Doubt and Ideology


James K

James is a government policy analyst, and lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His interests including wargaming, computer gaming (especially RPGs and strategy games), Dungeons & Dragons and scepticism. No part of any of his posts or comments should be construed as the position of any part of the New Zealand government, or indeed any agency he may be associated with.

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113 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I second the vote for epistemological and ideological humility. On the other hand, you do arrive at some verities nevertheless, and the fact is that others will arrive at others (you don’t claim these maxims you offer at the end are self-evident or beyond debate, do you?). And so it — politics — starts…Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      Clearly not self-evident, since there are people who disagree with them (number 2 is especially controversial, though not among economists). But the list I put up would be held to be a good one by a large majority of economists. There are complications that need to be worked though, but I feel it’s a good starting point.Report

      • Avatar Fred Chopin says:

        A very hearty welcome Mr. James K!

        You’ll do very well here, Elias, if your thoughtful, erudite comments are any indication of communication skills.

        Good luck and best wishes–look forward to reading your posts.Report

  2. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Excellent piece, James.Report

  3. Avatar Larry says:

    Two comments in one:
    First, the frame in which Erik poses his “single most important question” is a poor one, that underlies much political, social, and moral confusion — once you set up “flourishing and economically vibrant” as at least potentially in opposition to “just and fair”, then you’re creating a problem that doesn’t exist. (His identification of classical liberals and libertarians by the limited notion of “private economic freedom”, by the way, is an indication that his views have been unduly influenced by the ironically self-styled “progressives”.)
    Second, is just a reminder that epistemological humility is a central principle in Hayekian classical liberalism.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Larry – two points:

      1) My ‘question’ is purposefully quite broad, as it encompasses many, many other questions that society wrestles with. I mean it only as the crux much of everything else spins off of. And a flourishing economy and fairness are not mutually exclusive, but politics has a way of muddying the waters.

      2) I did not personally identify classical liberals and libertarians in the way you note – that was drawn from Tomasi’s piece.

      Oh and 3rd – yes, this is one reason I’m so drawn to Hayek.Report

      • Avatar dexter says:

        E. D. Kain, I hope this is not a rude thing to do, but I want to ask you a few questions about your blog at Forbes. First, I want to say how much I like your writing and reading about your transformations. Second, I would like to know if I log in over there I would be inundated with spam. I would like to say a few things there, but since I made the mistake of logging on a site that shall remain anonymous, my spam grew from about three a week to fifty or more. Thirdly, do you get lonely over there? I have not read a lot on that site, but first impression is that they are more than a little dogmatic, something I don’t feel you are. An a priori thanks for any time you spend answering.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          Spam avoidance is what free, disposable e-mail accounts are for. Surely no one creates a hotmail account because they find it a good place to read mail.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          I logged on to E’s blog and have not received a spam-a-lanche. They seem safe. I think E’s stuff is the only stuff worth reading on that site.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

          Dexter – I get a little lonely, but only because a lot of our commenters avoid the place due to its rather sub-par commenting system (I think that’s why, anyways). I just write about what’s important to me for the most part. I’m glad to hear it’s at least a bit interesting.

          If you’re interested in tech, Alex’s stuff is quite good:

          Other than that, I admit my usual blog reading occurs elsewhere. But Forbes is new to the blogging game. Wilkinson is there, but he blogs mostly at The Economist now. There are a few others that are worth the read.Report

      • Avatar Larry says:

        Thanks, Eric — I take your point re the breadth of the question. My point was simply that it should maybe be broader still, in order to allow for other possibilities than the potential conflict between flourishing and justice. E.g., what if the two are largely orthogonal, so that they neither conflict with nor promote one another? Or, more interesting, and I think more likely, what if one is largely a consequence of the other, so that just societies are, ceteris paribus, also flourishing societies? Questions like these, of course, inevitably raise further questions concerning the very nature of justice and fairness (not to mention “flourishing”) but I think they might help clarify some of those muddy political waters.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      I’m a big fan of Hayek for just this reason.

      And I see nothing wrong with the framing Tomasi (and by extension Erik) uses. First of all, even if justice and economic prosperity are never in conflict it’s hard to establish that a priori, and justice and freedom are at least conceptually different this so its good to keep them as separate concepts even if they prove to be strongly correlated.

      Secondly, if one is describing the difference between liberalism and libertarianism what descriptive framework would you use other than private economic freedom vs. distributional outcomes?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        The Civil Rights Act is a clear illustration of the difference, but wasn’t distributional, except in a highly metaphorical sense. The liberal sees the need to end racial discrimination, both public and private, one of the chief evils of American society. The libertarian sees restaurant owners deprived of their liberty to refuse to do business with dark-skinned people.Report

        • You’re buying “liberal media” bullshit there and misrepresenting the actual issue (which is sloppy as hell, if not dishonest). A plethora of prominent libertarians fell over themselves to express support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after the Rand Paul foot-in-mouth fiasco. The act was clearly justified on libertarian lines. I actually found Rand’s take interesting because I believe politics should be non-emotional: could the culture really have solved the problem in a more effective manner than the edict from above?

          I guess this all stems from my anti-Keynesian foundation: “the long-run is all that should matter because we’re tough.”Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            The libertarians I know in real life think it was a bad idea and insist that, sans Jim Crow laws, the logic of the marketplace would have led owners to stop turning away potential customers. I’m less interested in what spokesmen say.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              And I’m a bit surprised to see that anyone still uses “liberal media” to describe the oppressively centrist MSM.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                I’m surprised you’re surprised, Mr. Schilling. Your definition of “centrist” is what’s in question here.

                The MSM is an echo chamber for the Democratic Party. Therefore, The Democratic Party is indeed “oppressively centrist.”

                Clearly, the other party, we thinking persons need not concern ourselves about. We have an oppressively centrist party, and the far right, n’est-ce pas?Report

              • I would say with a straight face that the Democratic Party is oppressively centrist and the Republican Party is oppressively existing in another universe altogether.Report

              • the scare quotes might suggest my usage was ironic. The MSM is oppressively bipartisan.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Yes, Mr. Carr, I would expect the far left to say that with a straight face. But it may say more about the speaker than his subject.Report

              • Okay, it’s basically a media that has exploited and monetized the ideas of the 1960s. Does that make it right or left? A little of both I’d say.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s a corporatist media that also happens to be condescendingly socially liberal.

                “Glibertarian” might be a better miscategorization of the media than “liberal”.Report

              • OTM, Jaybird. More than anything, traditional media is simply vapid.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                “condescendingly socially liberal.”
                Was this from Limbaugh or Hannity?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Was this from Limbaugh or Hannity?

                Would you like me to write you a small essay giving examples of such or would you like to save both of us some time and start ignoring the underlying point right now?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                It would be easy to give a small essay supporting your point. However it would also be easy to provide a small essay showing where the MSM has supported conservative framing, hippie punched, supported conservative arguments or excluded liberal view points. Its neither one nor the other but the way you phrased it is classic Fox News when the situation is simply more complex. Shallow and uninterested in reporting is a better description.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                However it would also be easy to provide a small essay showing where the MSM has supported conservative framing, hippie punched, supported conservative arguments or excluded liberal view points.

                Would the overwhelming majority of these examples be examples where the media would be described as, here, let me quote myself, “corporatist”?

                Its neither one nor the other but the way you phrased it is classic Fox News when the situation is simply more complex.

                Really? Fox News would describe the media as “a corporatist media that also happens to be condescendingly socially liberal”?

                Could you provide an example of Fox Media (or Rush, or Hannity) saying *ANYTHING* like that?

                It seems to me that you saw “Y” and are basing your argument on my saying that the media was Y when, really, I said that the media was X and Y… and your arguments against the media being Y involve the media being X.Report

      • Avatar Fred Chopin says:

        Guten Abend mein Freund!

        Okay, allow me to ask a rather stupid question. (Sorry-just have to ask.) Does water twirl around in a different direction in the Southern Hemisphere? That is, does it twirl clockwise where you live or counterclockwise where I live? Just had to ask.

        Any good sites to learn New Zealand”ish”? I hope you use as many (what do you guys call each other?) idioms as possible. New languages are always fun–just ask Mr. Blaise.

        Also, I’d like to belatedly thank you for the very generous use of your time to answer so many, many questions.

        You’re a helluva good guy, Mr. James!Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          1) The Coriolis Effect is real, but very weak in bodies of water smaller than a cyclone, so in practice our water goes down the drain in whatever way local conditions dictate. Which side of your sink the water pipe is on affect water flow a lot more than your hemisphere.

          2) New Zealanders call each other “New Zealanders” or “Kiwis”. Incidentally, we call the fruit kiwifruit (kiwis are a native bird), so telling a New Zealander that you like eating kiwis will get you an odd look. I’m afraid I’m not aware of a site covering our local idioms though.Report

          • Avatar Fred Chopin says:

            Sorry James—forgot to thank you for your excellent reply–so Thanks!

            Uh-oh, now you’ve really done it–you might get 500 comments going at this rate!

            Great opening and wording–was bound to stir up the tribes–like me! Good job!

            p.s. I guess we can move on to my next stupid question. Okay, we all know the ice cube experiment–put an ice cube in a glass of water, and the water level remains the same–neither higher or lower.Report

      • I don’t know, James K. I’d consider myself as a back-end centrist but I waver between libertarianism and various forms of anarchism as a core ideology. (I find comparing and contrasting the thought of Hayek and Kropotkin particularly mind-blowing.) I sympathize with the pragmatism of Obama, the non-meddlesome agrarian conservatives, and the market socialists/syndicalists. It may be quixotic, but I think some structural changes could give us both more economic freedom for individuals and distributional outcomes. Intuitively, I think private economic freedom vs. distributional outcomes is a false dichotomy big-time.Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          I suspect that some policies would make both better, some would make them both worse and some would necessitate a trade-off.Report

  4. I very much enjoyed both this piece and the one to which it responds.

    I don’t think every problem goes unsolved due to its intractability — that would be a nice world to live in but I’m doubtful we’ve all got such noble intentions — but I do think that the “big” questions remain debated because there’s no objective truth.

    And it’s invaluable that we all keep this in mind; it should be the one thing, if nothing else, on which we can all agree.

    Lastly, out of my appreciation for your post and as a gesture of welcome, I will refrain from making any of the many (undoubtedly lame) “Flight of the Conchords” jokes I might otherwise subject us all to. Let me just say that if your work in service of NZ is even half as good as that of Murray’s, then we’re in good hands, indeed.Report

    • Avatar Fred Chopin says:

      Charles Murray? Excellent.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      Well, Rhys Darby is a tough act to follow, but I’ll just have to see what I can do.Report

    • Avatar Koz says:

      “I don’t think every problem goes unsolved due to its intractability — that would be a nice world to live in but I’m doubtful we’ve all got such noble intentions — but I do think that the “big” questions remain debated because there’s no objective truth.”

      Or whatever objective truth there is is covered in a cloud of vagueness.

      Given the general nature of human relations we should expect this to be the case. Nonetheless in the current state of political-cultural discourse, it’s not. And fwiw, that’s quite a bit surprising to me.

      The failure of the Obama Administration and the Left in general is clear enough for anyone who is looking, as is the contrast with the hope that the mainstream Right is offering. What’s much more difficult are the cultural filters we use to deny what should be obvious. But even there, if resolving such things is difficult, it’s still possible nonetheless.Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    To further complicate your scenario James the caustic acids of material self interest flow through these debates like lava flows boring their way through the theoretical and intellectual landscape. If an actor or a group of actors finds a particular policy or stance to be economically advantageous to themselves they will often specifically seek intellectual means of justifying it after the fact or will hand wave intellectual or theoretical objections with invocations of the real world (though true honest realism is very important).Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      This is very true. It even happens without people being fully aware of it happening. You can act ouf of self-interest without realizing you’re doing so.Report

      • Avatar Fred Chopin says:

        Can’t one’s acting out of self-interest be a positive thing, even a noble one? From just a medical standpoint, ponder how many millions of people have been saved because of ego driven, $$$driven, lust for fame driven PhDs and MDs–and of course, the greatest force on earth, serendipity.

        I submit the “selfish” gene is the most important, hard-wired gene a human possesses. Take that away and you’re talking life in mud huts on $2 a day—come to think of it, you’re actually talking about Obama, “your brother’s keeper” Obama, and all that rot.

        It’s pretty sick spectacle to be honest.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Oh, Fred, I’ll agree heartily that at the most abstract levels self interest is a highly productive vice. Capitalism is an effective form of resource distribution because it props self interest against other vices to create virtous results.

          I was referring more specifically to political/economic theory and people with very specific economic interests. The defense contractor who favors wars, the farmer who favors agricultural subsidies, the union worker who favors protectionism for instance.Report

      • Avatar dexter says:

        For the most part all actions are in one’s self interest. Mr. B P giving money to refugee camps is a matter of self interest. It makes him feel good. When I do something that makes my wife smile it is in my self interest. There is a direct correlation between her glee factor and mine. The rich are the same. Soros and Kochs come to mind. They spend their money on causes that makes them feel better.
        Doing a belly flop on a live grenade is different.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          But if you are expanding your self interest to include helping other people then that is a wide definition. You end with altruism=self interest. There is a argument that helping others of our tribe or group helps us. But people give to charity with there time or money have a choice to spend it on something which could make them feel good in many ways.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      Self-serving bias is definitely a problem, I’m sure most American farmers genuinely believe that agricultural subsides are important for the economic health of the US.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        Actually, I suspect that there’s quite a bit fewer than you think. A lot of them aren’t necessarily politically active, and can genuinely rationalize that they had nothing to do with price supports or whatever. Moreover, of the ones who do farm Washington, figure that there’s enough slop thrown around that they oughta get their fair share.

        Limited government is a good thing.Report

      • Avatar Fred Chopin says:

        And now for the ice cube test. Has Archimedes been tossed under the bus? Is it not true that regardless of whether the ice cube is solid or completely melted into the water in the glass, the water level will remain the same.

        Yes, kind sir. And why is Gore running around like a rabid, foaming hyena claiming melting icebergs are going to make the oceans 20 ft. higher? Yes, he really did make that claim. I guess in twenty years of so, when you’re sightseeing in NYC and you want to go see the Empire State Building, you have to get off or on the elevator on the 20th floor to be on the ground floor.

        Is anyone trembling with fear with such a scenario? Didn’t think so.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Melting ice shelfs and ice packs will add more water to the oceans. Adding water raises sea level.Report

          • Avatar Fred Chopin says:

            Greg, how will melting ice shelfs and ice packs add any more water to the oceans? They’ve been there in one form or other for millions of years. How does that differ from

            No different than Archimedes ice cube experiment–remember, we’re looking at that cube in a cup after the cube has been placed in the cup–the water level will never go up or down but stay constant.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Because the large ice shelfs in Antarctica aren’t in the water, so adding them to the ocean is putting more water into the ocean. If you put another ice cube into a glass, the water level goes up.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              Fred, As Greginak notes there are enormous bodies of ice that sit up out of the water at the current time when frozen. I’ve also heard that the weight of all that ice on the land also makes the crust sit lower and that if you removed the weight of all that ice the land would rise there effectively shrinking your metaphorical glass. Though as an AGW economic skeptic I can’t say with any authority as to if that is likely or just bunkem.Report

              • Avatar Fred Chopin says:

                Thanks so much, Greginak and North, for the replies–much to ponder. I wasn’t thinking in terms of adding ice,but of ice already existing in the oceans which would lead to an entirely different situation. I guess. What happens to mankind’s greatest genius, Sir Isaac Newton, and his laws of motion? As in, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”? It would seem to be a much less stable universe.

                In the meantime, it might serve this discussion better if I could go buy an iceberg myself, and see what conclusions we might come up with. Do you think E-Bay might be helpful?

                etc. etc.Report

  6. Avatar greginak says:

    This and the original comment on BHL were good. One commenter on BHL noted that modern liberals are more aiming for the optimal mix of the various freedoms and social justice. This seems a more accurate of where modern libs are at then the absolutist positions stated by many. I’d even extend that the best libertarian thinkers often see a bit of room of social justice while prioritizing economic freedom. To many discussions get framed by ideologues and black and white thinkers.Report

  7. Avatar Tom says:

    “First of all, even if justice and economic prosperity are never in conflict it’s hard to establish that a priori”

    Yes, but so is the opposite. A correlation might be negative, positive, or non-existent, so if you start by implying that the two may be trade-offs (i.e., are negatively correlated), you tend to prejudice the subsequent considerations.

    As for characterizing the difference between “liberalism” and “libertarianism”, I’d first want to disambiguate the first term by substituting so-called “progressivism”, and then I’d say that the most general and apt difference is between an interest in and focus on statist control and direction, in the first case, vs. individual emancipation in the second.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      No, saying they may be negatively correlated is simply stating a possible scenario. Sometimes they’ll be positively correlated, sometimes negative correlated and sometimes orthogonal. I meant nothing more than that.Report

    • Avatar Matty says:

      I’d say that the most general and apt difference is between an interest in and focus on statist control and direction, in the first case, vs. individual emancipation in the second.

      Not seeing it I’m afraid, the political left may be too willing to use the state as a tool to achieve it’s goals but I cannot think of anyone that side of the political spectrum who sees state control and direction as an end in itself.Report

      • Avatar Larry says:


        … I cannot think of anyone that side of the political spectrum [the left] who sees state control and direction as an end in itself.

        People’s ends in themselves vary widely, but the difference defining the political spectrum has more to do with means than ends — so, on the left, we see a decided propensity to look to broadening the already vast scope and reach of the state to achieve those ends, while on the classically liberal right, we see a propensity to look for ways to empower and enable individuals. The main point is that the difference is far wider and more significant than simply “private economic freedom vs. distributional outcomes”.Report

        • Avatar Matty says:

          I think we must be using the same words for different things, I see ‘the left’ as those groups that prioritise equality( in some vague sense), including many anarchists, ‘the right’ as those who prioritise social stability and the (Burkean?) idea that we should not assume existing systems can be radically improved and classical liberals/libertarians as a third group that really does prioritise that private economic freedom.Report

          • Avatar Larry says:

            This is why some people prefer a 2-dimensional plane rather than a 1-dimensional spectrum to map political alternatives. Without getting into the complexities of that, however, my points are simply a) that for the so-called “progressive” left (i.e., not including anarchists), equality is only one objective (others might be safety, the environment, etc.) but all such objectives are pursued through the expansion of state power, and b) that classical liberals prioritize individual freedom of all kinds, not merely “private economic freedom”. In particular, I don’t understand the desire to tack on the two qualifiers to “freedom” — what other kinds of freedom would you have in mind that they don’t prioritize?Report

            • Avatar Matty says:

              The qualifiers were lifted from the original piece and I’m happy to not use them. I also think that now I realise you are talking about the progressive left rather the broader left you are probably right. Part of the problem is that I personally share many of those objectives but would rather see them realised with as little state power as possible.Report

              • Avatar Larry says:

                Yes, I think probably most people share many of the ostensible objectives of the “progressive” left, including Burkean conservatives. But that’s why I think it’s the focus on the steady expansion of the state that really defines the left (or at least that left) as such. Re: the use of modifiers, however, I think the objective of equality is one that could use some more definition — “forced economic equality” really is a better descriptor of the goal here than a vague term like “distributional outcomes”.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                You might be right about the progressive left, but I think that’s sort of wishful thinking about “most people”- in my experience, most people support all sorts of good outcomes in theory, but not in anything more than that. I mean, in theory, I’m a big believer in the idea that all people should eat well and exercise. Not that I support any means whatsoever to get the general population to eat well or exercise; nor do I eat particularly well or exercise very often myself.Report

  8. Avatar Francis says:

    “don’t try to centrally plan your economy, there’s probably nothing to be gained by restricting international trade, screw with the price system at your peril”

    Re Point 1: Do you know where your water comes from? Do you know the process whereby interstate highway locations are selected? Was the financial collapse of 2008-to-present really due to too much government oversight? Why is it that France can pay about 2/3rd of what we’re paying on a per-person basis and get comparable to better health care?

    Re Point 2: Americans fought a rather unpleasant war in the mid-19th century over slave labor. Is it really appropriate for a capitalist to be able to off-shore his capital, and compete with American-made products using overseas slave labor?

    Re Point 3: yeah, price fixing pretty much sucks. Odd, though, that among the big agricultural states it’s California crops that receive almost no federal support. It’s the low-population, mid-West, Republican-voting states that see the majority of federal support.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      What bearing does point #3 have on anything? Are we arguing over whether red states are hypocritical? Does their hypocrisy tell us anything about the ideas in question?Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      1) I’m making a narrower point than you think I am making. I’m talking about the comprehensive central planning of an economy in the manner of a communist country. Not that the government should never provide services nor that the government should never engage in regulatory activity. I will write a post about this at some point.

      2) Actual slave labour is a legitimate exception, one of about two or three exceptions I would accept. It is also an exception that the WTO accepts. Bear in mind that there is a huge difference between slavery and people voluntary working under conditions you (or I) would personally find unacceptable.

      3) I’m not sure I’m getting your point. If it’s that bad economics is not confined to one side of the political spectrum, then I’m willing to stipulate that. I would also point out that subsides and price fixing aren’t the same thing and subsidies are less problematic (though they still need to be justified on policy grounds).Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Umm Francis, California crops are -enormously- subsidized by federal and state water programs. If farmers in CA or other arid rural regions had to pay what their unsubsidized bretheren pay for water in the urban areas then all those desert strawberries and lettuce would probably be imported from South America at considerably lower cost to the environment, economy and government.Report

  9. Avatar anodynic says:

    Let’s all be epistemologically humble and accept my right-wing views as the logical starting point for debate.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      The points I just listed are commonly accepted among economists of all ideologies, my apologies if you find them ideologically inconvenient.

      Also, I would note that Republicans seem to have as much trouble with points 2 and 4 as the Democrats, and the Democrats don’t attempt point 1 any more. This isn’t about left vs. right, this is about good economics vs. bad economics.Report

  10. Avatar greginak says:

    @jay-the Fox framing is that everybody else is just so liberal and looks down on Real America. There is a standard news piece where some reporter goes to some small town in the middle of the country and gives a weepy loving display of admiration to the Real Americanness of those people. Its so easy to see what you want if you only look at the facts that support your evidence. There some credence to big media being culturally liberal, but you do have to ignore Fox, half of msnbc, all the sunday news talk shows, etc. While there is certainly some cultural liberalism in the media there is also a strong current of rural white Americans being the real Americans.

    I’m guessing you tend to think most, if not all, things said be liberals are condescending so i don’t think there is much to that. I’m guessing you might see this as condescending also. I’ve read a couple make the point that is somehow is. Still funny though.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I assume that you have no problem with my seeing the traditional media as corporatist but only with my seeing it as condescendingly socially liberal.

      Do you remember Daniel Okrent? He wrote a particularly interesting column in which he discussed the social liberalism to be found at the NYT. (Read that column here).

      It was so interesting that he had to walk it back… mostly to the tune of two types of criticisms: 1) you’re confusing being liberal with being intellectually honest and 2) you’re providing aid/comfort to the enemy. (Read that one here.)

      Should I assume that any claim that I make about the social liberalism in newsrooms around the country will be rebutted with Fox, the New York Post, and AM Radio? I don’t exactly see that as a huge counterargument to my original claim.

      The, for lack of a better word, “urbanist” bias of traditional media leads it to suck up to corporations (who buy ads), suck up to unelected political leaders (who provide/deny access), be “bold” and “hard-hitting” on elected political leaders (who cannot be cavilier with access provision/denial), and be about as socially liberal as can be expected of any young person in their 20’s/30’s who has a college degree in “Journalism”.

      Let me guess:

      Fox News and AM Radio and, anyway, Dan Rather got fired while Bill Kristol is still walking around free as a bird?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Does social liberalism mean accepting evolution. being cool with gays, and thinking that predicting the Rapture for next Thursday is silliness? If so, that means being relatively young and/or college-educated at a place not founded by Jerry Falwell. Sorry if that offends.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Does socially conservative mean denying evolution, being opposed to gays, and thinking that predicting the Rapture for next Thursday is something that shouldn’t be mocked?

          Out of curiosity, what is the “centrist” opinion on “teaching the controversy”, “gay marriage”, or prophecy?

          Would you say that most of the mainstream media (that is: Not Fox or AM Radio) would be to the “left” of the centrist position? (I assume that the centrist position is the one that polls a particular way… which, yes, could mean that you could easily argue that the centrist position for gay marriage has recently flipped. That may be a double-edged sword, however.)Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Well if you are saying the MSM is socially liberal accept for all the parts that aren’t’ socially liberal then that is not much of an arguments is it. A Whopper and fries is a completely healthy meal except for the fries and meat.

        I agree the media is corporatist. I’s not disagreeing that you can’t see the Non-Fox and AM Radio as socially liberal in some ways. Its just that there is more there then just that. There is fear mongering of the OMG a pretty white girl is missing, an exclusion of left wing views, the “neutral” world flat or round-opinions differ attitude and some conservative memes.Report

        • Avatar tom van dyke says:

          I submit the liberal MSM hides the far left [Chomsky, Cynthia McKinney, etc.] and seeks out the far right [why does Pat Buchanan have a job at MSNBC and no other conservative?]. Much easier to paint the other side as “extreme,” the Schumer strategy.

          • Avatar greginak says:

            LOL, that is quality Tom. Its a secret plot to discredit conservatives by giving them prime spots to spread there message. And they protect Lefties by not letting them have a venue to spread their beliefs. You can’t make that stuff up.

            MSNBC conservatives- Joe Scarbourgh, Dylan Ratigan, Michael Steele was just hired as a contributor,Report

            • Avatar tom van dyke says:

              Mr. Gregniak, you prove my point.

              Scarborough? Conservative? Sure, the quisling type, just the way the left likes ’em.

              And Michael Steele couldn’t argue his way out of a paper bag, which is partly why the party relieved him of command.

              And why MSNBC wants him. He’s gaffe-prone and will make for a nice punching bag. Unless he turns, as Scarborough has, which I make a 50-50.


              Appearing on HBO’s “Real Time,” … “This entire rhetoric machine from the Republican Party is predicated on an abandonment of arithmetic and fact.”

              See also


              • Avatar greginak says:

                So basically No True Scotman. Got it.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Tom, this kind of strikes me as creeping into tin foil hat territory.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Shouldn’t conservatives have a say in who’s a conservative? Seriously, fellows.

                And I’d like to see a lot more of Chomsky, Bill Ayers, Rev. Wright. Van Jones. Heh heh. Somebody who’s not “oppressively centrist.” Demand your rights!Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                It seems like the former head of the RNC and R Lt Gov of Maryland and a former Repub congressman are likely to to count as something like a conservative.

                That is exactly the kind of list of lefties i would expect you to come up with. Unfortunately they are all busy in the secret underground media command complex.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Yes, it would seem they’re “conservative.” That’s the point, Mr. G., window-dressing. [Steele is simply incompetent, which makes him perfect grist for the mill. That Ratigan is conservative is a laugh.]

                Look, I’ll stipulate for the sake of argument that Fox and MSNBC are a push. That you offered these lame-o’s as “balance” is what’s probative.

                Back in the real world,

                CNN pretends to play it straight, but it paired ferocious Eliot Spitzer with soggy-con Kathleen Parker.

                Now it’s just Spitzer; Parker wasn’t even replaced with another soggy-con.

                And of course we have Arianna Huffington taking over news content at AOL, and Tina Brown taking over Newsweek. This is called “oppressive centrism.”

                And actually, you may choose the lefties who are not “oppressively centrist.” I’m all ears, and giggles. Go for it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It seems like the former head of the RNC and R Lt Gov of Maryland and a former Repub congressman are likely to to count as something like a conservative.

                Really? Because it seems far more likely to me that they are, in fact, corporatist. (Maryland? Really?)Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Tina Brown taking over Newsweek (that is, someone with no politics other than tastelessness taking over a dying member of a dying segment) is somehow a victor for liberalism?

                Anyway, I guess George Will, Niall Ferguson, and Robert Samuelson aren’t conservatives either.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Even if we stipulate Brown, answer for Huffington and Spitzer, Mr. Schilling. If you’re going to engage my argument and examples, you are obliged to do so fully.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                You say “victory for liberalism” in response to my assertion that the media is “socially liberal (as well as corporatist)”.

                I’m pretty sure that I would not argue that the media is “liberal”. I’m almost certain that I didn’t.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Tom, this isn’t engaging your argument, but I’m just curious as to who you think would be a good conservative host of one of these shows. Seriously. I’m not looking to argue about this, but would be interested in conservative and checking out what they’ve written.

                As for television news, I stopped watching all of these programs a few years ago after getting sick of their general pro-dummy bias. Everything on cable news is along the lines of, “Hey! Here’s some outrageous thing that we swear is totally going to outrage you! There’s a school that hasn’t got recess! What the hell is that about?!” At some point, it clicked with me that I had to pay to watch that stuff, so I stopped. For the record, I live in Canada, so we really just got CNN, but it was pure drivel 24 hours a day.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Rufus, again, I’m not asking for affirmative action for conservatives.

                The MSM is liberal-Democrat. Not particularly left. Even a significant number of liberals see the bias, for instance that the MSM carried Obama’s water in the Dem primaries and in the general.

                I’d dig out the polls [and statistical analyses of positive and negative stories], but I’ve had this conversation on the internet often enough to learn that the type of person who calls the media “corporatist” or “oppressively centrist” [there’s a classic piece of newspeak] is unswayable by evidence. To prop up Republican Scarborough and Democrat Spitzer as “balance” is beyond ken.

                For the record, the best host I ever saw for the lost art of moderating and playing it straight was the host of Fox News Watch, Eric Burns.

                Who’s a bit left, but I never knew.


              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Tom, again, I’m not arguing with you. I really do not care about this debate about the mainstream media that the three or four of you are having here. I haven’t watched these news programs for the last three or four years and never really watched them before that. So, you could all be right and I wouldn’t know. But the “corporatist” and “aggressively centrist” stuff- that was someone else. And I’m not remotely suggesting that you want affirmative action for conservatives. I actually wasn’t on that last thread either, but figured it didn’t matter.

                I really was just curious about who you like that you’d like to see hosting or interviewed on the cable news. It doesn’t seem like anyone on television is the best or the brighest of anything. But I’d still like to know who the best and brighest are.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Rufus, for the record, Instapundit is necessary reading, esp for anyone who claims a libertarian bone in their body.

                It’s almost completely non-corporate new media except for its links to the NYT and WaPo and the like. But hereabouts, it’s on the same spitlist as Fox News, and so the informational lacuna is vast and deep. The problem with the MSM isn’t what they put in, it’s what they leave out.

                One can fairly call Reynolds right-libertarian, but he’s a necessary complement to the left-libertarianism of Greenwald and Salon and whatever they call Andrew Sullivan these days.

                Self-implanted V-chips for the mind are tragedy, not enlightenment. Surely you’ve seen enough blanket dismissals of virtually every conservative thinker out there to see why I don’t even want to get into that. Better you should ask this madding crowd what conservative voices are acceptable. So far we have Joe Scarborough, I guess. Uh huh.


              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Thanks, I will indeed check it out. Part of the problem is that my knowledge of the right wing blogosphere is limited to First Things and Redstate.

                Now, I should probably ask the same question of the liberals because my knowledge is limited to Huffington Post and Salon and, as we all know, they ‘aint shit.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Rufus, ask ’em what conservative [non-left!] voices are acceptable while you’re at it. I think that would get to the heart of the matter.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Instapundit is necessary reading

                Heh. Indeed.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Thx, Mr. Schilling. I can always rely on you to illustrate my point, in high relief.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                How dare I quote so,eone accurately.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Anyway, were you serious about Reynolds, or was that irony? Your comment does smack of “The Beatles and Stones got all the publicity, but the truly necessary band was the Monkees.”Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                How dare I quote so,eone accurately.

                Mike, any comment which quotes what Tom said on Monday is a falsehood.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Bill Ayers would probably be a good spokesperson, given that he’s not a 60s radical anymore, but a fairly mainstream, well-respected scholar of education. And I wonder what you think is
                far left” about Van Jones (who did a lot of TV after his resignation). I think you show your colors a little too readily sometimes, Tom.

                By the way, if you get to determine who is conservative, do liberals get to determine who is liberal? If so, you’re not going to be able to claim the media is liberal for very long.

                I for one wouldn’t mind some ZMag type “leftists” on mainstream TV and radio more often, though it’s not going to happen. And it has little if anything to do with hiding the “far left,” since that “far left” has absolutely no influence on mainstream liberal politics in this country anyway. What that it did. On the other hand, it can’t be said that Robertson, Dodson, the Bob Jones’s, etc., haven’t had an influence on mainstream conservative politics in this country.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Sure, you can determine who’s liberal, Chris. But I’d say if you disagree with the majority of liberals, you’re really not in the zone. No True Scotsman, indeed.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                To some degree, we see this with Republicans.

                Wouldn’t *REAL* Fiscal Conservatives be willing to return to Clintonian levels of taxation until the debt is repaid?

                Therefore: No Republicans are truly fiscally conservative.

                You can do this with stuff like “international interventionism” and “sheet sniffing” and so on.

                And then the problem comes that the Democrats are nowhere near “liberal”.

                So now we’re stuck with illiberal Democrats and unconservative Republicans.

                And if you’re one of those binary thinkers, you’re totally screwed.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Tom, I’m not a liberal, but I imagine I’d agree with most liberals about who is and who isn’t liberal.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Let me ask you a question then: prior to the creation of Fox News, would you agree that the Mainstream Media was Liberal (as defined by Okrent)?Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Prior to Fox was also prior the proliferation of cable news outlets if i remember my timeline. The MSM was much smaller. Again you can find liberal and conservative aspects. They were just as corporatist i think. On the good side they were at times more willing to do actual deep reporting and , i think but i may be misremembering, more willing to be adversarial. Was Charles Karult (sp?) wandering around small town america liberal? Was the reporting on Watergate liberal? Was printing the Pentagon Papers liberal? I’m betting most Repub’s would say the last two actions were liberal, but i would call them good reporting.

            I think this is one of those discussions where a simple left v right dichotomy works well.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I said “socially liberal”, Greg.

              Your arguments are not addressing that particular argument but are arguing against an argument that I have not made.Report

  11. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I was actually responding to Tom. As for “corporatist”, well Big Media is the product of big corporations, so arguing against that would be an Everest-sized uphill battle.
    As for Tom’s other points, I wasn’t even aware that AOL was still in business. And Spitzer doesn’t run CNN, does he? He has one show, the same number as Scarborough. That’s one Democrat, one Republican.Report

  12. Avatar Katherine says:

    The right will always, always argue that the media is “liberal”, regardless of facts or of what the media actually says. Plenty of conservatives in Canada still try to argue that the “mainstream media” is liberal, despite the fact that every major newspaper but one – whether regional or national – endorsed the Conservatives in the last election. And the same companies that own the newspapers own the TV stations.

    But no, of course we don’t have a conservatively-biased media!

    As for the US media – far as I can tell it’s center-right in general (it buys into every fake controversy the Republicans drum up on Obama while failing to report on actual issues, it tends to support wars, it follows right-wing talking points by calling torture “enhanced interrogation”) but socially liberal. Fox is, obviously, way, way off the deep end as far as ideology goes, and in terms of partisanship is blatantly backing the Republicans (when a good half of a party’s potential presidential contenders have shows on your network…..)Report

    • Avatar tom van dyke says:

      Katherine, your Tories in Canada disagree completely. We speak of facts, but presented here is only one as to why the media is not liberal, that the major papers endorsed Stephen Harper’s Tories this time around.

      After failing to torpedo the Tories in the runup to the election, the major media could easily have looked at the polls [and the pathetic opposition parties] and endorsed the inevitable to appear even-handed.

      The Canadian view is interesting to us USers. Somehow, though, I must guess you didn’t vote for Harper’s party.

      Just a guess, mind you. A stab in the dark…


      For, here in my first google to doublecheck whether it’s “Stephen” or “Steven,” from the Globe & Mail [Canada’s Torygraph], and a top Conservative party official:

      The “pseudo” issues that dominated much of the news coverage during the campaign – the number of questions Mr. Harper answered at media events, who got turned away from Conservative rallies – were irrelevant to ordinary voters, Guy Giorno, national campaign chairman for the Tory Party, said Monday in a speech to the Economic Club of Canada.

      Mr. Harper, he said, instinctively understood that the pundits, the pollsters, the press – the so-called elites – did not speak for ordinary Canadians. The Conservative Leader connected with voters by tapping into the one issue of greatest concern to them – the economy.

      Mr. Harper tuned out the political commentators and members of the media and instead used campaign stops to talk directly to voters about his economic action plan and how it was helping Canada weather the global economic recession, Mr. Giorno said.

      So, the Tory narrative is that the Harperites won by bypassing your traditional media. It was said of Ronald Reagan too that he “went over the heads” of the gatekeepers of the mainstraem media, and connected with the American electorate directly.

      Now the Harperites are making the same claim. Which I meself find quite persuasive.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        If you accept that the Globe and Mail is “Canada’s Torygraph”, you have already accepted my argument as correct. The National Post and its affiliates are Canada’s furthest-right mainstream newspaper. The Globe and Mail is Canada’s other main national paper. The same companies who own them own the major television stations, Global and CTV; Global is the more unabashedly right-wing of the two. Those same companies also own most of the regional newspapers. Canada’s news media is, in terms of ownership, far more concentrated than even that of the United States; it’s why the CBC is so essential.

        I further submit that someone who doesn’t know how our Prime Minister’s name is spelled is not overly qualified to comment on Canadian politics.

        If there’s one thing Harper didn’t do during the campaign, it was ‘connect’ with voters – or even try to. He gave the same – and I mean word-for-word, identical – stump speech at every event, took no questions, had no informal conversations, and left. He didn’t win because of his campaign. He spent pretty much the entire election falling in the polls – which, even if we grant that the polls were terribly off (rather than it all being a matter of ground game; I do believe the pollsters were wrong), were probably off with some level of consistency: ie, if they underestimated Harper’s support by 3-5% during the campaign, they likely underestimated it by the same margins prior to the campaign. There’s no ground for claiming Harper gained support during the election campaign.

        It was basically a given from the start that Harper would win either another minority or a majority. The media is not obligated to endorse the winner. They chose to say he was the best option for Canadians. An actually liberal media would not do so, because they could not concieve of a Conservative candidate being the best person to run the country. Heck, they didn’t have to endorse anyone at all if they didn’t like the choices.Report