Thoughts on Academic Tenure
By Arnold Kling
When an academic starts pushing the tenure model for anywhere outside academia, I will find their defense of its use in academia more convincing.
I think that tenure is only a subset or symptom of a larger issue. The issue to me is that in the academy, the incumbents control the process without any external validation.
A while back, I ran into Olivier Blanchard. He and I do not exactly agree on the state of academic macro. He told me that he thought that I was disparaging something that had “met the market test.”
Some market. Some test. If Blanchard’s generation of macroeconomists have passed a test, it is one that they made up themselves.
In experimental science and engineering, these is enough external validation to keep the process honest. In other disciplines, in-breeding can get out of hand. In my opinion, macroeconomics has suffered from that.
I think that the general problem in the academy is that it is too strongly cartelized. Perhaps the most appalling symptom of that is the disparity between tenured professors and adjuncts. Such a disparity would almost surely not emerge in a free market.
Tenure is one way in which incumbents enforce the cartel. But getting rid of tenure would not be sufficient. I think that the key for fields outside of science and engineering is to create a meaningful role for those outside of a narrow field to influence hiring and compensation within that field.