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Converts

August 8th, 2005

I’ve had a few brushes recently with people who’ve shifted, politically, from positions well to my left to positions well to my right. There’s some useful discussion (and some not so useful) of this and related phenomena in this Crooked Timber comments thread following up a post by Chris Bertram about Nick Cohen, a recent exemplar of the left-right shift. I’m taking points from various commenters with whom I agreed, without acknowledging them: read the thread and you can see who has said what.

A couple of things have struck me about this process. One is that, even though the shift from radical left to neoconservativism or neoliberalism is rarely instantaneous, and appears in some ways to be a smooth transition, there doesn’t usually seem to be any intermediate stage at which people in this process hold a position similar to my own (social democratic in domestic policy, internationalist in foreign policy and reluctant to support war except as a last resort). Rather, what seems to happen is that leftist modes of critique are used, increasingly, to defend rightwing policy positions.

An obvious example is the way in which ex-Marxists seize on largely incoherent notions of ‘the new class’ and ‘elites’ (typically defined in cultural terms rather than with any analysis of economic or political power) as a way of attacking their former allies. Eventually, this kind of thing is often abandoned in favour of traditional conservative or free-market rhetoric, but by this time, the shift in political position is usually complete.

The other is that, although people change their opinions, they generally don’t change the confidence with which they express them or their attitudes to those who disagree. If they were thoughtful and sceptical as leftists, they generally remain so. If they regarded all who disagreed with their leftwing shibboleths as fools or knaves, they will take exactly the same view of those who disagree with them when they begin spouting rightwing shibboleths instead.

This is disappointing in two respects. First, having been (on your own assessment) badly wrong once, ought to inculcate some sense that it is possible you might be wrong again. I don’t think this ought to reduce you to agnostic inertia, but it’s surely a good reason for humility[1].

This ought to be true collectively rather than individually. I’m always stunned when people (particularly those old enough to remember the postwar boom) advance free-market economic arguments with the air of someone stating matters of scientifically proven fact. The same arguments were regarded as hopelessly exploded fallacies in the heyday of Keynesianism, refuted not only in theoretical terms but by the brute fact of the Great Depression. Experience since the 1970s suggested that Keynesians were premature in their triumph, but this ought to have produced humility about the limits of economic knowledge rather than new round of triumphalism from the neoliberal side.

Second, while the left may not have the winning argument on every issue, there are plenty of left arguments that are strong enough that the right typically ignores them rather than confronting them head-on. For example, anyone who’s looked hard at a left analysis of the way the media stereotype groups like the unemployed ought to be immune to simple-minded claims about leftwing media bias (Keith Windschuttle’s book Unemployment was very good on this point). Yet lots of ex-leftists seem to forget things they once knew, and espouse arguments they could formerly refute. (The same is true, in reverse, I’m sure, but I haven’t seen so many examples of the process).

fn1. I know I don’t always practice what I preach in this respect, and some modes of argument like opinion columns don’t allow for equivocation, but I do try to acknowledge that there are people who’ve thought carefully and well about the issue and come to the opposite conclusion.

UpdateJason Soon has more and points to an earlier piece by Paul Norton

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  1. wilful
    August 8th, 2005 at 16:57 | #1

    Are any of the converts worth listening to, able to synthesise their views and bring something new to the table, or merely using their former views as a platform for their legitimacy?

    Are the conversions by the “thoughtful and sceptical” less extreme then those made by fools and knaves, bedazzled by their new certainty?

  2. August 8th, 2005 at 17:30 | #2

    Ahh, the zealous convert syndrome.
    I venture to speculate that this syndrome is partly a result of guilt and embarassment. While these people, mostly baby-boomers (boy am I beginning to sound like Pau Watson) were living it up in their free-love hippie communes, the rest of us moderate centre-left/centre-right/centrist people were already paying our fair share of taxes right out of uni. They’re well aware of that fact and their cognitive dissonance forces them towards over-compensation.

  3. Dave Ricardo
    August 8th, 2005 at 17:44 | #3

    It’s a bum wrap on Cohen. Just because he points out a few home truths about some left wingers – not all, not most, but some – doesn’t make him a right winger. Those home truths are that some left wingers do think that Bush is a greater evil than Al Zarqawi, and the Republican Party a greater evil than Al Qaeda and its offshoots. This is just plain ridiculous, and shows a total lack of perspective by those who make it, but it’s a view you can read consistently in Green Left Weekly and sometimes in more mainstream media as well.

    It’s also possible to make a principled left wing case as Cohen does for the war based on humanitarian principles. That case might prove to be wrong, because the humanitarian cost of the war + occupation + future oppression by Islamic government will be worse than if Saddam had stayed in power, but you can still make the case without having crossed to the dark side.

  4. Dave Ricardo
    August 8th, 2005 at 17:49 | #4

    Having got that off my chest, the general point about left to right converts is quite correct. These people are pathetic, in the literal sense. And, what’s more, despite their pandering, they are rarely if ever completely accepted by life long Tories, who look upon them with contempt, and consider them to be useful idiots, perhaps, or more often, just idiots.

  5. jquiggin
    August 8th, 2005 at 18:16 | #5

    Dave, I wasn’t referring to Cohen’s position on Iraq as much as things like

    I’m sure that any halfway competent political philosopher could rip the assumptions of modern middle-class left-wingery apart. Why is it right to support a free market in sexual relationships but oppose free-market economics, for instance? But his criticisms would have little impact. It’s like a religion: the contradictions are obvious to outsiders but don’t disturb the faithful.

    which implies that he had never (when he held these positions himself) given them any real thought.

  6. fatfingers
    August 8th, 2005 at 18:37 | #6

    “Those home truths are that some left wingers do think that Bush is a greater evil than Al Zarqawi, and the Republican Party a greater evil than Al Qaeda and its offshoots. This is just plain ridiculous, and shows a total lack of perspective by those who make it”

    I don’t want to look like I subscribe to these “plain ridiculous” home truths (in fact I disagree), but there are perfectly reasonable arguments to support them. Consider the power of the state (any state) – it has an army, air force and navy, a budget of at least hundreds of millions up to hundreds of billions, weapons including tanks, multi-tonne bombs, possibly nuclear warheads. The conventional forces are supported by intelligence-gathering agencies and apparatuses for using proxy forces.

    Therefore the potential for evil by a nation-state is certainly greater than any retail terrorist on the planet.

    Bush is certainly responsible for many deaths – how many and how were innocent is debatable, but either category is thousands at the very least.

    And the Republican Party, being much older than al-Qaeda, is far ahead in that kind of arithmetic.

    You are right in that perspective is what it hinges on – the perspective of families of those killed in the World Trade Centre will be different from the Iraqi civilian whose family is killed by a cluster bomb on their wedding; the man saved from Hussein’s death squads will see the Republicans differently to the widow of the man killed by Nicaraguan death squads.

    Is there a lack of perspective by the left-wingers, or a lack of being able to appreciate a different perspective on your part?

  7. Dave Ricardo
    August 8th, 2005 at 18:47 | #7

    I think Cohen’s point is that middle class left wingers have a tendency to believe their own bullshit, are reluctant to subject their cherished beliefs to criticism, react very badly when confronted with criticism, and use a system of self-referential beliefs and institutions as a kind of force field to deflect that criticism.

    This strikes me as being largely true, though of course there are many honourable exceptions.

    It is also true of many right wingers, whose stock-in-trade debating tactic with the left is to accuse the left of bad faith and self-serving hypocrisy, and to deny that the left a legitimate role in any serious debate. This was true of Thatcherites in Britain in the 80s, a point Cohen himself makes, and, it’s particularly true of left to right converts. I believe this is so because they do not have confidence in their own (new) beliefs.

  8. Don
    August 8th, 2005 at 18:55 | #8

    John, You’re right that “leftist modes of critique are used, increasingly, to defend rightwing policy positions”. The idea of a new class is an excellent example of that.

    But I wonder how much people’s views actually change. Perhaps some thinkers find that the political boundaries shift around them.

    For example, many of the neoconservative Public Interest crowd were supporters of New Deal liberalism. Roosevelt is famous for saying:

    “continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole our relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.”

    If you quoted Roosevelt in 1935 the right wingers would have gone for your throat. If you quote him today they’ll put their arms around you and welcome into the conservative movement.

    The liberal left shifted during the 1960s. People started talking about welfare benefits without strings attached – guaranteed minimum incomes. I think that some old fashioned New Deal liberals found themselves closer to Nixon than to Democrats like McGovern.

    There’s a certain kind of bitterness people develop when they are attacked by people they once thought of as their friends.

  9. Dave Ricardo
    August 8th, 2005 at 19:04 | #9

    Fatfingers, it’sl a matter of degree, and when you are talking about Nicaraguan death squads and their sponsors, the differences are admittedly narrowed considerably.

    However I would still put it to you that the average Republican operative is a cut above the average al Qaeda operative.

    And while Bush is indeed responsible for many thousands of innocent deaths, they are the result of stupidity and callous indifference, rather than him ordering people to be murdered. It’s an important difference. And it’s hard to believe that things would have been a whole lot different if President Gore or President Kerry had been running the show, so you can’t really lay the blame for it all on the inherent evilness of the Republican Party.

    Like I said, it’s a question of perspective.

  10. August 8th, 2005 at 19:09 | #10

    jquiggin Says: August 8th, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    I’m sure that any halfway competent political philosopher could rip the assumptions of modern middle-class left-wingery apart. Why is it right to support a free market in sexual relationships but oppose free-market economics, for instance?

    Cohen’s facile criticism of the supposed incoherence of social democratic thinking indicates a complete ignorance of the Enlightenment’s libertarian-egalitarian tradition, from Tom Paine to John Rawls. This school sythesised the Enlightement ideologies of personal liberty and political equity into the institutions of the liberal democratic state.

    Mill, I believe a “halfway competent political philosopher”, gave the best answer to that question.
    Personal actions were primarily self-regarding and therefore presumptively free from political intervention since the indvidual was the best judge of his utility.
    Professional relations were primarily other-regarding and were fair game for political intervention on grounds of social utility.

  11. Joseph Clark
    August 8th, 2005 at 19:13 | #11

    John,

    You make the whole left->right process sound so negative. In truth it is a wonderful time of revelation and personal growth. Imagine finding out that you had been wrong about almost everything for so many years, then realising that the truth was right under your nose the whole time. Humbling, uplifting, and deeply moving. That’s what it’s like.

    Also, could people stop calling liberals ‘conservatives’. That is really insulting.

  12. SJ
    August 8th, 2005 at 19:36 | #12

    Dave, perhaps you should read Juan Cole’s very brief pictorial history lesson.

  13. August 8th, 2005 at 19:38 | #13

    And, it would seem, very biased too, Joe. You really are proving John’s point.

  14. jquiggin
    August 8th, 2005 at 20:09 | #14

    ‘Also, could people stop calling liberals ‘conservatives’. That is really insulting.”

    Joe, as I said in the post, conversion can be either in the direction of neoconservatism or of neoliberalism (where the “neo” can roughly be translated as “ex-left or influenced by same”). In recent years, it’s neoconservatives who’ve been the big gainers: neoliberalism is, I think, a waning force.

  15. August 8th, 2005 at 20:20 | #15

    The ideological conversation is hopelessly confused by misleading or irrelevant concepts.

    The counterposition of liberals with conservatives, common in the US, is apples to oranges. It implies that a liberal could never be conservative, which is silly since most left liberals want nothing more than to hang onto what they have got, politically speaking.

    In ideological terms the (libertarian-egalitarian) liberal believes in the moral value of individual autonomy. This is properly antagonistic to the communitarian who believes in the moral value of social authority.

    Conservatism is conversant with constructivism. These values represent polar attitudes to the utility of politically mandated changes to social institutions.

  16. David Allen
    August 8th, 2005 at 20:20 | #16

    Dave Ricardo said: “And while Bush is indeed responsible for many thousands of innocent deaths, they are the result of stupidity and callous indifference, rather than him ordering people to be murdered. It’s an important difference.”

    Actually I’d prefer to be murdered by someone deliberately rather than as the result of someone’s stupidity. After all, stupid people are everywhere and are hard to avoid while murderers are comparatively rare.

  17. jquiggin
    August 8th, 2005 at 20:34 | #17

    Jack correctly points to Mill as refuting (150 years in advance) Cohen’s newly discovered objection to left liberalism.

  18. Terje
    August 8th, 2005 at 21:37 | #18

    I attribute the great depression largely to two things:-

    1. Churchill returned Great Britian (and most of the commonwealth) to the gold standard in 1925. However his choice of price level was very deflationary and remained so for more than a decade.

    2. The USA initiated a protectionist trade war. The laws had not yet passed by the time of the stock market crash but the markets correctly concluded that the debate was over and that the laws would pass and that industry was about to be screwed.

    In Germany we could also add that reparation payments were an excessive tax ensuring economic misery. And the printing press churning out new currency did not help much.

    The great depression does not require a Keynesian explaination.

    ~~~

    In terms of moving from left to right.

    I was truely left wing when I was 16. By about 22 I called myself right wing. These days I call myself libertarian even though I have believed in the rights of women, drug users, taxpayers and homosexuals since I was about 18. I have probably used the libertarian term for about 5 years.

    I was always amazed in the 1980s and early 1990s at how “right-wing” was used almost universally as a derogatory term. Even people I knew who were “right-wing” avoided accepting the label. These days the terms “socialist” or “left-wing” is out of fashion. Which is no bad thing in my view. However it means that people sometimes refuse to accept the label that best describes their worldview.

    I suspect that the average aussie does not subscribe to any political label for themself. They just support or reject certain political personalities. And even then its based on what their friends think.

  19. August 8th, 2005 at 22:04 | #19

    Terje got in first, I wanted to say that anyone who claims that the Great Depression represented the failure of free markets needs to list the countries that were practicing free trade at the time. Last time I made this inquiry on this list there were no takers.

  20. SJ
    August 8th, 2005 at 22:22 | #20

    Terje got in first, I wanted to say that anyone who claims that the Great Depression represented the failure of free markets needs to list the countries that were practicing free trade at the time. Last time I made this inquiry on this list there were no takers.

    That’s the most pathetic thing that I’ve ever seen you post, Rafe. It’s the exact mirror of the “communism works, but Russia and China just didn’t do it right” bullshit that was popular thirty or forty years ago.

  21. fatfingers
    August 8th, 2005 at 23:05 | #21

    SJ, it is OK to argue that there were no free market economies before, during, or after the Depression – there weren’t. It is also OK to argue that Russia and China distorted, adulterated and eviscerated socialism/communism – they did.

    D. Ricardo, Bush has personally ordered the death of people as governor of Texas. He, as Commander-in-Chief, has responsibility for deaths caused by wars of his making. But I repeat, I am not blaming “it all on the inherent evilness of the Republican Party”. I believe they have done evil things, but nothing and no-one is inherently evil. As for the average party hack being “a cut above” the average jihadist, you have to judge on results, and the RP has killed, deliberately and with forethought, more than AQ has (and yes, the Democrats as well).

  22. August 8th, 2005 at 23:10 | #22

    The canonical self-portrait of the process was provided in Heinz Arndt’s autobiography – to the great amusement of my Dad.

    In my own case, these political prejudices (if not, I would like to think, the moral convictions) underwent great changes over half a century, from a brief youthful Marxist phase to decades of Fabian-Keynesian views which gradually gave way to … a sceptical-monetarist near-libertarian position … It might be thought that such an odyssey would induce a decent humility: if I could be so completely wrong earlier what grounds of confidence have I that I am right now? I can only shamefacedly report that that has not been my experience.

  23. abb1
    August 8th, 2005 at 23:53 | #23

    Those home truths are that some left wingers do think that Bush is a greater evil than Al Zarqawi, and the Republican Party a greater evil than Al Qaeda and its offshoots. This is just plain ridiculous, and shows a total lack of perspective by those who make it, but it’s a view you can read consistently in Green Left Weekly and sometimes in more mainstream media as well.

    I don’t know much about the ‘evil’ thing, but to think that Al Zarqawi&Co is a greater threat to the humanity than Bush&Co is clearly a lunatic delusion, which seems to a manifestation of Islamophobia.

  24. AlanDownunder
    August 9th, 2005 at 01:18 | #24

    It’s ‘left’ to want protection from monomaniacal corporations. It’s ‘right’ to want protection from redistributive governments. The richer you get, the ‘righter’ you get. Hence the mostly one-way ideological migration. Some call it maturity.

    It would be ironic if those with the most faith in economic incentives were the most likely to protest this observation.

  25. abb1
    August 9th, 2005 at 02:23 | #25

    Why, this may be a good theory of evolution of the average Joe, but it does nothing to help explain Cohen/Hitchens conversion from ‘address the root causes’ to ‘bomb and occupy the bastards’.

  26. Peter
    August 9th, 2005 at 02:51 | #26

    In support of AlanDowndunder:

    Where you stand depends on where you sit.

  27. Nabakov
    August 9th, 2005 at 03:01 | #27

    “Also, could people stop calling liberals ‘conservatives’. That is really insulting.”

    There’s the problem right there gentlemen.

    “liberal”, “conservative”, “left” and ‘right” have so had the stuffing beaten out of them in the World Wrestling Strawmen Federation that they are just hollow men, filled only by our arguments now.

    Back OT. Sometimes I reckon some of the folks under discussion think being a loud and proud apostate is its own thrill and reward. And you may have noticed many of the more public 180 degree turns were executed by people hitting menopause and/or the seven year itch.

    Besides if you change direction so dramatically once, who’s to say you won’t do it again?

    So is it a drunken/last gasp of the juices move, a sudden glimpse of the light, a controlled skid in a slippery world or the emerging need to ensure you can still reel in gigs that will cover both alimony and school fees for the kids hitting their pre-teens?

    You all know that young man with a heart goes left, old man with a head goes right thang. To which I’d add, anyone of any age or sex without a sense of humour or an eye for human absurdities is doomed to be a frequently fanatical preacher of whatever makes them feel good about feeling bad.

  28. Katz
    August 9th, 2005 at 08:32 | #28

    A. J. Muste, leading US Trotskyite, abandoned Communism when he had a vision of Jesus in Notre Dame Cathedral.

    Perhaps RWDBs might lure leftie targets into places of worship. The results may be very beneficial to The Cause.

    (Try to avoid mosques, but.)

  29. Ian Gould
    August 9th, 2005 at 08:54 | #29

    Terje,

    The problem with your argument that the Greart Depression was the result of special one-off events (what economic phenomena isn’t?) is that the Great Depression wasn’t unique.

    Since at least the 1830′s, the developed economies suffered a series of prolonged and severe recessions – that of the 1890′s was even worse than that of the 1930′s in at least some countries.

    At the same, the rate of economic growth in most developed economies was lower than the average in the period from the 1930′s to the present. (Economic growth in Britain in the 19th century probably averaged under 2% per year).

  30. Paul Norton
    August 9th, 2005 at 09:21 | #30

    As my On Line Opinion/Workers Online piece has already been linked, I won’t repeat what I said there. The one thing I would want to add is that the phenomenon of youthful leftists going all the way over to the right seems to be highly concentrated amongst the intellectual left in academia, the commentariat and amongst former student radicals.

    There are some high-profile examples of erstwhile environmental movement activists (e.g. Paul Gilding), ex-Communists (B. & M. Taft, L. Bermingham) and ALP leftists shifting their loyalties to a greater or lesser extent, but I am aware of very few, if any, people who began their political engagement as young left-wing workplace trade union activists, young feminists, young Aboriginal activists or young queer rights activists who’ve become, respectively, Howard-huggers on IR, patriarchal family values conservatives (Bettina Arndt is about it), outright opponents of the Aboriginal movement’s landrights and reconciliation agenda, or heteronormative family values conservatives.

    This strongly suggests that the experience of oppression, and the practical difficulty for workers, women, queers and blacks to escape it by any means other than successful struggle to end it, has a salutary effect on one’s political development which is not shared by intellectual barrackers who liked cheering what seemed to be the winning side in the 1960s and 1970s, and switched team allegiances in the 1980s and 1990s.

  31. Paul Norton
    August 9th, 2005 at 09:25 | #31

    I also had a personal communication from Steve Edwards in which he asked whether his personal journey from forest-blockading anarchist at 17 to RDWB at 24 was a classic case of the phenomenon we’re discussing. I haven’t yet done Steve the courtesy of replying, so I’ll state here that Steve’s political development isn’t really such a case. It seems like an example of the political and intellectual fluidity one would expect among intelligent young people who read, think and discuss a lot, although perhaps entailing a bigger shift than most.

  32. August 9th, 2005 at 10:07 | #32

    “That’s the most pathetic thing that I’ve ever seen you post, Rafe. It’s the exact mirror of the “communism works, but Russia and China just didn’t do it rightâ€? bullshit that was popular thirty or forty years ago.”
    If you want to pursue that line you need to specify what the communists should have done in order to do it properly.

    More to the point, SJ’s claim is simply refuted by the facts. Reforms in the direction of free trade have produced desirable outcomes wherever they have been tried, most recently in the structural reforms of the Hawke/Keating era. Of course free trade produces the best outcomes when it is a part of the liberal package that includes the rule of law and a sound moral framework.

    As to humility after changing horses, that is a personal matter. One would hope that people will remain open to arguments from all sides and specify what sort of evidence or other persuasion would prompt them to shift their position. That would make their stance rational or scientific, rather than an act of quasi-religious commitment.

  33. jquiggin
    August 9th, 2005 at 10:13 | #33

    ” Reforms in the direction of free trade have produced desirable outcomes wherever they have been tried, ”

    There are loads of counterexamples to this claim, Argentina in the 1990s being an obvious one, NZ less dramatic but still striking.

    Of course, you can redefine “desirable outcomes” down, or rule out failures on the grounds of the ex post discovery that they didn’t do reform properly, but then so can defenders of Mao and Stalin.

  34. Homer Paxton
    August 9th, 2005 at 10:23 | #34

    Paul,
    isn’t this just another example of what Winston said about if you aren’t a commie when you are a teenager you don’t have a heart and if you still are when you are 30 you don’t have a brain.

    I changed from being a marxist when it was clear to me marxism could only exist when there were good people. I knew they weren’t any.
    Unfortunately it took me another twenty years to realise why.

  35. Paul Norton
    August 9th, 2005 at 10:34 | #35

    Homer, I’m not sure if it was Winston or George Bernard Shaw who came up with that line.

    I have my own version of it, which runs: if you haven’t noticed the injustices of our society by the time you’re twenty, you haven’t got a heart. If you’ve still *only* noticed the injustices of our society by the time you’re thirty, and not noticed its redeeming features, you haven’t got a brain.

    The problem with the people we’re discussing on this thread is that they have *ceased* noticing the injustices of our society.

    My criticism of orthodox Marxism/communism is slightly different to yours. I would argue that it falls into the trap identified by Gandhi, of trying to design structures so perfect that people no longer needed to be good. This is something which Marx himself warned against, obliquely, in his Third Thesis on Feuerbach.

    If all people were unfailingly good, we would be in a politics-free world because such people could make any social system work well.

  36. ml
    August 9th, 2005 at 12:07 | #36

    Wouldn’t Popper, and I suppose the “Third Way”, say “neither of the above”?

    A Popperian/Third Way model (as I see it) seeks to maintain and improve wellbeing* by ever better knowing what works to do this (with the fewest or no side-effects) and seeing that implemented.

    Following that model has of course led to policies being implemented, some of which were initially put forward by the right, some by the left.

    I suppose I’m suggesting that a quantitative/what works dimension can help advance – even resolve – a lot of Left/Right debates/standoffs.

    I think I’m also suggesting that the whole Left/Right construct is ultimately only a rhetorical one, not a logical one.

  37. Homer Paxton
    August 9th, 2005 at 12:09 | #37

    Paul, who knows but it sounds like something Churchill would say.

  38. ml
    August 9th, 2005 at 12:11 | #38

    Sorry, lost the footnote, which is:

    *Hopefully, increasingly for the whole planet, not just people.

  39. Paul Norton
    August 9th, 2005 at 12:37 | #39

    “. . .Nick Cohen, a recent exemplar of the left-right shift.”

    This is one of the uncommon occasions on which I disagree with JQ. I don’t regard the arguments or the sentiments in the Cohen piece linked by CT as entailing a wholesale left-right shift of the kind represented by Windschuttle, Catley, etc. I see it as an internal critique of some positions – well, perhaps, some instincts – within the left which I also regard as indefensible, as a leftist and a card-carrying Green. Even Tariq Ali has managed to identify terrorism as the “anti-imperialism of fools”.

    As for Cohen’s support of the Iraq war, my view remains that this position was and is (a) wrong and (b) shared by quite a few people on the left, and defended by them with basically left-wing arguments. Think of Bone, Hartnett, Langer, Carr, York, Berman, Enzensberger, Piccone, Aaronovitch, amongst others.

  40. PB
    August 9th, 2005 at 12:42 | #40

    I doubt if any of the people you’re stereotyping have ceased to notice injustices, they’ve finally discovered that they can’t be cured or relieved by state intervention.
    It’s not only the chattering classes who’ve experienced a major shift in ideology- people are coming to the conclusion (albeit slowly) that government (and other bureaucratic organisations) are rarely if ever the answer to social and/or economic problems, hence the slow death of organised labour and general apathy to the two major (and virtually identical, except for semantics) political parties.
    Maybe people are just growing up, and deciding they no longer need to hold nannys hand.
    Most of my peers have moved from leftist to more libertarian/”conservative” political views, while remaining socially liberal, except for the few who have remained in public employment or academia- there is a bit of a vested interest in supporting statism when you’re reliant on same for sustenence.

  41. gordon
    August 9th, 2005 at 12:51 | #41

    Alan Downunder says: “The richer you get, the ‘righter’ you get.”, but Abb1 thinks this doesn’t explain the adoption of specific positions on eg. “bombing the bastards” in Iraq. It does, actually, through the well-known “dinner party effect”. When in social situations with people you really don’t want to offend (maybe the boss) or people you want to impress with your intelligence, it’s always safer to agree with a loud and positive statement. If you disagree, you have to prove your views, without benefit of preparation and at the risk of forgetting authors’ names, important facts etc. You can easily finish up in that awkward state of knowing that you’re right but looking badly wrong. On the other hand, if you say nothing or loudly agree, you avoid this risk. After a while, if you do this often in the same company, you are identified with that viewpoint and are socially required to continue maintaining it.

    Now Abb1 may say this applies only to the Average Joe, but actually I think Great Minds are just as vulnerable to this powerful effect as anybody else. Not many people, however dedicated to truth, are prepared to stop a conversation dead, offend important people or reduce their wives to tears just to win a debating point.

  42. Paul Norton
    August 9th, 2005 at 13:21 | #42

    ‘Most of my peers have moved from leftist to more libertarian/â€?conservativeâ€? political views, while remaining socially liberal, except for the few who have remained in public employment or academia- there is a bit of a vested interest in supporting statism when you’re reliant on same for sustenence.’

    You obviously haven’t moved on from Marxism.

  43. snuh
    August 9th, 2005 at 14:39 | #43

    I doubt if any of the people you’re stereotyping have ceased to notice injustices, they’ve finally discovered that they can’t be cured or relieved by state intervention.

    so, to rephrase, substitute “the use of force” for your “state intervention”, and “bringing democracy” for your “injustices (being) cured”. you might see where this is going.

    the purported discovery of the ineffecacy of state action would would be an, um, unlikely, explanation for nick cohen’s or christopher hitchens’ support of the iraq war.

  44. Paul Watson
    August 9th, 2005 at 14:43 | #44

    Re Jason Soon’s comparison of Jack Strocchi to Mahathir Mohammad “on the Jews�.

    C’mon, Jason – you’re ignoring a lot of context here. Individual beliefs are one thing (and I agree with Ian that IMO Jack doesn’t come across as anti-semitic, in any event), but Malaysia is officially anti-semitic as a country – turning away from its borders all Israeli passport holders. As a barometer of race (etc)-hatred, actions always speak louder than words.

  45. August 9th, 2005 at 14:43 | #45

    Is there any reason why it couldn’t have been handled by a mercenary force? There would have possibly been less blowback in the West, and I doubt if there would be any more indignation in the middle east, who regard the coalition forces as oil mercanaries anyway (along with a fair swag of the anti-war left).

    You obviously haven’t moved on from Marxism. Huh?

  46. Paul Norton
    August 9th, 2005 at 15:12 | #46

    “You obviously haven’t moved on from Marxism. Huh?”

    By this I mean that you put forward a generative class theory (i.e. a Marxist theory) of the political opinions of your friends in academia and the public sector.

  47. August 9th, 2005 at 15:15 | #47

    “My opinions may have changed, but not the fact that I am right” – Ashleigh Brilliant.

    More to the point, much of this is in fact not a change of underlying position but partly a change of label and partly a change of means of expression as things like the ALP and the Liberals change their agendas and expect us to remain rusted on, when we were only ever finding the best of a poor fitting stock from a ready to wear range. Just the other day I heard this sort of thing from an ALP friend of mine, reflecting my own connection with the Liberals as least worst. If JQ hasn’t changed to find a better hole, that may mean he can’t find one either or that he was focussing on the labels rather than what was happening. He may be as stranded as “old Labour” in the UK.

  48. August 9th, 2005 at 15:38 | #48

    Not so- I wasn’t commenting on generalities, just from personal experience. All the people I know who are in public employ are politically of the left, and vocally so, moreso than any of my more conservative cohorts who don’t discus politics much, especially in the company of the aforementioned public service/academic types, who try to dominate any discourse on such matters and quickly become tiresome and repetitive on such issues. No stereotyping (as opposed to the context of this post), just observations.

  49. jquiggin
    August 9th, 2005 at 16:27 | #49

    I request that we drop the subject of Jewish intellectuals, as being likely to derail general discussion. For the record, I don’t think anyone in the thread is guilty of anti-semitism. But, Jack, you promised never again to write “pee-cee” on this blog, and I request you adhere to this more strictly.

  50. Jim Birch
    August 9th, 2005 at 16:30 | #50

    I’d also add that there are some personality types who can’t handle the gooey, uncertain state of being somewhere vaguely in the middle where you actually seek out empirical evidence to find out what’s going on. It’s psychologically simpler to latch onto ideas that you resonate with emotionally.

    Emotional resonance has a lot going for it, but it’s prone to mood swings, and, screwing up big time.

  51. jquiggin
    August 9th, 2005 at 16:31 | #51

    Paul, as regards Cohen, I’m not classing him as a convert on the basis of his support for the Iraq war, but on passages like the one I quoted above (5th comment in the thread), and on this archetypal old-fogey rant about how cocaine use is socially acceptable while smokers are persecuted.

  52. snuh
    August 9th, 2005 at 16:36 | #52

    “Is there any reason why it couldn’t have been handled by a mercenary force?”

    so, if i understand you correctly, for those injustices that cannot be cured by the state, the alternative is mercenaries? jeebus. apart from anything else [such as, say, reality] your solution does not address, as a practical matter, the question of who will be paying and directing the mercenaries. a government, perhaps? surely an invasion and occupation, undertaken at government direction, will always be “state intervention”, regardless of whether the government contracts with a private army, or supplies its own army, for the actual fighting.

    if you think about it, your “mercenaries” argument justifies any number of interventionist government policies. all you are proposing is privatising the implementer. on this argument, for example, the dole would be just dandy, so long as the government did not administer it, but instead paid the benefits to a company, which was in turn responsible for giving the money to the unemployed. surely you don’t believe this.

  53. Hal9000
    August 9th, 2005 at 16:40 | #53

    In the left-right conversions I’m most familiar with – McGuinness, Catley, Hitchens have all been mentioned – I’ve always thought the allegiances to either side were forever mercenary. Better parties and more s*x with the left when young and more money, travel and access to free lunches with the right in middle age. As J K Galbraith (I think) once remarked, there’s always a lucrative market for analysis that shows the rich deserve what they have and more. Converts I’m aware of have been opportunists with an eye to the main chance at all times, characterised by positions most guaranteed to attract attention.

  54. James Farrell
    August 9th, 2005 at 16:46 | #54

    Logic and fervency tend to be substitutes rather then complements when it comes to political opinions. We all know people who, when they can’t sustain an argument, resort to emotional oubursts, dismissing the opposing viewpoint as ‘rightwing bullshit’ or whatever. It’s no surprise that when someone’s public intellectual position is based on groupthink and emotional loyalty rather than hard analysis, they have a high probability of shifting to a new position when it all becomes too hard, and the social glue reinforcing their dogmas dissolves. I’ve noticed that a lot of flip-floppers seem to be far more interested in scoring points off ex-comrades than in analysing an issue academically; in many cases I suspect the driving force is personal animosity – towards a despised colleague or ex-partner.

  55. August 9th, 2005 at 16:56 | #55

    The dole should be a private matter, covered by insurance (or savings). Like most government spending, it’s entirely discretionary, and not a direct responsibility of government.

  56. Dave Ricardo
    August 9th, 2005 at 17:04 | #56

    My reading of Cohen’s rant is not that smoking should be acceptable, but that cocaine should not. If he was a genuine right winger, he’d say that the case against passive smoking is unproven, anti-smoking zealots violate cherished individual rights, and sing all the other hymns from the right wing prayer book.

    But he doesn’t say that at all and the line about smoking is really incidental to his main point, which is about the consequences of coacaine use, to which the London dinner party set are oblivious.

    And he makes his point pretty well, with his tale of ehat happened in Honduras, financed indirectly by the habitues of these dinner parties.

    The bigger point he makes is that fashionable London dinner parties are populated by superficial poseurs. Is this a right wing thing to say? It could just as easily be said by an old-school Marxist.

    ————
    Two days before Christmas, a drugs gang armed with AK-47s, paid for by the proceeds of deals in faraway bars, fired on a bus “just for kicks” and killed 28 men, women and children.

    “So, thank you for your drugs money, self-appointed first world,” the writer concluded. “Another thoughtful donation to our ailing country, along with military hardware and paedophile tourists. We are told here that at some of your London dinner parties, an after-dinner toot has . . . taken the place of your traditional English pudding among the chattering classes – the very same people who claim to care so deeply about the poor third world. Rather than chopping out their lines on the latest world-music CD, perhaps these enlightened individuals should chop them out instead on a photo of a Honduran bus with the slogan “Dios es amor”, but pockmarked with bullet holes and with the blood-stained dead in the road alongside. Jesus Dominguez, aged 45; Maria Anita Portillo, aged 14; Alexander Gutierrez, aged seven; Javier Barahona, aged two. After all who paid for the bullets?”

  57. AlanDownunder
    August 9th, 2005 at 17:12 | #57

    Gordon:
    AlanDownunder says: “The richer you get, the ‘righter’ you get.�, but Abb1 thinks this doesn’t explain the adoption of specific positions on eg. “bombing the bastards� in Iraq. It does, actually, through the well-known “dinner party effect�.

    Yes+ Gordon. Also, a psychologically strident ‘lefty’, suitably enriched and socially migrated, becomes a psychologically strident ‘righty’. Also, shifting political sands make for shifting iconoclasms.

  58. Paul Watson
    August 9th, 2005 at 17:16 | #58

    John wrote (in the main post):

    “[E]ven though the shift from radical left to neoconservativism or neoliberalism is rarely instantaneous, and appears in some ways to be a smooth transition, there doesn’t usually seem to be any intermediate stage at which people in this process hold a position similar to my own�.
    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2005/08/08/converts/

    If the changing of one’s politics/world-view is viewed as largely a matter of fashion
    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2005/08/04/critical-literacy-to-be-scrapped-in-queensland-schools/#comment-30624 ,
    then the “intermediate stage� theory makes some sense. Fashion without a continuity of change is called revolution.

    However, no one seems to be claiming (or admitting) that there *has* been a political revolution within the last 30 years – or more specifically, in the late-1970s to mid-1980s (to set-down a date range that seems consistent with the implied date of a typical left-right conversion). For me, this is a strange and quite generation-specific blind-spot – an aporia which hides some strange bedfellows, as well as casts a retrospective cloak over the unlikely phenomenon** of the fully-formed-at-18, middle-of-the-road Leftie, which is to say, John Quiggin c. 1975.

    An example of some strange bedfellows from this period is of the coincidence of John’s and Jack Strocchi’s professed youthful reactions to Bob Catley’s “From Tweedledum to Tweedledee� (1974).

    John recently wrote:

    “I thought Tweedledum to Tweedledee was silly thirty-odd years ago, and I haven’t thought much more of anything I’ve seen in his recent writing.�
    http://badanalysis.com/catallaxy/?p=1076#comment-22542

    while Jack Strocchi remembers:

    “c. 1980 being set Catley and McFarlanes “Tweedledum and Tweedledee� [sic] by a radical (not bearded) tutor as a text in my first year politics course. Even as an ignorant teenage undergraduate I found its thesis – that there was little ideological difference between the Whitlamite ALP and the Fraserizing L/CP since both political parties were technocratic service providers for transnational capitalism – somewhat implausible. It was one of many intellectual experiences that gave me a life-long aversion to New Left politico-economic theory.�
    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2005/08/04/critical-literacy-to-be-scrapped-in-queensland-schools/#comment-30633

    This coincidence matters because if Catley et al were actually RIGHT (= correct) in the mid-70s – and IMO the “technocratic service provider for transnational capitalism� thesis seems uncannily prophetic in describing all Australian (federal) governments since 1983* – then where was Catley expected to *go*, in political and career terms, from that time?

    Viz, shunned by the moderate lefties of the world, such as the youthful John Quiggin, wasn’t it always inevitable that Catley would actually step into the technocracy he had previously, albeit critically described?

    Admittedly, such a move – from leftie observer to knee-deep participant – would have been no small step. But it is still much easier, surely, for a leftie to adopt a “Join’em� strategy than for him to re-fashion his political world-view from the ground up, that is, away from something that the middle-of-the-road Left of the time refused to countenance as even existing? (and *still* doesn’t admit to, BTW)

    Being a little ahead of one’s time intellectually will often lead to messy situations, and it may be that Catley “jumped ship� prematurely – that is, if he hadn’t, he could have looked forward to reaping the rewards of academic vindication (at the very least) by now. A Google search suggests, however, that Catley’s “From Tweedledum to Tweedledee� is all but forgotten – most especially, therefore, deliberately so by the ageing boomers who dominate campus academic payrolls.

    In perhaps the sweetest irony of all, Catley has likewise forgotten *himself*, so that he can essentially recycle, quite deadpan, the sort of stuff he wrote (I’m assuming) in 1974 for the present day:

    “In the main, from 1990 – effectively the first cohort of post-Dawkins graduates – to 2004, entrants to this career path moved from rent-seeking activities to efficient management of factors of production as their major wealth-creating criterion.�
    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2005/08/04/critical-literacy-to-be-scrapped-in-queensland-schools/#comment-30600

    What *has* changed, of course, in the mean time, is the world – and I reckon that the apparently politically-immutable (and inscrutable in origin**) John Q would be better employed dwelling on these changes than on the comparatively small step of Catley’s jump from technocratic outsider/prophet to insider/profiteer. That is, to address the right-wing revolution of 25 years ago, and its winners and losers. “Fashion�, in contrast, is just so-o-o Bob Catley: forever in limbo between 1975 and 2005.

    Indeed, here I may even be erring on the side of generosity: the “technocratic� aspect is certainly what all such governments have aspired to (“knowledge workers�, etc) – but in reality, the even more atavistic “farm-and-mine� economic model has tended to win the day.

    An above linked-to comment by Jack Strocchi finishes by John Q being asked “to enlighten us on the subject of his [own] political education� – an invitation which John has so far not taken up.
    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2005/08/04/critical-literacy-to-be-scrapped-in-queensland-schools/#comment-30633

  59. jquiggin
    August 9th, 2005 at 17:19 | #59

    Dave, the line about smoking may be incidental, but the fact that it’s included at all is indicative of the desire to attack what he calls the “vaguely leftish upper middle class”. I haven’t seen any evidence that cocaine users have any particular political alignment, and I bet that Cohen hasn’t either.

    The whole piece is a morass of contradictions typical of the pre-conversion phase. He alludes to the obvious point that legalisation is the only real solution to the problem, but brushes this aside in a wave of waffle.

  60. econwit
    August 9th, 2005 at 17:23 | #60

    “Troll” an antishortmanic term.

    Open season on short people.

    “people in his stature are in…short supply”.

    There are those that think little of us.

    Maggie: Hey Lindsay, you want some chips?, Lindsay: Umm…oo…, Betsy: Maggie! NO! she might fall in the bowl!!

    He’s so short…he would drown by the time he realised it was raining.

    He’s so short…he doesn’t know if he has a headache or footache.

    He’s so short…if he pulled his socks up he’d be blind

  61. Dave Ricardo
    August 9th, 2005 at 17:39 | #61

    John, I don’t doubt at all that Cohen is gunning for the vaguely leftish upper middle class. But it’s possible to do that from a number of vantage points. You can be Paddy McGuinness/Piers Ackerman, and obsessively sneer about PC chattering classes (spoken with the authority of ex members of that same class, but now super glued to the Establishment Right), or you can do it from an old left perspective. At this stage, I am prepared to give Cohen the benefit of the doubt.

    Let me give you another example. Laurie Ferguson, son of Labor left icon Jack, brother of Martin, occasionally takes shots at the middle class left. Most recently the subject has been refugees, but there have been other times as well. Laurie Ferguson is old-fashioned working class left. That doesn’t make him right=correct, but it doesn’t make him right wing either.

  62. stoptherubbbish
    August 9th, 2005 at 17:42 | #62

    Instead of using labels, why don’t people try this exercise. Look at what a person actually does, and then ask yourself – in whose long term interests would it be, if the world conformed to what the person says about the way the world should be? Now I know this can be circular, because people always argue ‘if so and so were done, then this and that would happen’ but the trick is to then look at what they actually do, and how they go about trying to build support for their vision.

    This tells me a lot. If a person prattles about freedom for example, but then acts in ways or supports proposals that limit the freedom of actually existing persons, on matters which are important to the safety and enjoyment of actual human beings, then I am pretty sure what I think about theh person. As to the label – well who cares. It’s the deeds that count, and the words are only ever clever ways of conceaning, or revealing the better to decieve.

  63. snuh
    August 9th, 2005 at 17:58 | #63

    i think the “in it for the money” conversion theory has some merit. a striking example of this [when you consider how much money he makes] is, in my opinion, david horowitz.

  64. Rob
    August 9th, 2005 at 19:02 | #64

    Most of us who defect from the left don’t do so because of age, or money, or personal animosity, but because we’ve had our noses rubbed in reality a few times too often. Windschuttle, for example, abandoned Marxism because the Khmer Rouge murdered one of his friends. Lessons don’t get much more compelling that that. After a while the excuses just don’t work any more. Many on this thread seem to think that you can’t move rightwards out of principle, honesty, or seering experience. Well, yes you can. And more and more people are doing just that. This confuses the left, because it generally equates principle only with itself.

  65. abb1
    August 9th, 2005 at 19:04 | #65

    It does, actually, through the well-known “dinner party effect�.

    Gordon, I don’t have any information about Cohen/Hitchens’ social circle at the time of their conversion, but I assume it had to be an overwhelmingly orthodox leftist circle. Hitchens’ boss (or the thing closest to it) was editor of The Nation. In fact, they probably were outright expelled from their dinner parties, not just embarrassed.
    .
    Of course they now have a new group of friends.
    .
    I think, at least in the case of Hitchens, it could be exactly the opposite – displaying his contrarian streak. Only as a part of the reason, of course.

  66. jquiggin
    August 9th, 2005 at 19:56 | #66

    Rob, I haven’t seen this explanation of Windschuttle’s change of views before. Do you have any more information on this? It seems surprising to me, given that the Khmer Rouge were overthrown by the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, and Windschuttle was still writing from a Marxist perspective through the 1980s. But I don’t have any reason to dispute it.

    As Jason Soon points out in his post (linked above) if one’s version of leftism included support for the Khmer Rouge (or for any version of communism), an extreme subsequent reaction is not that surprising.

  67. Ian Gould
    August 9th, 2005 at 20:06 | #67

    >Many on this thread seem to think that you can’t move rightwards out of principle, honesty, or seering experience. Well, yes you can. And more and more people are doing just that.

    Any empirical evidence for that?

  68. Rob
    August 9th, 2005 at 20:29 | #68

    John, it was in a letter to the Australian on 16 Sept, 2003. Read in part: ‘Cadzow wrote, accurately, that Pol Pot’s murder of my friend Malcom Caldwell was a catalyst that led me to abandon not Pol Pot but Marxism’. I’ve not seen the original interview to which KW was referring. Note that he said ‘catalyst’. It need not follow that he immediately abandoned Marxism. As I said on Jason’s post, it was a long slow road for many of us.

  69. abb1
    August 9th, 2005 at 20:42 | #69

    …or for any version of communism…

    You’re overstating a bit, I think. What about support for this version of communism, for example? Should it be a subject to an extreme subsequent reaction to Khmer Rouge?

    It’s not the communist idea, but the idea of using violence to achieve dogmatic socio-political goals that’s been (once again) discredited by the Khmer Rouge. And if that’s the lesson, then the Khmer Rouge episode should’ve turned you against the Iraq war (as justified by Cohen&Co), not for it.

  70. August 9th, 2005 at 22:05 | #70

    Many on this thread seem to think that you can’t move rightwards out of principle, honesty, or seering experience. Well, yes you can. And more and more people are doing just that.

    I had been drifting that way, dissolusioned by working for the commonwealth, observing the waste, inefficiency, featherbedding and patronage endemic in public employ, and the lack of incentive and reward for innovation and endevour. Being almost banrupted by the world’s greatest treasurer was the final straw.

    Perhaps if Peter Walsh had been treasurer i’d still be a pinko.

  71. Stephen L
    August 9th, 2005 at 22:14 | #71

    Everyone here seems to assume that the shift is pretty much always from left to right, with those who go in the other direction either exceptions, or optical illusions (as in the case of Manne who really hasn’t moved at all, but has seen things move around him).

    It’s a reasonable conclusion because for most of history it has been true, and certainly correct for those of the generation stretching from McGuinness to Bolt.

    Back when I was a left activist at uni we assumed that some of us would end up defecting. Those of the hard left saw me (as a relative moderate) as dangerously likely to adopt gradually more right-wing views, while I tended to suspect that it was the most zealous revolutionaries who would end up spouting for Murdoch.

    But the weird thing is that so far neither has happened. I have yet to come across a single confirmed sighting of a former “comrade” of vaguely my age who now votes Liberal. They may be out there, but I have yet to meet one.

    On the other hand I have met four former Liberal opponents, and three from the Labor right, who have moved a fair way left.

    I wrote something for Crikey on this, becuase I am very keen to find out whether my observations are symptomatic of my generation (I’m 35 – the people I am talking about range from about 26-40) or just an unrepresentative sample. They didn’t run it, but I’d be interested in seeing what people here have observed.

    Let me be clear here. A lot of the leftists I knew have had their politics change. Many former revolutionaries are now moderate reformists, but all the ones I have heard of are still well to the left of Australian politics. Since most of them now have politics much closer to mine than they did in the days when we were in uneasy coalition this hardly bothers me.

    Some of the former more moderate members of the left coalitions, particularly the ALP leftists have moved towards positions more in keeping with the ALP right (although none have formally changed factions as far as I know).

    Beyond this all I am aware of is one very annoying revolutionary who in the space of a month jumped to the ALP right, and one former Australian Democrat. I’ve lost touch with him, but our gracious host once quoted someone of the same name endorsing Lomborg. I haven’t been able to confirm if it is the same person, but the name’s not common.

    On the other hand I have run into the aforementioned four Liberal student pollies who now are broadly on the left (although in one case very hestitantly so). I have also run into one former Young Liberal who I didn’t know at the time (although we knew people in common) who is now an organiser for the Greens. Quite a few others report still voting Liberal, but being deeply disillusioned and seeking a party left on social and environmental issues, and rightwing economically. In their earlier years these people held somewhat similar views, but regarded the economic as so much more important they were happy to identify as right, some even calling themselves “hard right”.

    I have some theories about why those born between after 1965 are likely to have moved in a direction opposite to the general historical course. However, I thought I would ask if anyone knows of supporting or contradictory examples first. I’d look pretty silly analysing if it turns out I’m looking at a totally unrepresentative sample.

  72. SJ
    August 9th, 2005 at 22:28 | #72

    Rafe Says:

    If you want to pursue that line you need to specify what the communists should have done in order to do it properly.

    Let me get this straight. Before you will accept that the Mao and Stalin apologists’ arguments are (or rather, were) bulls**t, you require me to explain why they were not, in fact, bulls**t.

    It’s a novel argument, I guess. Not novel enough to rise above the “pathetic” level, but novel.

    I note that John has already addressed the rest of your complaint.

  73. Rob
    August 9th, 2005 at 22:32 | #73

    Exactly, Paul. I would love to have been able to continue to believe that the government could be some kind of Robin Hood, that it could ‘right wrongs’ and ameliorate social equality by executive fiat. Well, it can’t. It’s tried and tried, and it usually just makes things worse. The Nugget Coombes solution to aboriginal disadvantage (you see the results here on the streets of Alice Springs every day, and it’s not pretty), the Cain-Kirner ‘equality of outcomes’ education model, the VEDC interventions in the market, the Dawkins reforms of the universities,the migration of nurses’ training from the hospitals to the universities. All well meant, well-intended, and all complete disasters. Everyone sensible who works for government knows how inefficient it really is, how utterly and inherently unable it is to undertake these kinds of projects and pull them off. It just can’t do big, bold, breath-taking things. And it’s not supposed to (pace John Stuart Mill). In liberal democracies, the people are supposed to have power, not the government. Of course that’s a moveable feast, and the relationship between the people and the government is never constant or static. But the left’s expectations of government were always too high, and its expectations of the community too low.

  74. SJ
    August 9th, 2005 at 22:48 | #74

    I have some theories about why those born between after 1965 are likely to have moved in a direction opposite to the general historical course. However, I thought I would ask if anyone knows of supporting or contradictory examples first. I’d look pretty silly analysing if it turns out I’m looking at a totally unrepresentative sample.

    Pretty much accords with my experience. I’m pre 1965, was “hard right” economically and environmentally, but all over the place on other issues. I know plenty of people who were to my left to start with, and who’ve remained there, and plenty of others who’ve moved leftward as I have done.

    Howard did it for me. I dunno about the motivations of the others.

    If you’ve got something which attempts to explain some post-1965 phenomenon, go right ahead. I’m keen to hear, at least.

  75. James Farrell
    August 9th, 2005 at 23:26 | #75

    Rob, if you once thought government could institute social eqaulity ‘by executive fiat’, it’s no wonder you were disillusioned. Radical changes, based on some ideologue’s grand blueprint and imposed without consulation, usually fail. But the left don’t have a monopoly on hare-brained schemes: it works in both directions. Add rail privatisation in Britain and financial deregulation in South East Asia to your list of complete disasters. That having been said, to what particular recommendation of Nugget Coombes do you attribute the plight of Aborigines in the Northern Territory? The idea of self-determination for Aborigines sounds pretty consistent with your power-to-the-people slogan. I think if you try hard enough you can interpret any social problem as the fault of someone you’ve chosen to identify as your idelogical opponent. What about the policy of assimilation of aborigines through adoption? Was it right wing paternalism, or was it the kind of left wing social engineering you despise?

  76. Rob
    August 10th, 2005 at 00:08 | #76

    True about privitisation in the UK, James. Radicals of both sides are to be avoided, and their policies eschewed – because they are grand blueprints. I could have added the de-institutionalisation of the mentally ill to the list, both here and in the US.

    On Coombes: he held to the hopelesly idealistic view that education and employment were inimical to the traditional culture of Aboriginals and therefore were of no value to them, and not worthy of inculcation. His policy, adopted by governments of both parties, was born of a Rousseauian concept of self-sufficient ‘native villages’ making a living from the maufacture of tourist artefacts, and happily sunning themselves for the benefit of the passers-by. In reality it meant endless amounts of ‘sit-down’ money and no jobs, no hope, and an endless self-perpetuating cycle of violence and self-destruction. That’s what you see on the streets of Alice, and in its hospitals.

    Of couse it’s not Coombes’ fault, at least not directly, nor even of the governments that followed his advice. It’s just the way it fell out, the way it wasn’t intended. But my feeling is, if they’d just left things alone, left it the way it was, to grow in its own way – mission stations, paternalistic policies, inequities and all – and allowed the community, European and Indigenous, to work things out for itself, we would not see the things we see today over on Todd Mall, and down in the bed of the old dry river.

    That’s what I mean by ‘power to the people’. Let the communities work it out, since they’re in the best position to know. It takes time, but it works. Keep the governments out of it. It’s not a matter of finding an ideological opponent. It’s a matter of trusting the people to find the right, or at least the least wrong, answer, and not the government.

  77. August 10th, 2005 at 00:31 | #77

    James, apart from Coombs the great disaster for the Aborigines in the Northern Territory was the “equal pay” decision that made them unemployable as stockmen. Equal pay for equal work would have been ok but they were not doing equal work and when the distant tribunal made its decision, the stockmen were relegated from proud contributors in the industry to the position of mendicants.

  78. Rob
    August 10th, 2005 at 00:54 | #78

    Good point, Rafe. And an agonising one. You can’t possibly argue, morally, that Aboriginals should not get the same pay as whites for ‘doing the same job’. Yet when equal pay was mandated, the Aboriginals lost their jobs, because they were not worth the same to the employers. You can say that was racist, it shouldn’t have happened, etc. Doesn’t matter. It happened, and was probably entirely predictable. A deus ex machina decision intended to reduce Aboriginal disadvantage actually exacerbated it a hundred fold. However imperfect, and however ‘bad’ it looked, the community and the market between them had come up with something that worked. Then the government (well, one of its instrumentalities) stepped in and ruined it – because it looked ‘bad’.

  79. jquiggin
    August 10th, 2005 at 06:36 | #79

    A couple of points on the equal pay issue. I agree that the outcomes of this were bad, and that something better could and should have done. But the status quo wasn’t sustainable either for two main reasons

    First, it’s not true that equal pay was simply imposed by external fiat. The trigger for much of the change was the lengthy strike at Wave Hill. More generally, the whole system depended not only on low wages but on the whole system of restrictions associated with Protectors of Aborigines and so on.

    Second, technological change and the cattle crunch of the 1970s would have wiped out most of the system regardless of wages. If the problem had been simply one of relative wages, the Aboriginal workers would have been replaced by whites. In fact, employment of white stockmen declined drastically in this period (no figures on this, but the majority of cattle properties these days have no full-time employees, relying entirely on family labour or manager + contractors.

  80. Paul Norton
    August 10th, 2005 at 09:47 | #80

    Rob, in relation to Windschuttle’s invocation of the murder of Malcolm Caldwell by the Khmer Rouge as the catalyst for his long march across the political spectrum, I can see how being aggrieved by the actions of a Stalinist regime could catalyse a long-term intellectual retreat from all forms of socialist or social-democratic leftism on economics and the role of the state, although this is far from an inevitable or necessary progression.

    However, this story does not plausibly account for certain other shifts in his thinking. Two of these are his shift from endorsing feminism and environmentalism in his 1980 book on unemployment to his statements of c.2003 that feminism was “a terrible failure” and that global warming was “a demonstrable myth”. The most dramatic, of course, has been his shift from strongly endorsing the work of Charles Rowley and Henry Reynolds on the destruction of Aboriginal civilisation by European settlement (a view which he expressed as recently as 1994 in The Killing Of History), to seeking to discredit such work in his own recent writings on the subject.

    There is no logical link whatsoever between, on the one hand, rejecting collectivism for liberalism on economics, and on the other, rejecting liberalism for pre-Enlightenment conservatism on the question of gender equality, or deciding that the great majority of the scientists working in a field in which one has no expertise of one’s own are wrong.

  81. gordon
    August 10th, 2005 at 10:45 | #81

    Abb1, I went and read the N.Cohen column in the Guardian. I may be wrong, but it seems that if Cohen’s conversion to the Right (which actually seemed somewhat qualified in the article he wrote) arises from the World Trade Centre attack and the Afghan/Iraq invasions, he is a rather simple case of opinion being trumped by nationalism. I’m not sure that such a case is relevant to Prof. Quiggin’s post, except in the sense that it is a common cause of apparent “conversions” – but not a cause that rests on argument or opinion. Even if it is admitted as relevant, I have often heard people use the WTC/Afghan/Iraq events as a sort of conversational “coup de main” that is used to cut of all further discussion. Sadly, it often works.

    Obviously, the view of Snuh and others in this thread, that patronage has moved to the Right and those who make their living by commentary are therefore pressured to follow it, has a great deal to recommend it. But it is such an obvious point that I followed a by-way which, though interesting, is minor. The art of the Middle Ages and Renaissance is full of Madonnas, Crucifixions and Martyrdoms, but not because artists as a group were exceptionally religious!

  82. Rob
    August 10th, 2005 at 16:07 | #82

    Fair point, Paul. I don’t know what impelled Windschuttle to go down the various roads that he did. However, I believe he is on record – several times – as saying what converted him away from the Rowley-Reynolds reading of Aboriginal history, to which, as you say, he once fully subscribed, was his discovery that the materials in the Tasmanian archives did not suppport it – rather, the primary sources contradicted it. The Fabrication of Aboriginal History may have serious methodological and evidentiary flaws, but I don’t see any reason to doubt he was quite honest in his approach and about the reasons he gave for writing it.

  83. Andrew Reynolds
    August 10th, 2005 at 16:22 | #83

    jquiggin,
    I am not defending the ‘protector’ system, I just want to ask an economic question.
    I accept that “…employment of white stockmen declined drastically in this period…”. Could that also have been the result of increased labour costs and reduced property profitability making it less economic to employ anyone? You argue that “…[i]f the problem had been simply one of relative wages, the Aboriginal workers would have been replaced by whites.” If (say) the employment of 50 Aboriginals at nominal wages made a property of 100,000 acres profitable with 10 white stockmen to oversee them and the 50 then left, the employment of the 10 to do the overseeing would no longer be needed and they could be let go. The property would then be run (at a lower output or with more capital) by a family and a contractor or two, perhaps with some properties amalgamating to improve the capital efficiency.
    In addition, this was a period when the stock horse was being phased out and the motor bike, 4WD and ATV were coming in. That alone would have reduced the need for stockmen, white or aboriginal.
    Do you stand by your original analysis?

  84. abb1
    August 10th, 2005 at 17:55 | #84

    Gordon,
    I may be wrong, but it seems that if Cohen’s conversion to the Right (which actually seemed somewhat qualified in the article he wrote) arises from the World Trade Centre attack and the Afghan/Iraq invasions, he is a rather simple case of opinion being trumped by nationalism. I’m not sure that such a case is relevant to Prof. Quiggin’s post, except in the sense that it is a common cause of apparent “conversions� – but not a cause that rests on argument or opinion.

    Nationalism – yes; you nailed it, man, absolutely.

    And same is true about original, ‘classical’ neocons as well; Norman Podhoretz, one of their founders, said:

    …If I had my way, this movement—it wasn’t really a movement, it was more like a tendency—would have been called neo-nationalism because what it really represented was a rediscovery of the values and virtues of American society. And I was and am an American nationalist, an American patriot, whichever word you like to use, and so were all the other neo-conservatives.

    They were, perhaps, shaken out of their wits by Soviet anti-Israel actions and rhetoric, and of course the last straw: the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

    Still, it doesn’t answer the question of how one becomes a ‘born again’ nationalist.

    You think it may be pathological rather than rational?

  85. abb1
    August 10th, 2005 at 18:00 | #85

    Hmm, something’s wrong with this software, I didn’t emphasize the phrase above.

  86. Paul W
    August 10th, 2005 at 18:43 | #86

    test

  87. Paul W
    August 10th, 2005 at 18:45 | #87

    Stephen L (Luntz, I’m assuming) –

    You’re not only not alone, you are far from *original* in positing a generational fault-line! (Hint: google my name and “baby boomers�, or just read this
    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2005/07/24/what-ive-been-reading#comment-30117
    for a more succinct essence). Apart from a minor quibble with dates, that is – you say 1965, I say c. 1962 is the cut-off/changeover date for the phenomenon you speak of (which perhaps in turn brings SJ into our warm-yet-angsty demographic embrace).

    All I can add is that Jason Soon correctly identifies the peculiar boomer cocktail – which drives left-to-right conversions – of “guilt and its overcompensationâ€?, resentment and embarrassment:
    http://badanalysis.com/catallaxy/?p=1076 and http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2005/08/08/converts/#comment-30753
    Pol Pot, Schmol Pot, as far as Windschuttle’s reasons for conversion go – the fact that he owns an Eastern Suburbs (Sydney) house of such a value that even the most successful arts academic of my generation could never dream of owning it, and yet *he*, not I, was the one with the (presumably) misspent youth speaks much louder.

  88. jquiggin
    August 10th, 2005 at 19:51 | #88

    Comment from Paul Watson (trying to get past autoblock)

    Onto a more recent sub-topic, of the equal pay issue. Rob‚s suggestion that „[W]hen equal pay was mandated, the Aboriginals lost their jobs, *because* they were not worth the same to the employers‰ (emphasis added) is frankly offensive in its connotations of lazy blacks, etc. If anything, the opposite is probably true – particularly in the full-employment environment of the mid-late 1960s, getting an honest day‚s work out of white-trash drifters (who comprised then (and still do) almost the entireity of the non-urban, non-Indigenous NT population) would have been a harder task.

    So what did go wrong?

    First – many Indigenous pastoral workers were sacked because of fear (or at least long-term economics), rather than for pragmatic reasons of low productivity (= immediate economics).

    Onto a more recent sub-topic, of the equal pay issue. Rob‚s suggestion that „[W]hen equal pay was mandated, the Aboriginals lost their jobs, *because* they were not worth the same to the employers‰ (emphasis added) is frankly offensive in its connotations of lazy blacks, etc. If anything, the opposite is probably true – particularly in the full-employment environment of the mid-late 1960s, getting an honest day‚s work out of white-trash drifters (who comprised then (and still do) almost the entireity of the non-urban, non-Indigenous NT population) would have been a harder task.

  89. jquiggin
    August 10th, 2005 at 19:53 | #89

    More from Paul

    It has long been my suspicion that, with the ‘smell’of land rights in the air by the late 60s, there was a concerted, or at least semi- so, drive to commit ‘last-minute’ acts dispossession – in particular, so as to thwart the locals‚ later possibility of claiming an ongoing-connection-with-the-land nexus (e.g. the test as recently, and contentiously, implemented in the Yorta Yorta decision).

  90. jquiggin
    August 10th, 2005 at 19:54 | #90

    and more

    Here, it important to note that most NT pastoral land was/is held as leasehold only (i.e. the pastoralists were *not* simply being paranoid, in a „They‚re going to put a land rights claim on my [urban, freehold] backyard‰ kind of way). Further, many pastoral leases were/are subject to express reservations allowing ongoing Indigenous access, hunting, etc. While Indigenous unpaid/slave labour lived on-site, these reservations were moot, but one doesn‚t have to be too much of a big-city lawyer to appreciate that a bit of pre-emptive „cleansing‰ in the late 60s would allow the farm gates to be later firmly padlocked against such things (which has turned out to be largely the case, despite the clear letter of the law to the contrary).

    Tellingly, when I proposed the of pre-emptive „cleansing‰ theory on the „Troppo‰ blog last year, the only argument in rebuttal was that with real wages came real (Indigenous) p*ss-heads, and so real, lower productivity.

    Quite possibly so – but I‚m still not convinced that this was the main reason for the mass-sackings, once the surrounding context is factored in (viz, the „Protector‰ era that John alludes to).

    Specifically, the prohibition against serving, selling or giving alcohol to „full-blood‰ Aborigines in the NT (up until then, all state wards from cradle to grave) was abolished, without fanfare or follow-up on 15 September 1964 (Licensing Ordinance NT 1964; Social Welfare Ordinance NT 1964).

    While this date doesn‚t exactly coincide with the late-60s mass-sackings of pastoral workers, it certainly corroborates that there is more to the „We sacked Å’em coz they wuz all useless p*ss-heads‰ story than meets the eye. Enter, for the second time, the roving white-trash of the outback – this time making a pretty penny from selling grog to already heavily-intoxicated Aborigines (that is to say, selling it *illegally*, this time under a supposedly non racially-discriminatory law). White-trash on the hustle, also coincidentally doing the pastoralist‚s longer-term bidding ˆ makes sense to me.

  91. Stephen L
    August 10th, 2005 at 20:08 | #91

    SJ invited my theories on the post 1965 shift so here goes – apologies for the length.

    First up I think that in historical ordinary times (if there ever is such a thing) there will be three drivers of conversion. On the one hand you will have the factor already pointed to that people generally become wealthier as they age, particularly people successful enough for changes in their politics to be noticed. On the other some, like Ceclia Brown, decide that defying the system is “not as easy/ as I thought t’would be” and give into the pressure to parrot their bosses’ mind. On the third limb most people will at some point run into a failure of their political philosophy in some circumstance or other. In some cases this will cause them to rethink their politics more broadly.

    I believe the third factor causes right-wingers to turn into leftists as often as left-wingers become right (on a historical average), but the first two both almost universally operate from left to right, creating the dominant trend. (There are also random effects such as falling in love with someone of opposite politics who then converts you).

    On top of this there are occassional periods where radical politics is “in” or “cool”. The late 60s and early 70s is one obvious example, but I imagine the period prior to the French Revolution was another. This causes a group of people who are not left at all to jump on the bandwagon. Cognitive dissonance means that they fairly quickly come to believe what they are spouting, but it is not a fundamental product of their outlook, it’s just a good way to be in. These people will almost all defect when left politics ceases to benefit them, and become the most savage opponents of all things they once advocated.

    So far I have not said much new, but I think the thing to note is that while historically the trend is from left to right, this has been much stronger amongst those born in the late 40s and 50s than at other times.

    In the late 80s and 90s left politics was anything but cool. This is not to say that being a Young Liberal was cool either – basically apathy was cool. This was enough to ensure the left was not burdened with the same group of ideological carpet baggers that were around 15 years before.

    Still, while this explains why there would be less shifting among my generation, it hardly explains any trend in the other dircetion.

    I think there are at least four contributing factors here. The first is the one Paul uses a lot, that Generation Xers are doing worse financially than those before them, and this leads to disillusion with the current system. This is certainly a factor, but I don’t place the same emphasis on it Paul does . On average Gen-Xers may be doing worse than Baby-boomers were at the same age, but plenty are doing pretty well. Had it not been for a small matter of a pesky law suit I would have bought a house in the mid 90s and ridden the housing boom to substantial wealth, and I know a lot of people my age who did just that.

    Secondly I think there is the increasing evidence of environmental danger. The evidence here just keeps building up. The younger you are, the more you are going to live with the damage, and in at least two of the cases I mentioned it is concern about the environment that prompted a right-left shift. In one case the individual realised that the right-wing simply has no answers to environmental destruction, and concluded that anyone who can’t answer such a fundamental problem probably doesn’t have answers on anything else. The other person remains supportive of the right on some topics, such as IR, but considers these less important than the environment.

    A third factor is sexuality. Sections of the right in the 80s and 90s relied heavily on homophobia as a recruitment tool on university campuses. Inevitably they picked up some people who were uncomfortable with their sexuality. Eventually these recruits came to accept their preferences and not only left the right but developed a certain bitterness against those who had once encouraged their self-loathing.

    But its the fourth factor that I think is the most interesting, and possibly the most significant. This is that in recent years the right has become increasingly populist. Hardly a novel observation, I know. This has won Howard four elections using among other things demonisation of asylum seekers and economic rubbish about interest rates. Great for winning votes amongst those who are fairly disengaged, but a significant problem for those who think about politics a lot – particularly those engaged in it.

    For left-wingers considering turning right the sight of Reith denouncing anyone who dared doubt that asylum seekers throw their children overboard was a bit of a deterant, to give one example amongst many. On the other hand, right-wingers who were starting to have doubts would have those reinforced on hearing him running a campaign on how Labor would raise interest rates, knowing full well that the Reserve Bank and international conditions are the driving factors. And anyone engaged with politics is likely to have qualms about media monopolies in a way that most voters are not.

    The cumulative effect is to encourage left-wingers to stay somewhat left, even if their increasing wealth might push them right, while many right-wingers start to have doubts. On the other hand, the general factor of people running into the failures of their beliefs has tended to cause a lot of ex-revolutionaries to adopt a more moderate stance.

    If I am right about this then what we may see is an increasingly bizzare situation where the Liberals hold a solid majority of the vote, built on the weak preference of the apathetic, but find it hard to recruit talented young people, leading to a major talent deficit amongs MPs, staffers and party officials. One likely effect of this would be aging and increasingly untalented state MPs, with the problem taking longer to show up federally as, for a while at least there will still be enough to fill the more limited posts there.

    Victoria is certainly seeing the aging of opposition MPs, and the decline in talent seems to be national (although obviously more subjective).

    Still, unlike the neocons, I am not convinced of my omniscience and all this remains a theory built on relatively shaky foundations, so I am keen to see it challenged or supported.

  92. SJ
    August 10th, 2005 at 23:15 | #92

    Thanks for that, Stephen L.

  93. jquiggin
    August 11th, 2005 at 08:07 | #93

    In the interests of civilised discussion, I’ve deleted a sub-thread of comments that created more heat than light.

  94. Ian Gould
    August 11th, 2005 at 08:34 | #94

    I’d like to offer another perspective on the generational fault-line:

    Most people born in Australia after about 1965 have little or no concept of real poverty.

    I grew up on the outskirts of Brisbane in the 1960s, because of a lingering case of malaria he’d picked up in World War II and other service-related injuries my father was unable to hold down a regular job – he worked as everything from a farm-hand to a welder to a xook to a shop-keeper but was never able to keep a job long because of his health problems. My mother worked as a maid. There were six kids in the family.

    Poverty is not having to save a couple of week’s allowance in order to afford new Nikes – it’s not owning a pair of shoes until you’re twelve. Poverty isn’t not having a mobile phone – it’s running a mile to the nearest phone to call an ambulance in an emergency.

    I’ll point out here that our poverty wasn’t that bad – we ate three meals a day even if I grew to hate choko and Poor Man’s Bean. We certainly had it a lot better than the family up the road who had eight kids and lived in a one room converted pigsty.

    If you grow up experiencing real poverty and seeing its effects on others, your attachment to social justice is likely to be a lot firmer than that of someone who picked it up as a dinner-table topic at university.

  95. Katz
    August 11th, 2005 at 08:54 | #95

    “And same is true about original, ‘classical’ neocons as well; Norman Podhoretz, one of their founders…”

    I liked Woody Allen’s quip about neocons and the amalgamation of the Magazines “Dissent” and Podhoretz’s “Commentary” under the catchy title “Dissentary”.

  96. Rob
    August 11th, 2005 at 09:11 | #96

    ‘Rob‚s suggestion that „[W]hen equal pay was mandated, the Aboriginals lost their jobs, because they were not worth the same to the employers‰ (emphasis added) is frankly offensive in its connotations of lazy blacks, etc.’

    John, you’re reading something into my comment that I certainly never intended. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) connote anything of the kind, just the cold laws of labour economics. I said it was morally impossible to argue they should not have been paid at the same rate as Europeans.

    I was baffled by Stephen L.’s comment. As someone who made the shift around the time I turned 40, I thought – acknowledging we are not open books even to ourselves – I was primarily motivated by a realisation that on many things, and for many years, I’d made mistakes of judgement, including some very bad ones, like cheering on the Red Guards – from a safe distance. Nor does abandonment of the left mean you support John Howard. I don’t support his IR policies, his policy on refugees (noting that he inherited it from Labor) or the war in Iraq. Furthermore, my rightward shift was well under way during the closing years of the Hawke-Keating government, so Howard’s populism had nothing to do with it.

    And incidentally, I still vote Labor.

    The left, I think, needs to recognise that some of us leave because of principle and sincere conviction, even if you disagree with it.

  97. jquiggin
    August 11th, 2005 at 09:26 | #97

    Just to clarify, Rob, the comment you’re responding to was from Paul Watson. I posted it for him because the software was blocking it.

  98. Rob
    August 11th, 2005 at 09:39 | #98

    Sorry, John. So: ‘Paul, you’re reading something ……..’

  99. jquiggin
    August 11th, 2005 at 10:27 | #99

    Rob, given the positions you’ve stated above, I don’t think you are a convert in the sense that I was using the term. Apologies for any imputations to the contrary.

  100. Dave Ricardo
    August 11th, 2005 at 10:34 | #100

    “cheering on the Red Guards”

    It is interesting that those who leave the left to go right, usually go the far right, and have almost all started out on the far left.

    What this means is that while they have made a major change in their beliefs, they way in which they hold those beliefs need not change at all. They can still be as doctrinaire as ever, with an unshakeable faith in the absolute correctness of their beliefs, completely impervious to evidence or logic that contradicts those beliefs, always questioning the motives of their opponents and always accusing them of acting in bad faith. While they now believe in opposte things from previously, that is a second order issue. What really matters is the way they believe things, not what they believe.

    Then there is the socalisation aspect of it all. Believers in far left politics tend to interact (and in some cases work and live) only amongst themselves. They don’t interact much at all with people who hold different views. When they switch to the far right, they can keep the same model of socialisation, only with different, like-minded, people.

    This is a kind of digital politics. Previously they believed in 1s and 0s, now they believe in 0s and 1s.

    On the other hand, you don’t see many people from the moderate left switching to the right, either the moderate right or far right. This is because those who hold their views in a less doctrinaire fashion, more often expose themeselves to the arguments of their opponents. Because these beliefs are coninually tested, they are strengthened. Small parts of the belief system may be rejected in the face of conttrary evidence, but not the whole package of fundamental values. This process of testing and adaptation allows those on the moderate left to build more confidence in their beliefs, and so they are less inclined temperamentally to radically change them.

    There are exceptions, of course, like Bill Hayden. But there are a lot more Windschuttles around than Haydens.

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