Friday, December 30, 2011

Do First Year Classes at Yale Law School Influence Student Ideology?

Yale University's Law School produces stars.  Due to the diversity of the Yale Law School faculty, and the fact that students are randomly assigned to first year classes,  researchers have the opportunity to tease out whether taking Law classes with friends of Adam Smith shapes law students.   While Yale is known to be a liberal law school, there are some faculty sketching the benefits of pursuing "efficiency".  According to this paper,  students who were randomly assigned to the "neo-classical economics" sections for courses such as torts and contracts reveal themselves to be more likely (on average) to act like economic man.  If you look at the tables in back, you will see that the "Tiger Mom" is one of the instructors.  She is coded up as "neutral".  Future research should study whether attending her class has a causal effect in shaping students.

This research interests for 2 reasons.  First, it is funny.   Second, as a free market environmentalist --- I'm quite interested in how we set up institutions and incentives to encourage "green growth".   Why are people in Berkeley such liberal/greens?  Is it selection (i.e hippies choosing to live with each other) or is it treatment (i.e if Rick Perry were forced to move to Berkeley he would assimilate and start eating tofu and would eventually like it).   During this ideological age, where does our ideology come from? (our parents?) and how does it evolve over time?  

Somehow, liberal Democrats have triggered a perverse reaction by Republicans.  There is no reason that Republicans must now have a litmus test that all "green action" is communism and over-reach by the state but many in this group have adopted this view because liberal/greens have been so sanctimonious about environmental issues.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend?  

If we understood more about ideological dynamics (at the individual level), then social science would make progress in predicting and explaining voting behavior and in anticipating the political economy of what public policies could actually be supported by a majority.