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Dr. P.S.Babcock

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September 07, 2004


James R MacLean

Actually, I think the notion of "sides" in politics is not very useful(in the context you're speaking of). It sounds plausible: those who favor Tom DeLay, et al. are "right wing"; those who favor Dennis Kucinich are "left wing." Books such as you mentioned are supposedly covering "both sides." Not so; one could imagine the POV of people who don't live in the USA at all, who think both are complete fools. What about the POV of a Chinese political commentator? Indian? There are an awful lot more Indians and Chinese than Americans, and TD plus DK, in any dispute with the rest of the world, could very likely represent a particular extreme that non-Americans regard as bizarre.

Likewise, consider the case of the upper middle class woman who regards herself as very liberal and (ergo) very enlightened; yet this "liberalism" may consist solely of a particular strain of femininism that ignores nonwhites and lower income brackets. The narrative is as self-serving as that of Rush Limbaugh's, and yet RL is regarded with imfamy. Michael Moore, whom you mentioned, is actually a purveyor of a Euro-left narrative (actually, a form of right-wing narrative in which "the national self" is enlightened Europe, and the benighted other is the fat, stupid, pietistic, ignorant, hyterical, mercenary, heartless American; except that MM is such a good mascot, since he is himself American and fat).

"Enough!" you might say to my taxonomical quibbling. But this explains why such books as "Deliver us from evil" (Sean Hannity) and others sell so well: they don't actually enlighten readers about the finer points of the "other side" since there isn't one; rather, they refine a particular ideological narrative. I have noticed they tend to furnish the speaker with polemical "ammunition," which also serves to make more concrete the villainous image of the "other." The subtext is, "there really does exist a cohesive other," which makes ideological narratives asier to remember and deploy.


Chris Silvey

Isn't this what happened to Walmart?

"It is as though a portion of the country woke up one morning and started insisting that J.C. Penney’s was out to take over the world by selling khaki pants to everyone."

Yet another good article...I keep waiting for you to have instapundit or some other large disseminator of blogs recognize your site and broadcast it to the world. Keep it up.


I agree, James. There exist a mulitiplicity of "sides," as it were. For some reason, there do exist party faithful who demonize members of the opposing party. In economics, we often assume agents update their beliefs according to Bayes rule. If one's friends all have similar viewpoints based on similar sources of information, it is optimal for the agent to seek out completely independent sources of information and avoid repetition. A fanatical Democrat (whatever that might mean) whose friends all read the same kinds of books and newspapers would be *better off** getting information from books or newspapers with a different perspective. This would be completely *new* information. Economists like to assume that agents want the most information for the least effort so they can make better decisions. In reality, people don't behave this way, as Kreps' work shows. Books that reinforce prejudices make people feel better about themselves. I think this is interesting, whether the sides are right vs. left, or each point of the ideological compass against the others.



Thanks, Chris. Walmart has been demonized, hasn't it? Paying workers their marginal product and providing good products at a low price is immoral, it seems.

Mickey Kaus has linked here a couple of times, which was fun. But it's been hard to get much play from the major sites. I guess I can't complain, though. More people read us here in the blogosphere than will ever read our academic papers!


Hola faretaste

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