… that I can’t be bothered to commentate on with any skill (that’s what you lot are all for).

First, Greg Mankiw’s classic: how do right and left differ? An excerpt:

The right sees externalities as an occasional market failure that calls for government intervention, but sees this as relatively rare exception to the general rule that markets lead to efficient allocations. The left sees externalities as more pervasive.

The right sees government as a terribly inefficient mechanism for allocating resources, subject to special-interest politics at best and rampant corruption at worst. The left sees government as the main institution that can counterbalance the effects of the all-too-powerful marketplace.

All very basic, but put as clearly as I have read anywhere.   I would add: “The right tends to see supply limits as the most important factor in economic cycles; the Left sees problems with demand”.

This writer wonders aloud (rather bitchily) about the mystery of Why are So Many Academics Left Wing?  An academic of 40 years, he must be a little tongue in cheek but ends like this:

In big government we trust, for with the election of sufficiently enlightened officials, we might gain full medical coverage, employment for our children, and good pensions. These same leftist leaders might redistribute income “fairly,” by taking wealth from the “greedy” and giving it to those of us who want more of everything. A “just” world might be created in which sociologists, political scientists, botanists, and romance language professors would achieve the greatness that should be theirs. It’s all a matter of educating the public. And hurling anathemas at people of position and affluence we deeply envy.

We are all conditioned by our backgrounds.  Look at Luke Johnson’s asinine views in the FT – a serial entrepreneur, he is bound to have a skewed view:

In a capitalist economy, investors and entrepreneurs make the entire system function. If the state alienates them to an excessive degree, then they opt out, and jobs and tax revenues evaporate. Labour is an entirely fraudulent organisation that pretends to believe in business, then buries it in bureaucracy and tax. Five more years of Gordon Brown would leave Britain an economic wasteland.

Ask people without kids whether they would send their kids to private education, if they could afford it, and then when they have kids, and you are bound to get different answers. When you are sprogless, you treat it as a question about public policy and fairness and all that stuff; when you are sprogged, it’s about the most desperately important individual matter you have ever been unprepared to address.  Path dependency abounds …. I’m sure there’s some great post on Dillow about this.

Finally Deborah Orr shows what society means for her; it is not something that has traditionally received great succour from Conservatives lords:

The early workers built the walls of their crude dwellings from stone, freely available in this landscape. But they had to get permission to take the turf and the heather to put on a roof. That belonged to the estate. If the estate wanted you out, they had the right to burn you out by setting the roof on fire; the roof that belonged to them

Her views are not only about how more government and less aristocratic bullying is the answer.  She even over-states “Britain is largely a nation of libertarians, whether of the left or the right, who do not want to be told what to do, or how to do it.”  But listen to the Now Show on the Digital Economy Bill (it is very funny) and then Decline of the Logos who comments here.:

Labour has fostered a society based on radical mistrust of the individual, in which only the collective can be seen as a moral authority. But to assume that the collective refers to the state in this philosophy is to misinterpret how deeply this approach is embedded in Labour’s attitude to the role of the individual in making moral judgements.

Government can radically improve the rights of the individual, but if its starting premises think too poorly of what individuals get up to when left alone then it will often reach the wrong conclusions, such as some of the more draconian aspects of the DE bill.  Read DOTL’s stirring last paragraph.

I’m well off; state invasions of liberty don’t hit me as hard, I can buy my films and music and my way out of much invasiveness.  But I am still not convinced that Labour trusts people – and its admirable efforts to help them with cash redistribution might count for little if it trusts them not enough.


10 thoughts on “Some links about leftthinking rightthinking liberalthinking ….

  1. Left, right, liberal, Giles?
    Catching a glimpse of last night’s debate my son asked “What’s a Liberal” then answered himself. “I suppose Labour would give everyone the fish they need. The Conservatives would leave everyone to their own devices. The Liberal would help people learn how to fish.
    He’s our son – all he wants is to play cricket and we love him.

  2. He should at the least learn how to fish as well.

    I asked my son this morning, and he threw a spoon of porrige at me. Where am I going wrong.

  3. The ‘left-wing academics’ point is an interesting one, partly because it’s not entirely accurate once you get outside the arts and humanities. In the physical sciences, I think it’s partly to do with one’s mental model of society. For example, I’ve often thought that biologists must see society as a herd: generally fairly docile, but given to mass panics and odd behaviour. They are also fairly left-wing, but normally reasonedly so. Physicists, on the other hand, probably see society as more like a gas: unpredictable individual constituents giving rise to a predictable aggregation. Physicists are normally to the right of biologists. If that sounds like a Keynesian-Austrian distinction, well, I think there’s probably a good deal of mileage there, too.

    Someone ought to do a study.

  4. ” But I am still not convinced that Labour trusts people – and its admirable efforts to help them with cash redistribution might count for little if it trusts them not enough.”

    now this I can definitely agree with.

  5. ““Britain is largely a nation of libertarians, whether of the left or the right, who do not want to be told what to do, or how to do it.””

    I think you might be right, that’s a little too strong. But I’m adamant that we’re not naturally a social democratic society either (pace Polly’s bleat this morning). We simply don’t trust the men with clipboards enough to make such a system work.

  6. Oh, and on the various flavours of scientist. Engineers always keep telling us that the economy is just like hydraulics. Which is how we end up with proposals like Social Credit.


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