Shorting DeLong

Brad DeLong picked a fight with Jonah Goldberg last week, criticizing a Goldberg column about the dearth of Republicans on college faculties. Among other things, DeLong offered up a litany of reasons why "engineers and scientists" that he says he's talked to aren't Republicans.

Unlike DeLong, I'm actually an engineer. Based on DeLong's list of supposed non-starters, I'm guessing most of the "engineers and scientists" that he spoke to teach college at Berkeley (like DeLong himself), or at the very least live in the Bay Area. In approximately six years of college and graduate school (BS, Auburn, MS, Texas) I probably had two or three engineering professors who were identifiably far enough to the Left to be called Democrats. The rest (at least those who noted politics at all) were a pretty conservative bunch. The leftie count was higher among graduate assistants, and considerably higher among the physics profs--but I think I can say without serious fear of contradiction that physics departments worldwide have a reputation for general weirdness (you can make of that whatever you like).

In over ten years of professional work, I think I've encountered maybe four working engineers who would admit to voting for a Democrat. There are a few who lean liberterian, but they're also in a considerable minority. The overwhelming number of engineers whom I've encountered (at least those who voluntarily express political opinions; I don't go around asking) are conservatives who vote for Republicans.

Not unlike in DeLong's case (although he's too pompous to admit it), this is undoubtably due to a great deal of self-selection. I've worked almost exclusively for defense contractors at Southern military bases during my career, and you don't normally find MooreOns coming out of the woodwork in those places.

What does it all mean? Very little, other than the simple fact that like minds do tend to congregate together. Lefties are more likely to teach at Berkeley. Conservatives are more likely to work for the military.

Not much of an insight, I know--but the point was obvious enough for Brad DeLong to miss it, and go out of his way to be a jerk in the process. Which, come to think of it, is also hardly a surprise...