Their Own Facts

Nearly all of the blogs that I read are significantly farther to the left than I am or significantly farther to the right than I am. That’s one of the hazards of being a centrist but it does give me a different point of view. One of the things that I notice in my peregrinations is that the subjects that left-leaning blogs write about and those that right-leaning blogs write about have diverged almost completely. Not only is there no debate. There isn’t dialogue. They’re not even living in the same universes.

In some areas they’re symmetrical. Favorite topics in the Left Blogosphere are how awful Boehner/Republicans/the Right/Tea Party are just as favorite topics in the Right Blogosphere are how awful Obama/Democrats/the Left are. I tend to tune out when I read the words “the Left” or “the Right” and completely lose interest when I read the claims that Obama is a crypto-Muslim or a Marxist or that this or that Republican is a racist or a Nazi. You can make a case for just about anything based on selective reading, guilt by association, or being one of the select who are able to read the secret, hidden meanings in things.

In other areas they’re just on different planets. Left-leaning blogs are almost completely disinterested in foreign policy, something encountered pretty frequently, often with points-of-view with which I disagree, on right-leaning blogs. I rejoice when I find a thoughtful, well-written left-leaning blog with interesting observations about foreign policy. They’re pretty rare. You might note that I’ve added a link to my old friend Steve Hynd’s blog, Not the Singularity. He’s one of the few. Right-leaning blogs are almost completely disinterested in LGBT policy or women’s issues, something encountered pretty frequently on left-leaning blogs.

On the business and economics side left-leaning blogs tend to be more interested in income inequality and labor unions while right-leaning blogs are more interested in growth, usually with an eye to restraining or decreasing the reach of government.

You really get whiplash trying to read blogs from both the Left and Right blogospheres.

13 comments… add one
  • jan Link

    I think you’ve made some keen observations, Dave, about the varying perspectives that abound in the blogosphere. Normally, though, there is little room acknowledging centrist positions. People, via their endorsements, what they think about different social issues, the publications they read etc. are either classified on one side or the other of the political spectrum.

    Even when the destinations seem fairly similar, the path to get there is littered with potholes of liberal/conservative dissension. There doesn’t seem to be much meeting in the middle either, between the two parties, as each says they are the ones who have given up more than the other, disses the other party less intensely and are therefore the more noble of the two.

    It becomes an endless loop of disagreement. And, the centrists just get lost in the middle of their discourse, or are labeled and/or mislabeled for agreeing too much or two little with one or the other of the two main political voices — D or R..

  • There’s another aspect I didn’t really discuss in this post but just because two people hold diametrically different opinions doesn’t necessarily mean that one or both of them must be wrong. They can have different preferences. They can weigh the value of outcomes differently.

    Any number of conflicting views can be correct simultaneously for the people holding them.

  • sam Link

    Indeed. Our current politics is a monument to believing that circles can be squared. We might call it the politics of the White Queen:

    I can’t believe that!’ said Alice.

    ‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’

    Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’

    ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

  • Red Barchetta Link

    Labor unions are a tax on consumers. I think the “left” needs a defensible argument as to why they prefer unions over consumers.

    They will deny, deny, deny that its a minority monopolistic view, at the expense of others, but it is.

    As for income inequality, we use errant data analysis. X% of the income goes to those holding X% of the wealth. How about who makes what fraction of the income and is each segment going up or down?…………so start slicing and dicing the data. What I’m about to say is easily inspected by the interested reader. The base data is all BLS.

    Let’s take a stylized example. White men, white women, black men, black women, and then young people. In 1975 income per person was highest among white men, lowest among black women and the young. Aggregate the statistics and you get a number. Now, suppose (and its reality) the mix of workers changes to include a higher proportion of black women, the young and so forth. On a WEIGHTED AVERAGE BASIS you will by simple arithmetic get a lower number for average income. And why is this so? Less productive workers in the workforce.

    Defenders of European policies will do stupid things like cite the French productivity and income per capita numbers. They forget that the “French solution” has been to un-employ the young and least productive, therefore driving their aggregate statistic up. But it comes at the expense of the young and their unemployment and in favor of the more productive.

    Sadly, we in the US are doing the exact same thing under Obama. Look at any “disadvantaged” demo stat and their unemployment rate or income. He’s hosing them because stupid people can’t do basic data analysis. They are taking it straight up the………. Easier to rail about income inequality or the rich (for political gain), than slice and dice the data and really look at why the gross statistics appear as they do.

    You wonder why I rail against this guy? He’s a filthy, dishonest man who, with competent advice, knows this, but views the poor slobs as just pawns in what he considers a larger political game.

  • sam Link

    Politics makes us idiots:

    Everybody knows that our political views can sometimes get in the way of thinking clearly. But perhaps we don’t realize how bad the problem actually is. According to a new psychology paper, our political passions can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills. More specifically, the study finds that people who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.

    The study, by Yale law professor Dan Kahan and his colleagues, has an ingenious design. At the outset, 1,111 study participants were asked about their political views and also asked a series of questions designed to gauge their “numeracy,” that is, their mathematical reasoning ability. Participants were then asked to solve a fairly difficult problem that involved interpreting the results of a (fake) scientific study. But here was the trick: While the fake study data that they were supposed to assess remained the same, sometimes the study was described as measuring the effectiveness of a “new cream for treating skin rashes.” But in other cases, the study was described as involving the effectiveness of “a law banning private citizens from carrying concealed handguns in public.”

    The result? Survey respondents performed wildly differently on what was in essence the same basic problem, simply depending upon whether they had been told that it involved guns or whether they had been told that it involved a new skin cream. What’s more, it turns out that highly numerate liberals and conservatives were even more—not less—susceptible to letting politics skew their reasoning than were those with less mathematical ability.

    Chris Mooney, Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math

    Or as Bryan Caplan observed, talking about the experiment:

    “Even unusually numerate people take off their thinking caps when the numbers are ideologically inconvenient. “

  • I think the pro-union argument goes something like this. When unions were strong, ordinary people earned a much higher proportion of the total national income. Consequently, if unions were stronger, ordinary people would earn a much higher proportion of today’s much larger total national income.

    There are all sorts of reasonable objections to that line of reasoning but it’s pretty darned hard to disprove a hypothetical.

  • Andy Link


    I see the same thing and I think a lot of it has to do with information sources. Back when news was limited to three TV networks and a handful of newspapers, everyone got pretty much the same “news” and so the political debate was over interpretation of that news.

    Today, by contrast, people can, often unconsciously, filter their news sources so the “news” they receive is often quite different from what others see. In this situation there is no common ground to buttress an actual debate.

  • Sort of what I was referring to in the title of this post, Andy.

  • Ben Wolf Link

    Dave, have you tried ?

    Left of center and “progressives” hate it. Lots of unorthodox thinking and political advocacy is easy to separate from economics, whereas virtually all bloggers think they are one and the same.

  • Ben Wolf Link

    @ Drew,

    Unions are the progressive equivalent of the conservative “job creators” myth. For conservatives, make billionaires happy enough and we can hope they’ll give us work. For progressives, make strong unions and we can hope they’ll actually advocate for workers rather than concentrating on lining their own pockets. In both cases hopes are met on rare occasions, most of the time not.

    We can create jobs and rising incomes for ourselves, but both groups want elites to hand these things down to them like mana from on high. I chalk it up to the desire most of us seem to have to either give orders or follow them. No one wants to rule themselves.

  • Dave, have you tried

    It’s in my list.

  • Red Barchetta Link

    “For conservatives, make billionaires happy enough and we can hope they’ll give us work.”

    That’s just pure crap, Ben. You can’t help the poor by hurting the rich. I’m not a billionaire by a wide margin. But I will put my job creation up against the entire commenter section here. I get it; how to do it. Better: let those who can create (mostly not billionaires) do their thing and stop with the jealousy etc. And stop stifling them at every turn.

  • Ben Wolf Link

    Firstly, who said anything about hurting the wealthy.

    Secondly, all incomes aside from those provided by government result from sales. That means firms and consumers together create jobs. Conservatives have bought into the notion that there are a handful of “creators” (and seriously, if that particular word isn’t self-deification then what is) and everyone else is a passive receiver of benefits. An untrue and harmful idea that is choking the country to death.

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