Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What's the Matter with Fox News?

Megan McArdle has a long, thoughtful essay up about the state of the intellectual right called "What's the Matter With Fox News? There's a lot of ground in here to cover, but briefly:

1. What she says about how "soft" forms of discrimination effectively keep conservatives and libertarians out of certain types of positions within the cultural elite rings very true with my experience. As far as I'm able to tell, "hard" discrimination -- faculty committees coming together to blacklist conservatives or libertarians -- is extremely rare. Yet the "soft" kind still matters.

2. She's also right on in her discussion about privilege and how out-groups perceiving themselves as marginalized leads to disproportionate reactions.

3. Regarding the later paragraphs about the lack of great work being done on the right... I fear that to some extent, this is an inevitable problem that we small government types face. If one's view of the regulatory state is "End it, don't mend it," of course one won't have as many intellectually grand plans for reform as one's unconstrained vision brethren. I suppose one can always find new and different ways to make the case for small government. One can write novels a la Rand or expound on the relative persuasiveness of deontological vs. consequentialist approaches, etc. Or you can find new data sets or new methods of testing libertarian or conservative ideas empirically. But note that all these projects involve finding new arguments in favor of old ideas, not coming up with an altogether new ideological framework.

And one can also Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam-esque small bore policy initiatives that help politicians move closer toward small government. Such as... uh... tax cuts and vouchers. But the problem with such initiatives is that, as one of my friends once observed, one man's quasi-market is another man's quasi-socialism. See also: Romneycare. So small bore initiatives often don't work particularly well or fail to inspire the limited government base.

So I fear there may always be less intellectual ferment on the pro-limited-government right than in the more ambitious central planner friendly* communities of the left. That's unfortunate for people like McArdle and me, who enjoy the lively give and take of ideas for its own sake.

*Yes, I know that most modern Democrats don't see themselves as pro central planning. Labels for convenience's sake, people....

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