Academics who pursue careers in public policy face the danger of compromising their intellectual integrity, said University of Chicago Law Professor Richard A. Epstein at the ARCO forum last night.
Although Epstein admitted that he was "generally ambivalent" on the subject of academics' participating in the working of government, he voiced concerns about the integrity of those intellectuals that choose to pursue a career in public policy.
"Often, academics sell out without knowing it and give up their intellectual independence," Epstein said, speaking to a crowd of about 60 people at the Institute of Politics.
Epstein pointed out that although the academic world fosters a spirit of intellectual independence, the world of public policy requires an ability to compromise at all times.
The academic is often unable to reconcile these two differing modes of thought, Epstein said.
"You have to work out a series of ways to distance yourself," he said.
Although academics are often led astray in their pursuit of success in government, Epstein said they are important in government because they bring intellectual knowledge to their area of expertise which is often lacking in officials who are burdened by the day-to-day responsibilities of office.
"Hopefully, they could contribute something to the common discourse that others could not," he said.
Epstein said that shrinking the size of the government itself would serve as one solution to the issue of academics working in the world of public policy.
If the size of government were pared back, many of the problems that academics face in government would be alleviated, he said.
Though there are no set rules for deciding whether an academic will be successful in government, Epstein pointed out that experience is an important factor.
"The professionals beat the amateurs every time," he said