Somin Comments on Intellectual and Institutional Diversity
In an article examining the concept behind the think tank, Professor Ilya Somin's comments on intellectual and institutional diversity were cited along with those of University of Texas Professor Brian Leiter, author of the Leiter Law School Rankings.
Somin and Leiter both point out that schools on both ends of the political spectrum add to the debate by providing diversity across institutions, rather than simply within them, despite the homogeneity of their communities.
Thinking about Think Tanks, Outside the Beltway, October 11, 2007. By James Joyner.
"A comment on Jonathan Adler's post about the issue links some related discussion by Brian Leiter and Ilya Somin on the value of intellectual diversity. While there's no disagreement on the fact that a wide range of viewpoints is essential, Somin correctly notes the 'conflict between diversity within institutions and diversity across them,' noting the value that schools like Brandeis and Brigham Young add to the debate despite their relative homogeneity. Leiter agrees, pointing to the success George Mason has had by assembling a law school faculty (and I'd add, an Economics department) comprised almost exclusively of conservatives and libertarians.
George Mason has been able to attract a highly productive and accomplished faculty, who no doubt stimulate each other to do more and better work. One of the more unfortunate consequence of Justice Powell's introduction of the 'diversity' mantra into American public discourse is that it obscures the extent to which in scholarly pursuits depth, subtlety, and the comprehensive exploration of the possibilities of an intellectual paradigm require the stimulation of colleagues who share some basic premises, substantive and methodological: it's some degree of homogeneity, not diversity, that often makes possible the deepest work. The beauty of American law schools is that George Mason is but one of the many options from which law students, and legal scholars, can choose, and that most good law schools are large enough to accommodate clusters of scholars who share 'viewpoints,' but who, taken together, produce a remarkable diversity of viewpoints on the real issues that engage lawyers, judges, and academics.
"Similarly, while institutions like Heritage and AEI operate within a fairly narrow range of internal discourse, there's hardly a shortage of competing ideas from other shops."