Where do I belong on the Crikey blogging bias-o-meter?

This week Crikey has been rating various forms of media outlets by their political bias, from 0 in the middle stretching to 10 in each ideological direction, right and left. Today they turn to blogging (subscribers only).

My bias is quite open (‘Carlton’s lone classical liberal’), and I received the most votes in the best solo libertarian blog competition, but it seems that Crikey only rates me as a 1 on the right side of their bias-o-meter. My friends at Catallaxy, by contrast, score a 6.

How can this be?

One reason, I think, is that while I argue that left-right are still useful categories in Australia, this is because their sociological strength has been retained even if their ideological content has weakened (which is what the ‘left/right labels don’t mean much anymore’ argument points to). If you know someone is ‘right’ or ‘left’ you’ll still have a reasonable chance of guessing which issues interest them and what their position will be.

The sociological aspect seems to be what is making me hard for Crikey to classify:

a quick keyword search of right leaning hot button issues like the ABC and arts grants isn’t going to yield results.

It’s true that I am not that interested in many of the culture wars issues that fire up my right-of-centre comrades, but surely my support of markets, lower taxation, federalism, and liberty generally should give me more than one on the bias-o-meter? (Incidentally, something has gone horribly wrong on the right if trivia like ABC bias has become more of an identifier than preferring lower taxes.)

From an ideological perspective, I am firmly on the classical liberal right. But from a sociological perspective, I am perhaps not a full member of the ‘right’ tribe.

Another possible reason for my low rating is style. ‘Detailed policy analysis’ say the Crikey team, rather than perhaps the polemical point-scoring found on the most ‘biased’ blogs. And many of my posts are driven by curiosity about something I’ve read or a question I have been asked rather than a desire to score political points. In that sense, my ‘bias’ is like a lot of ABC ‘bias’ – implicit in the kinds of things that interest me, rather than the way I present them. I’ll report facts or arguments that don’t support my perspective as well as those that do.

It may seem surprising that I would object to a low bias rating. But to my mind having a political perspective can be a strength as well as a weakness. All ideologies are partly theories about how the world works and how it should work, and these theories help people see significant things and patterns in the messy reality of events and circustamces that others miss. These theories create blind spots as well, as commenters sometimes remind me, but this is a case for blogging (and media generally) diversity, not for abandoning a perspective in an attempt to be completely neutral.

38 thoughts on “Where do I belong on the Crikey blogging bias-o-meter?

  1. Bugger its only for subscribers.

    Andrew, having a political perspective is not the thing as being biased – I suppose that that having a political perspective gives a bias to ones views, but Crikeys “bias” probably refers to a lack of consideration of facts and different points of view.

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  2. Political perspective is measured not by what you believe, but by who you hate. Andrew, you’re just too damn nice to score highly on such a scale.

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  3. Some American conservatives seem to think that economic issues are passe. For example, Christopher Chantrill wonders whether Hayek and Friedman should matter for young conservatives:

    “The Conservatism of the Future faces different challenges. It will probably be a lot less about economics and a lot more about religion and social breakdown.”
    http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/06/conservative_nextgen.html

    Meanwhile, libertarians like Brink Lindsey are wondering whether an alliance with conservatives still makes sense. What happened to limited government, tax cuts and free trade?

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6800

    It seems that everyone on the right has something in common with someone else on the right — but is there anything that all right wingers have in common?

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  4. Don
    You think the right have issues. The 2000 VP candidate for the Dems with Gore had to run as an independent with GOP support to keep his senate seat.

    1. Please explain to me what the Green faction in the left have in common with the working stiffs in the smoke stacks.

    2. What do social conservatives/lefties have in common with the social libs?

    Whereas I currently think the conservative tensions are temporary, I see the leftside coalitions simply not making sense at all.

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  5. but it seems that Crikey only rates me as a 1 on the right side of their bias-o-meter. My friends at Catallaxy, by contrast, score a 6.

    How can this be?
    ———————-

    If I may. Andrew I don’t think you choose topics that have much to do with bias. A great deal of your interests questions that aren’t that biased.

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  6. I don’t know why you got a 1 (too low) or Catallaxy got a 6 (too high). Jason has IMHO moved to the right in recent times, but Helen can hardly be called controversial as Crikey does. I suspect they have looked not only at the writers but also the commentators who can be quite rabid. Catallaxy does have a more open-slather comments policy.

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  7. “Please explain to me what the Green faction in the left have in common with the working stiffs in the smoke stacks.”

    Exactly. The whole two-dimensional left/right frame is nonsense. Sure thoughtful people have a considered political perspective instead of a faith-driven ideology but trying to force them all into one of two broad categories is fairly pointless. Proceeding to rate them on a simple linear scale within said categories is more pointless still.

    Yes it can be convenient to know someone’s thinking on a few key issues because it often gives an indication of their overall belief system … but then again it can sometimes lead to serious misconceptions. In the most egregious cases it underpins rhetorical mindlessness of the “You agree with Howard/Rudd/Brown about point x therefore obviously you’re a fascist wingnut/taxeating socialist/basket-weaving hippie and I don’t have to listen to a single word you say about anything” kind.

    Many people use left/right labels to avoid the need to engage in critical analysis. Once they have labelled someone, they proceed to accept or reject that person’s conclusions without bothering to examine their evidence and logic. Such attitudes exist everywhere but they seem to be worst in the blogosphere where they render many comments threads a waste of space (cf what happened at Oz Politics).

    Out of morbid curiousity, did any blogs rate a perfect 10 (at either end)?

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  8. JC and Don – I disagree. ‘Working stiffs’ and Greens are likely to come out on the same side in areas of traditional ideological conflict, such as income redistribution and probably union power. Dean Mighell is not backing the Greens for nothing.

    Of course Ken is correct that right/left labels lack nuance, but in many contexts they still provide useful information.

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  9. The Federal government’s intervention in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities is the most bleeding-heart-leftist response I’ve seen in a long time. If you support what the government’s doing, are you a leftist because you support public resources being spent on healthcare, education and social workers, or are you a rightwinger for supporting whatever the Howard government does?

    The same could have been said a generation ago in the US, when President Nixon went to what was then known as Peking. It was said that any other American leader visited Mao would have been red-baited by Richard Nixon.

    Please explain to me what the Green faction in the left have in common with the working stiffs in the smoke stacks

    Neither want their children poisoned by emissions from said smokestacks.

    None of the foregoing says that left-right is completely worthless, but it is fair to say that they lack the reliability required of classifications in social science.

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  10. Andrew – I’m not sure about what sides the various left groups would take in “areas of traditional ideological conflict”.

    Traditionally, much of the socialist movement drew on a meritocratic interpretation of distributive justice.

    They argued that workers generated wealth while capitalists were parasites. How could someone deserve their wealth when they ‘made’ it by leaving money in a bank account?

    These socialists were hostile to lumpen elements of society — criminals and the chronically unemployed — as well as unproductive bohemians.

    There are parts of the green movement that have more in common with bohemians than with working class socialists. Their problem is with modernity rather than parasitic capitalists. Industrial society is at war with nature. There is conflict where there should be harmony, greed where there should be stoicism.

    These greens are more likely to argue for distributive justice as equal shares or distribution according to need. There is also a sense that all material consumption comes at the expense of the planet or the well being of future generations.

    It seems to me that the meritocratic stream in socialist thought has almost petered out. It never had much support from academic marxists or intellectuals.

    I think there is and has been a lot of ideological diversity on the left. While the different groups might have shared the same enemies, they never shared the same reasons.

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  11. Andrew says:
    “JC and Don – I disagree. ‘Working stiffs’ and Greens are likely to come out on the same side in areas of traditional ideological conflict, such as income redistribution and probably union power.”

    Quite true. I was thinking more along the lines that in a lot of cases one group would prefer the other wasn’t employed. It’s just that the left side coalitions seem a lot more fragile to me.

    And yes, there is a fairly clear left/right divide. The left is suspicious of markets.

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  12. It is the bane of a swining voter who refuses to vote on a party basis to be accused of moving to the left or right. Tim Blair had me down as left last time because I was (in hindsight wrongly) enthusastic about Mark Latham because of his previous writings for the CIS. Because I can’t muster the same level of enthusiasm for Rudd I am now back on the right. Aside from that I really haven’t changed my views much at all in the last 5 years at least.

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  13. The problem is that the labels have long since lost their original meaning. I agree that they are still useful when applied to issues of income and wealth distribution. The trouble is that very few people use them in that limited way any more. When people start to lump matters like abortion law into a one-size-fits-all left/right typology, it ceases to be a useful analytical tool.

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  14. Jason illustrates the problem perfectly – he’s typecast according to who he barracks for (or doesn’t) in the great footie game of party politics, not according to what he actually thinks or writes.

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  15. I think this is a sad case of those exponents of the left -v- right idiom actually believing such cartegorisation has any true meaning. You, Andrew, are a self-confessed example. You claim your supposed ‘right’ness as some kind of badge of courage, yet openly admit in virtually the same breath that you’re not as ‘right’ as perhaps you’d prefer to be seen. So my question to you would be, why bother with these epithets when they clearly have no meaning?

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  16. Ok Bannerman let’s take a little test.

    A free market right winger would

    1. support free labor markets

    2. open immigration policy that would actually charge a fee to incomers

    3. Flat tax with a 30% tax free threshold.

    4 private health

    5 private ed

    6 privatizating the ABC

    7 accelerated privatizations of government owned entities ranging from water to anything else.

    8. No import duties of any kind

    9. Little or no intervention in the market process of any kind with an appreciation that the road to hell is littered with good intentions.

    10 AGW and pollution is essentially a mispricing issue.

    11 Limited welfare and moving to a charity based system.

    How may of these points do you support?

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  17. I would have rated you further right, but a 3 or 4, not a 7 or 9. I think the crucial point is that you are willing (usually) to acknowledge facts that go against your position and take them seriously. The Blairs and Bolts of the world simply refuse to acknowledge inconvenient facts exist, and then abuse any one who dares point them out.

    The same trait is observed on the left as well of course, and there was certainly a time when the left were worse offenders in this regard, although I don’t think that has been true for a while.

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  18. Brink Lindsey is absolutely correct. Conservatives are politically popular, but no friend of a classical liberal. The only reason liberals stay with them is to get in power — but what’s the use of power if you’re only allowed to mis-use it?

    Quit the Libs Andrew. Join the good side. 🙂

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  19. Don – I don’t think we are looking for ideological uniformity here, but roughly shared policy positions. People can come to similar conclusions for different reasons.

    As many people have observed, the ‘right’ appeared to fracture in the early 1990s because they one thing they did all agree on – anti-communism – ceased to be of major practical relevance, and issues they disagreed on, such as economic reform, went to the top of the agenda.

    Santamaria may have hated communism because it was atheistic, while in my view that was the only thing that could even slightly be said in its favour, but we 100% agreed that it was an abomination.

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  20. My fellow staff just don’t understand libertarianism.

    I suggest 10 Maggies and 10 Marxes each for you and Jason, Andrew, but they didn’t like the idea.

    Yours, in a CIS rugby top on Smith Street

    Christian

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  21. Andrew – I agree.

    But it seems to me that economic reform isn’t top of the agenda anymore. Partly this is because left of centre parties have embraced economic liberalisation and partly because of the rise of other issues like terrorism and climate change.

    To be a proper righty you need to argue that multiculturalism causes terrorism, that climate change is green propaganda, whole language reading instruction causes illiteracy, and that the purpose of history education is to teach values and instill pride in our nation’s achievements.

    You also have to champion commonsense over academic expertise and denounce all social sciences other than economics as a left wing conspiracy.

    You’ve failed dismally.

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  22. ” Conservatives are politically popular, but no friend of a classical liberal. The only reason liberals stay with them is to get in power — but what’s the use of power if you’re only allowed to mis-use it?”

    John H , who are you carrying water for these days, just out curiosity. You were dumping on the GOP for being big spenders. Only thing is they’re rank amateurs compared to what the socialist congress has come up with. At it’s worst the GOP had 11,000 separate ear marks. In 7 months of power the Dems have introduced 35,000 ear marked spending bills.

    The labor states have a combined deficit of $50 billion mirroring the cumulated surples for the Feds of the same amount.

    The UK labor government is running a deficit of around 3% of GDP despite an economy that has been going gangbusters for the past 10 years. The UK Dep. of Ed now has more admin stafff than teachers.

    The conservatives has been big spenders, but please don’t feed people the suggestion that they are bigger spenders than the left. Oh, and I have seen your argument about the keating days. However the only thing is that you need ot compare the times and what was going on around them. I would very much doubt the previous Lib leader would have been anywhere near as bad a Keating on the spending side.

    How much joy would the Libertarian party get from supporting the ALP? Looked at their platform lately?

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  23. JC is right to a certain extent. The Libs are a lesser evil for the moment though this isn’t necessarily so.

    However where I do agree with John is that there is probably little hope for attempting to work within the Liberal party or any other mainstream party as the libertarian ‘from the inside’. I could never see myself wasting my time with the Libs – most of their so-called hard right are more interested in ‘Culture War’ issues than genuine smaller government. Indeed I can’t see myself ever again identifying with any one party. While John’s solution is to get involved in a libertarian party, my solution is simply to vote strategically and generally for the lesser evil but otherwise not get involved in politics at all.

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  24. Jason Soon wrote:
    can’t see myself ever again identifying with any one party.
    Is this the same Soon who wrote he never loved JWH so much after his various bits of useless pro-nuclear posturings? Are you terminally confused or do you just like to espouse different philosophies in different spheres?

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  25. One thing I keep noticing these days is that people on the right or libertarians don’t mind being labeled.

    However I keep seeing people I would consider left in such things as income distribution defense issues, government role, suspicious of corporations etc. who think it’s no longer appropriate labeling to be called a lefty.

    I’m about as right “wingish” libertarian as you can get and couldn’t care being described as such. Other right-wingers or libertarians don’t either.

    What’s going on here? What’s so wrong with the left label these days?

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  26. “Is this the same Soon who wrote he never loved JWH so much after his various bits of useless pro-nuclear posturings?”

    David, you’re not much of a logician are you?

    1) Is JWH a party? My position is against party loyalism. I make a case by case assessment at each election.

    2) ‘I have never loved JWH as much’ means ‘He seems a better compared to the alternatives now than he used to be’.

    Or perhaps English isn’t your first language?

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  27. Jason Soon wrote:
    I make a case by case assessment at each election.
    About who to fall in love with? Do you use rationality or just strange attraction?

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  28. This is tiresome David. You’ve just been made to look like a fool for not understanding that lack of party loyalty doesn’t mean total agnosticism at every election (what – is the choice between being a party loyalist and never making up your mind?) so now you’re picking up on my polemical phrasings?

    Maybe English really isn’t your first language.

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  29. Don, These greens are more likely to argue for distributive justice as equal shares or distribution according to need.

    To complicate it further the greens had the most liberal water policy in the recent Qld election. Their policy included decentralisation (water tanks) and personal responsibility (conservation). Labor and the Nationals competed over who could spend the most money building the Three Gorges Dam in SE Qld.

    Left/Right is useless as a binary descriptor IMO.

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  30. Jason Soon wrote:
    Anyone who could deign to prefer John Howard at any election is of course irrational.
    No Jason, anyone who claims to be liberal, yet supports the policies of Australia;s answer to P.W. Botha is irrational.

    Like

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