The Right-Wing Experiment
2007-05-22 07:44:32 GMT/BST
Or rather, my right-wing experiment...
With the exception of a brief flirtation with anarcho-capitalism when I was 17, my political beliefs have generally been vaguely left-leaning. But about three years ago now, I noticed that there was something fishy going on. It appeared to me that the people who were smart had left-wing beliefs and that people who weren't so smart had right-wing beliefs. But that seemed implausible. There must, I thought, be some smart right-wingers out there.
Another thing that raised my suspicions was that all my family and most of my friends were on the left as well. Could it be mere coincidence that they should have the same beliefs as me?
So I started an experiment. I sought out intelligent right-wingers and tried reading what they had to say. I started with Marginal Revolution and Asymmetrical Information and I learnt about economics. But I soon gave up on Asymmetrical Information because I thought she was a bit of a nut job.
Anyway, it turns out that, far from being smart, most people on the left know nothing about economics. Which is a bit of a problem given that socialism is primarily an economic system. But while I think economics is a particular problem for the left, the world is not actually divided into right-wingers who know about economics and left-wingers who don't. There are plenty on the right who don't understand economics too.
So another interesting thing that I've learnt from this experiment is that people's beliefs are very much influenced by those of the people around them. In my case that includes my family and friends, and that, I'm sure, is where my left-leaning beliefs came from in the first place. But now that I spend more time reading about politics on blogs than I do discussing it with people face to face, I've shifted my beliefs to the right of most people I know.
Furthermore, I've gone back to reading Asymmetrical Information and others, such as the Becker-Posner Blog, that I wouldn't have been able to understand before. After sufficient exposure to right-wing ideas, it's the left that start to look like nut jobs.