I love Sarah Palin.  That’s not necessarily because of anything she believes or advocates, but because of the pleasure I derive from watching the apoplexy she causes in liberals, especially in a university setting.  Not only is Palin a strong conservative, but she has a regular middle-class background and a passionate religious commitment.  This combination calls forth an unabashed blend of class contempt and anti-Christian bigotry.

Witnessing such reactions in recent months makes me ask just why such opinions are so near monolithic in the context of a university campus.  Of course, college faculty are overwhelmingly liberal, at least in the humanities and social sciences.  Everyone knows that.  Apart from a college town, are there many other settings where one person at a social gathering will make a fervent call for higher taxes across the board, and everyone else will approve heartily?

But just why is that liberalism so self-evident?  Faculty liberals themselves have no trouble explaining the matter, although normally they would be chary about stating their opinion too openly.  In their view, their academic qualifications prove that they are smarter and more educated than other people, so of course they understand the world better.  They think critically and without prejudice.  Intelligent people favor intelligent policies, which are liberal.

Recent months have produced a number of subtler explanations about the political coloring of universities, and some demand respect.  One study, for instance, reported in the New York Times, challenged the idea that the fact of education made people liberal.  Rather, people who are already liberal are naturally attracted to becoming college professors, because of the common social stereotype that the profession is full of gutsy liberals.  The reasoning is, of course, circular.

This past February, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a sweeping contribution from Jere Surber, a professor of philosophy, under the title “Well, Naturally We’re Liberal.”  Basically, Sur­ber restated the familiar Smart People theory, but with a new historical twist.  Educated people know more history, which they understand as a constant struggle of the oppressed and disenfranchised against power and privilege.  In the words of the Prophet Barack, history really does have a right side, and educated people know they must be on it.  And that right side is the Left Side.

Surber, in other words, genuinely has not realized that historians have ideological views, and that left-liberal historians write books that reflect their perspectives.  They also award prizes and distinctions to other books that reflect those views, and tend to hire people who come from a similar political standpoint.  When they evaluate the American past, they award praise or blame according to their own individual criteria, so that the most interventionist and statist presidents win the highest accolades.  Of course the history that Surber is reading promotes a liberal agenda, because it was intended to.

Whether such a study leads the reader to favor the right side of history is a totally different question.  Compared with other sections of society, college faculty are still far more likely to believe that communism was a noble experiment; that the Soviet Union never had spies in North America; that the Cold War was a capitalist provocation; and that state socialism is a highly desirable goal.  If educated people are so smart, why are their conclusions so systematically wrong?

I offer two working explanations for pervasive campus liberalism.  One is the yawning gulf that separates many university faculty from any form of productive economic activity.  Universities depend wholly on the larger state of the economy, but that relationship impinges not at all on the ordinary professor.  In their minds, the university clearly has money, and it has an obligation to share it.  Most professors do not know how or where that money is generated, any more than a South Sea islander who builds an airstrip in the jungle in the expectation that the gods will send him rich cargo.

Also, university life is designed to promote infantilism and dependency.  A typical student receives a bachelor’s degree at 22, but then might spend anything from 10 to 15 years as a graduate student and teaching assistant until receiving the doctorate that is the license to join the profession.  Not until 40 might that person begin his first regular job.  By that point, you have learned to blend completely into the political culture of your mentors.  In the ugly but common academic phrase, you have been “well trained.”  You thus have a natural sympathy for intervention from on high and have learned to eschew initiative.  You have become a liberal.

But whatever the reason, the liberalism of college faculty seems unlikely to change any time soon.  I do look forward to the day of Sarah Palin’s presidential inauguration, when I will be volunteering to ladle out the Kool-Aid.