I start my new job at the Grattan Institute tomorrow, and one thing that will change as a result is my blogging. The change won’t be too big, but as one of Grattan’s public faces I need to make sure that my blogging doesn’t detract from Grattan’s focus on areas where ‘fact-based analysis’ can contribute to public debate.
While I don’t think facts alone can settle all or even a majority of debates in contemporary politics, the most productive debates are usually around evidence and empirical relationships.
I don’t believe that more than a small minority of people acquire their basic worldview from reading or intellectual reflection. Worldviews are largely the product of socialisation, life experience, and personality. While I have an enduring interest in political philosophy, and especially liberal political philosophy, I don’t think this kind of intellectual endeavour is primarily about persuading people who are not already in the same broad ideological space. Rather, political philosophy helps turn the intuitions that come from a general worldview into something more coherent. For this reason, my overtly classical liberal writing has been aimed mostly at people who share some of my normative assumptions, rather than a wider audience.
People are far more open to persuasion on empirical grounds, and this is one reason I have generally taken this approach (apart from being the kind of person who reads ABS reports out of pure interest). While some people insist on their own idiosyncratic take on what the facts are, not many flatly deny that empirical evidence is important. The way I read Grattan’s approach, it is to work in this empirical space – not denying that more ideological perspectives are important, but leaving those to other people and organisations. So that’s what I will be doing too during my time with Grattan.
I decided that the easiest way to keep blogging while keeping within a slightly narrower brief was to set up a new blog, andrewnorton.net.au. This blog will stay online, but from 15 August 2011 upates will be at the new blog.