the academy?
Of course, it's still semi-obvious that almost the whole liberal gradient should be attributed to in-group status. People adopt the positions of their (a) neighbors, (b) colleagues, and (c) those more powerful. Grad students should adopt professorial positions, and professors should adopt the positions of their co-professors. But the wealth issue may still matter.