Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Laurie Fendrich attempts to divine from her own experience why college professors tend to be left-wing. She reaches the puzzling conclusion that her parents’ emphasis on education and culture over wealth accumulation somehow steered her toward the professorate and leftism. This is puzzling both because professors have higher than average compensation (especially adjusted for workload), and because there’s no evidence that conservatives value wealth accumulation more than do liberals. They certainly tend to be betterat accumulating wealth, but for all we know this leads to a bitter focus by leftists on their lack of income, and a concomitant focus by conservatives on objectives beyond income — the exact opposite of Fendrich’s implicit hypothesis.
The jumping off point for Fendrich’s rumination is a just-released study claiming that the cause for professorial leftism is, among other things, that leftists tend to want — much more than conservatives — to become professors in the first place. It’s certainly an interesting theory, though the methodology underlying the guts of the paper are shaky (finding that professors are more liberal than non-professors because they are educated, atheistic, and enjoy controversy is like determining that more Southerners have a drawl because they drink sweet tea, like NASCAR, and own a Bible — all you’ve done is find some variables highly correlated with the variable of interest).
All the same, I prefer Robert Nozick’s explanation for why intellectuals hate markets.