• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Which Conservatives Are Worth Reading?

Paul Krugman admits that he doesn’t bother to read conservative commentary:

Some have asked if there aren’t conservative sites I read regularly. Well, no. I will read anything I’ve been informed about that’s either interesting or revealing; but I don’t know of any economics or politics sites on that side that regularly provide analysis or information I need to take seriously. I know we’re supposed to pretend that both sides always have a point; but the truth is that most of the time they don’t. The parties are not equally irresponsible; Rachel Maddow isn’t Glenn Beck; and a conservative blog, almost by definition, is a blog written by someone who chooses not to notice that asymmetry. And life is short …

Kevin Drum says this is “sort of extreme” but he essentially agrees:

I still read some conservative blogs, but I read a lot fewer than I used to. The problem is sort of a Catch-22: reading the loony tunes blogs isn’t worthwhile except for entertainment value, so I mostly don’t bother. Conversely, the more moderate types have interesting things to say, but they’re so out of touch with mainstream conservatism that they often don’t seem worthwhile engaging with either. I mean, what’s the point in arguing over some technocratic point that’s a million light years away from the views of actual, existing conservatism, which doesn’t yet admit that cutting taxes reduces revenues or spewing carbon into the air heats the globe? It all has a very ivory tower feel to it.

This is a recurring theme and, while I certainly read plenty of conservative pundits–and, indeed, still consider myself one–like Kevin, I read fewer than I used to. I prefer rational, facts-based analysis and find more of it across the aisle than on my own side.

Partly, it’s a function of the fact that academics and policy wonks with strong academic backgrounds are more likely to produce the kind of writing I find interesting and those groups tilt to the leeward side. But I’m not the only conservative who has noticed that even mainstream journals on the right have gone crazy. And the David Frums, Bruce Bartletts, and Daniel Larisons have largely been written off as RINOs angling for invites to liberal cocktail parties.

Are the rational conservatives simply being outshouted? Out-promoted? Or are there just too few to matter anymore?

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Steve Hynd says:

    A quick glance at Memeorandum.com confirms the “too few” hypothesis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. It is amazing how well he just knows what conservatives think considering he doesn’t read them, don’t you think?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. CB says:

    charles-

    you seem to be misinterpreting his point. i dont think he was saying hes unwilling to listen to opposing views. its just that the right-o-sphere seems to have jumped the shark, as k-drum and james point out.

    and spare the both sides do it schtick…of course they do. the left can be just as nuts. but one side seems to take the nuts far more seriously than the other.

    generally though, i would agree that its a bit out there to write off an entire (valid) worldview based on the quality of its blogs…but again, i dont think that was truly his point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. Here’s a question: who out there currently qualifies as an intellectually serious conservative blogger?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. sam says:

    Why bother, Charles, when the reality is, “the David Frums, Bruce Bartletts, and Daniel Larisons have largely been written off as RINOs” — when what passes for “conservatism” today reads those guys out of the lists? I read Frum, Bartlett, Larison. ED Kain, and other sane members of the right. Their insights and arguments are worthy counters to my political prejudices. But I read them in the knowledge that they have zero effect on the yahooism that is modern conservatism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  6. Steven,

    Whoever they are, I’m sure they’ve already been denounced as a RINO.

    This is the problem I see with conservatism today. There’s little room for disagreement, and the very idea of being an intellectual is derided by leaders like Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, and Levin.

    That said, there are some serious thinkers on the right I enjoy reading. Daniel Larison is one. Stephen Bainbridge is another

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  7. Murray says:

    In his day Buckley wasn’t mainstream and he too was derided because he debated liberals, called out wingnuts on his side and didn’t tow a party line.

    Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    This is not a shock. Conservatism is intellectually dead. The overlap with the GOP is part of the problem. The party has hopped into bed with religious nuts, racists and crazies.

    But conservatism itself has won a few but lost the war. The libertarian wing is absurd and the rest of conservatism is offensive. There’s no there there any more, not for intelligent people. I don’t mean to offend James and Doug but they both fit much more comfortably within the wider reaches of the current chastened liberalism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  9. Steven Plunk says:

    Krugman doesn’t say blogger he says conservative commentary. Would that mean no George Will or Charles Krauthammer? Would Krugman suggest conservatives avoid reading his commentary?

    Disguising emotions as fact based analysis doesn’t make it so. Here at OTB we can see that on display regarding oil well fracturing. Ignore the facts and rely on outliers and docudramas to make your case.

    The Wall Street Journal has made sport of Krugman’s nonsense and it’s easy to see why. Maddow and Beck are entertainers so using them as examples immediately shows the weakness in his argument. This is just another attempt to marginalize opposing views rather than face them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  10. EddieInCA says:

    Daniel Larison (Honest, intellectually consistent)
    Rod Dreher (Ditto)
    James Joyner (Wacky, but generally intellectually honest (while often misguided)
    David Frum (Intellectually honest. Consistent).
    Michael Medved

    Those are four I read regularly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    As you suggest the more relevant question is which conservatives are conservative?

    IMO nowadays we’re mostly dealing with Left Bolsheviks and Right Bolsheviks (or, as Pat Lang refers to them, Jacobins).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Darn, he posted before I could add: “There are by definition no conservative bloggers/writers/pundits worth reading. Just ask Michael Reynolds.”

    Personally, I don’t read much by conservative pundits as they don’t have much to say that I don’t already know. I would recommend the folks at Reason though, and perhaps Cato.

    I do find it humorous that “the left” is seen as trafficking in facts-based analysis. At least those facts that don’t contradict the narrative, I suppose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  13. matt b says:

    Add another +1 to Larison. There were a could other paleocons over at the Amcon who I thought were pretty interesting reads (though “Pat” was definitely *not* one of them).

    Also, James Manzi, Conor Friedersdorf, and a number of the writers over that the American Scene (http://theamericanscene.com/).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. steve says:

    On the right I like Larison, Millman, Manzi, Bartlett, Kling (his whole site), Cowen, Avik Roy, Joyner, Reason (especially Balko), Russ Roberts, Volokh Conspiracy and Drezner. I dont like, but regularly read Goodman and Suderman (Lord I wish there were better right wing health writers). I read Sumner who fits God knows where o the political spectrum, and a couple of Tea Party sites. I have no idea how you can refine your own thinking w/o engaging with those whom you disagree. I would have to agree that it is depressing that most of the right seems to have gotten weirder. Lots of people say Beck and Limbaugh are just entertainers. The same people also quote them as though they are never wrong. I swear that at least half of those on the right I talk with firmly believe that cutting taxes can never lead to increased deficits.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. george says:

    It is amazing how well he just knows what conservatives think considering he doesn’t read them, don’t you think?

    Its really quite easy if you’re orders of magnitude smarter than those you don’t listen too. This has been shown time and time again in science – if the person isn’t someone you respect, there’s no reason to listen to them, because you know they’ll never have a good idea. Its made easier by the fact that people are binary – either 100% of their ideas are good, or 100% of their ideas are bad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. matt b says:

    @george

    Its really quite easy if you’re orders of magnitude smarter than those you don’t listen too. This has been shown time and time again in science – if the person isn’t someone you respect, there’s no reason to listen to them, because you know they’ll never have a good idea. Its made easier by the fact that people are binary – either 100% of their ideas are good, or 100% of their ideas are bad.

    I hope this was tongue-in-cheek

    First of all, given the amount of content that is out there, everyone has to filter. Period. And you have to build up heuristics for this.

    But beyond that, in all aspects of life, skills, opinions, and expertise ARE NEVER EQUAL. Yes, everyone might have a good idea in their life, but some people have a lot more than others.

    As far as experimental science (or other process based systems), there are specific ways that “respect” is earned and maintained — i.e. explicitly following and clearly writing up procedures, passing peer review, getting results that other people can repeat. You need to do that to earn respect. Plain and simple.

    Reputable scientists do not simply throw away data. And those that do cease to be listened to.

    The same can be said for thinkers of all stripes. There’s a reason that I always read Larison and never read, say, Goldberg or Levin. Larison performs a type of open thinking that is clear and reflexive. The latter two, though I’m sure right from time to time, have a projects/careers that fundamentally come into conflict with *open thinking* a lot of the time – simply put, I don’t trust the process by which they reach their ideas.

    Now, I should say, that if Larison positively highlights a specific writing of theirs, I go and read it. And (though I cannot imagine this happening) he was to regularly praise them, I’d reconsider my stance.

    Again, this isn’t based on my agreement with Larison’s positions (though there is a chunk of overlap on Foreign issues). It’s based on my agreement with the process by which Larison reaches his opinions.

    BTW that’s a reason why I follow most of the writers here on OTB

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Neil Hudelson says:

    First of all, given the amount of content that is out there, everyone has to filter. Period. And you have to build up heuristics for this.

    I think this idea is often lost in the debate about who to read on what side. On many blog threads (surprisingly not as much at OTB) a widely-read post at, say, the Atlantic is seen as gospel, or at the very least cannonical. To not have read it means you are not qualified to participate in a related debate. No one has the time to read all the good writing out there, or even a large minority of it.

    Reminds me a bit of this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7VgNQbZdaw

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. george says:

    Matt b: yes, it was tongue in cheek – binary humans probably being the biggest give away. But the basic point I was getting at wasn’t; disregarding a whole school of thought, as Krugman seems to be doing, has a way of coming back to bite you. The history of physics is full of such things (the initial reaction to quantum mechanics for instance – special relativity was much easier to accept because it provided the rational behind the Lorentz contraction, which physicists already knew fit the data).

    As you say, everyone filters most of the information out there, its a practical necessity. But in the long run its a better practice to let a bit from all the major schools of thought, and some of the minor ones, through your filter; just reading views you already agree with is comfortable, but still not advisable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. matt b says:

    @Neil:
    One reason for the lower lack of that @OTB is in part the blogs format — short form (something I’m trying to learn to write) — with lots of excerpting within the post. Basically you have everything here you need to comment. On the downside, it also can lead to a lower level of debate and far more emotion at times (personal bias/feeling is that currently there are better liberal/independent commenters on OTB than conservative ones… not to say there are not good conservative commenters here (or bad liberal ones… just that the site could use more thoughtful con’s).

    @George:
    Good points. I definitely don’t agree with Klugman on that. And in terms of science, it should always be stressed that it works best in the long view and not always so good at any particular moment in time. As with quantum mechanics and the germ theory of disease, the overall process worked, but it took time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. jwest says:

    Krugman exhibits the closed-minded arrogance that is the hallmark of today’s liberals.

    By isolating himself from differing points of view, Krugman writes from a perspective of fact-free liberal stereotypes, as evidenced by this recent column where he mistakenly assumed Wisconsin students performed better under unionized teachers than Texas students with a non-unionized system.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/opinion/28krugman.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    A gifted conservative blogger in Iowa researched the actual results and proved Krugman wrong, as he so often is.

    http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2011/03/longhorns-17-badgers-1.html

    and the subsequent back-up rebuttal to Krugman sycophants:

    http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2011/03/badgering-the-witless.html

    Krugman made a fool of himself because he believed that it was just “settled science” that a blue state unionized education system would out-perform unsophisticated rednecks in Texas. The conclusion was arrived at in his mind prior to any research, so looking beyond the misleading data provided to him by liberal sources was not something he would waste his valuable time on.

    Like most liberals, not knowing the extent of their ignorance and refusing to question things that follow their preconceived ideas, they continue on with insufferable assurance that they are right. If Krugman were simply uninformed, that would be one thing. However, consciously refusing to consider opinions from a different perspective is the definition of stupidity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Jay Tea says:

    I’ll toss out two bloggers on the right side who are worth reading:

    Ace of Spades — yeah, he’s vulgar, but damn he’s insightful and very readable.

    Belmont Club’s Wretchard, alias Richard Fernandez of Pajamas Media — the man is a serious “big thinker” with tremendous historical knowledge and great vision. He reminds me a bit of Steven Den Beste in good ways.

    And if you’re one of those nitwits who insist that “conservative humorist” is an oxymoron, I give you P. J. O’Rourke, FrankJ, and the aforementioned Iowahawk — his surgical disassembling of Krugman was not part of his normal style; he’s far better known for pieces like “Biden Vows to Jump Canyon by Amtrak” and “When Spuds Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Spuds.”

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. LaurenceB says:

    Back when I first started reading blogs, I categorized the ones I read in my bookmarks as “Conservative Blogs” or “Liberal Blogs”. Today, I still read three of those “Conservative Blogs” pretty regularly – they are Andrew Sullivan, Balloon-Juice, and Outside The Beltway. But I doubt many of today’s “conservatives” read those blogs. Frankly, I think this says something about the (sorry) state of today’s Conservatism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. CB says:

    Krugman exhibits the closed-minded arrogance that is the hallmark of today’s liberals.

    oh for christ’s sake.

    as we all know, liberals alone have the monopoly on closed minded arrogance and ignorance. /snark

    kthug is generally arrogant and pompous, right on some stuff, wrong on alot for sure, but take the damn blinders off and stop looking at politics as sport.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Drew says:

    “I prefer rational, facts-based analysis and find more of it across the aisle than on my own side.”

    Yeah, high brow stuff like this:

    “The party has hopped into bed with religious nuts, racists and crazies.
    But conservatism itself has won a few but lost the war. The libertarian wing is absurd and the rest of conservatism is offensive. There’s no there there any more, not for intelligent people.”

    Personally, since I travel alot, I happen to spend more time on radio, listening mostly to Air America types just to see what’s on their minds. Sometimes MSNBC. But I find it to be mostly a steady stream of self congratulatory snickers and guffaws, sophomoric and unsubstantiated claims of stupidity, or claims of Republicans wanting to starve children, throw grandma out in the snow, and racism. I must admit, its about as intellectually rewarding as conversing with a turnip.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. Franklin says:

    Many of you cite Larison; does he have a regular blog? My first few Google hits seem to be useless, plus I’m lazy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Larison’s blog is here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. I’m also finding Walter Russell Mead quite reasonable, insightful and informative these days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Used to read The Economist, The New Republic, and Scientific American regularly. Not so much, anymore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. sam says:

    @Drew

    “The party has hopped into bed with religious nuts, racists and crazies.
    But conservatism itself has won a few but lost the war. The libertarian wing is absurd and the rest of conservatism is offensive. There’s no there there any more, not for intelligent people.”

    And this is incorrect because?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. You see Drew, if you were intelligent you would just, you know, know this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. jpe says:

    Here’s a question: who out there currently qualifies as an intellectually serious conservative blogger?

    It was OTB and Poliblog…….

    That said, Q&O and Patterico aren’t bad, but that’s about it. (unless one counts the Reason folks)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. jpe says:

    Actually, Lawfare and Volokh are outstanding. I tend to put them in the “law” bucket rather than the “partisan” bucket for obvious reasons, but they’re both conservative-ish blogs and both intellectual tours de force.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Paul Barnes says:

    There are plenty of good conservative writers. Some examples have already been mentioned, like Larison and Bainbridge, while there are others that I read that have not:

    Elizabeth Scalia writing at The Anchoress
    Many of the writers at Mirror of Justice
    Post-modern Conservative, and Rightly Understood by Peter Lawler
    Maverick Philosopher
    Edward Feser
    The folks at City Journal
    Public Discourse
    Touchstone Magazine
    Front Porch Republic
    Eve Tushnet
    Jimmy Akin and Mark Shea
    Patrick Deenen at What I Saw in America
    The American Catholic
    First Things magazine in general

    As you can see, there are plenty of flavours of what could potentially be called ‘conservative’ and I like to maintain a big tent with that term. However, most of the interesting ideas seem to come from Catholics, but I could very well be biased in that respect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. Jay Tea says:

    I got some recommendations hung up in the moderation queue (too many links), but short version: Ace of Spades, Wretchard of Belmont Club/Richard Fernandez of Pajamas Media, and IMAO and the aforementioned IowaHawk for conservative humor.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Franklin says:

    Thanks Mr. Taylor. Oddly that was the first result when Googling from home; I swear it wasn’t when I did it at work a couple hours ago.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. mantis says:

    jwest says:
    Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 16:12
    Krugman exhibits the closed-minded arrogance that is the hallmark of today’s liberals.

    By isolating himself from differing points of view, Krugman writes from a perspective of fact-free liberal stereotypes, as evidenced by this recent column where he mistakenly assumed Wisconsin students performed better under unionized teachers than Texas students with a non-unionized system.

    jwest, did you read the Krugman column you linked to? Did you notice he did not once compare Texas to Wisconsin? In fact, he does not mention Wisconsin at all? Hmm.

    Did you read the IowaHawk posts? Did you notice that he never even addresses Krugman’s column beyond quoting it, choosing instead to dispute The Economist‘s choice of statistics? Only in an update after being badgered by emailers does he address Krugman’s statistic about Texas high school dropout rates. In doing so, he waves his hands and digs for some dropout statistic where Wisconsin is worse (again, Krugman did not mention Wisconsin; only Texas). He does manage to find one. Black students in Wisconsin 9-12th grade have a higher “event dropout rates” than in Texas. The average graduation rate in Wisconsin, which Iowahawk neglects to mention, even though it was he who brought up Wisconsin in response to Krugman? 88.5% (2006-7). For Texas? 71.9% (2006-7). No wonder Iowahawk avoided it.

    While looking at this stuff I noticed quite a few posts throughout the rightosphere about Iowahawk “taking down Krugman” and “destroying” him and whatnot. Funny, he didn’t even bother to try responding to Krugman. Apparently none of you bother to read the stuff anyway, so why not make the claim?

    Krugman’s point was the so-called “Texas miracle” was a load of crap. He’s correct.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. MarkedMan says:

    BTW, someone above said “a good scientist never disregards data” or words to that effect. In fact, it is the hallmark of a good scientist that they rigorously discard bad data and do not let it’s abundance sway them. And, since so much of science is based on trust ( else you would have to run every experiment for yourself) once someone is a known time waster you don’t go back. And if they have ever violated ethics then they are dead to you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. michael reynolds says:

    Drew:

    Air America is no longer on the air. Which makes it rather unlikely that you spend a lot of time listening to it.

    If you listen to MSNBC on the road it’s either on Jet Blue or Virgin — neither of which flies much into Illinois — or on Sirius. Of course MSNBC only recently began simulcasting on Sirius.

    So again: unlikely.

    More likely: you listen to the right wing echo chamber, imagine that this has given you insight into “Air America” and MSNBC, and then try to pass off your unoriginal, tired-ass Galtism as deep insight.

    If you actually listened to Maddow specifically you’d find she’s quite fact-driven and research-heavy. I won’t say the same for Ed Schultz who is a clown. But Maddow? She’s a nerd, she likes data.

    Fail, Drew. Total fail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. michael reynolds says:

    Drew:

    While you’re here why don’t you toddle over to the thread on the MLK day bomber and tell us all again how there are no racists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. Drew says:

    “And this is incorrect because?”

    This is the point at which they say – “if you have to ask…”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. michael reynolds says:

    Drew:

    In other words, as usual, you’ve got nothing but gas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. anjin-san says:

    > This is the point at which they say – “if you have to ask…”

    Well, that’s what they say when they can’t answer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. TG Chicago says:

    I was curious about Jay Tea’s recommendation of Ace of Spades being insightful, since my memory of that blog was not at all positive. I couldn’t remember any specifics, so I figured I should give it another chance.

    The first post on the page is about the Wisconsin protests. It contains this “insight”:

    “They’ve already broken doors and windows. Next up will be the actual deaths, or burning the building down.”

    Well, then. If there are actual deaths or if the building is burned down, I will say “Ace of Spades is indeed insightful; I should check him out again.” We shall see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. Moderate Mom says:

    I often read what Victor Davis Hanson writes. He’s excellent. He’s a vineyard owner, a Classicist and he teaches at one of the schools in the University of California system, but I can’t remember which one.

    Ace of Spades can be hilarious, but I wouldn’t consider him a serious Conservative writer. Same with Iowahawk, whose take downs of Christopher Buckley (a/k/a T. Coddington Van Voohees VII) are some of the funniest satire I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read those, take the time to Google good old T. Coddington and enjoy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. I find NPR generally far more listenable than Conservative Talk Radio, even though the later would be closer to my opinion. The distinction that even though I rarely agree with NPR, I don’t feel that my intelligence is being insulted. Conservative talk radio, on the other hand, isn’t even trying to make an argument. It’s just mindless emotionalism and identity appeals. If I may paraphase Wolfgang Pauli, talk radio isn’t right–it’s not even wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  46. anjin-san says:

    > I was curious about Jay Tea’s recommendation of Ace of Spades

    It’s not too hard to figure. Jay is a little confused about the difference between “insight” and “bullshit”.

    Actually, he is very confused about it, but that is the right in the year 2011. These guys read a joke publication like “The American Thinker” and feel like they are deep. It would be funny, were it not so sad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. M1EK says:

    I went back to iowahawk again after this thread just to double-check. He’s a clown – doesn’t accept comments; and fundamentally unserious. Not in the same universe as Krugman.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  48. gs says:

    Having spent a good deal of my life as a student of intellectual conservatism (I wrote an online book called Crossing Swords: William F. Buckley jr. and the American Left, I think some of the assumptions made in some of the comments are both interesting and telling. Years ago Bill Buckley complained that most of the good writers were on the left — for two reasons. First, the media, educational and public policy establishment was monopolized by liberals and leftists. Conservatism as an intellectual movement did not exist — and those who labeled themselves conservative were likely to be — on the whole — business or professionally oriented (medicine, law, etc.) WFB changed this by first recruiting top intellectual on his side over the right, and then by building a movement that provided support and opportunity to right thinkers and writers. But Bill admired good writing and thinking whether on the left or the right, which explains his friendships and admiration for those he disagreed with. The truth is that American letters is in a state of decline generally — web blogging is not conducive to deep diving. Academics, many of them at least, write for their peers. Company writers (left and right) are less interested in debate and honest discussion than they are in feeding red meat to committed constituencies. The result is that you have a handful of folks on the right who are still interesting to read — Will, Krauthammer, Michael Novak — and on the left also a few — Hitchens (still left in my view, but unpredictable), Tony Judt (RIP). And then a few that are tought to pigeon hole — Wendell Berry comes to mind.

    At the end of the day, I quote reid buckley, younger brother of WFB:

    We learned from our parents to prefer the good man to the brilliant man. It is a sacred humanity in people we respect. Our compassion is earned in the quality of the human condition. People are surprised to realize that we, princelings of Dame Fortune, as they feel us to be, tread the same hard interior landscape. And it may be this that comes through, that fascinates, because we do not presume, `Come, let us lead you,’ but, instead, petition, `Come, our philosophy is your way, the human way, and it is you who will and must lead yourselves…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  49. Axel Edgren says:

    My problem is that I only read human writing.

    That excludes climate deniers, homophobes, anti-secularists, those who want “alternatives” to evolution taught in schools (“Just to be fair, you see”) and people who think life begins at conception.

    That really shortens it down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  50. Barry says:

    I love a lot of these recommendations – I snipped a whooooooooooole bunch of text, and propose the following test:

    Any writer about public events worthy of respect should have at the very least gotten the Iraq War correct, and if not, should have realized how badly things were going by Fall 2003. How many of the recomomendations above fit that bill?

    Of those, how many figured out just how bad the Bush/Cheney administration was, before late 2004 (when a wartime president won re-election by a razor-thin margin).

    Who’s left?

    Oh, and they should have figured out by 2009 that Wall St and the 30-year reign of neoliberal/right-wing economics had failed. Any of them?

    And they should be able to get basic facts right – for example, any who blamed the CRA for the housing crash are fools or liars.

    They should have bare-bones minimal honesty – they should put the intellectual boot to Birthers and anit-muslim/anti-gay prejudice. They should be honest about government budgeting.

    Now, who’s left?

    Anybody?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  51. jwest says:

    Barry,

    “Any writer about public events worthy of respect should have at the very least gotten the Iraq War correct…”

    You’re absolutely correct.

    I’ve searched in vain for liberal writers who even hinted that a reduced U.S. force could defeat the fourth largest standing army and topple the Saddam government in 4 weeks with just over 200 casualties.

    Not worthy of respect at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  52. george says:

    Barry: in short their opinions should match your own?

    I find that I can find reasons why most people I disagree with are wrong – I think most of us do that. The trick is to never stop believing that you might be in error, and so to go out of your way to look for dissenting opinions.

    Lots of things that everyone ‘knew’ was true, in every field, have turned out to be wrong. Of course, most unconventional opinions are in fact wrong or even crackpot, but its still vital to peruse them. Put it this way, other than the comfort of hearing my own opinions confirmed by someone I trust (and more often than not the trust comes exactly because their opinions match my own), what do I gain by reading opinions I already hold?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  53. Chaz says:

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned Reihan Salam’s blog. He is thoughtful and polite (albeit wonky) and I try not to come to a conclusion on an issue before learning his views. I disagree with him more than I agree with him but he is essential reading.

    Keith Hennessy’s blog is also interesting

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  54. Chaz says:

    P.S. I generally hold left-of-center views on most but not all issues.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  55. matt b says:

    @Barry

    Anybody?

    Pretty sure Larison (though he doesn’t write on economics).

    To be fair, and I don’t have good examples off the top of my head, but it would be fair to try a similar test of liberal bloggers blind spots to things conservatives get right (and yes, there are those as well). … in other words what George said.

    @Chaz, I ment to mention Salam and then got distracted. I think he belongs on the list too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  56. Tlaloc says:

    He’s certainly more libertarian than conservative but I’m a big fan of Eunomia by Daniel Larison. He’s thoughtful and almost always very well written.

    Pretty much the only right side voices I read seriously at this point are more libertarian than conservative. I glance at the cesspool of redstate, gateway pundit, and weasel zippers when i want the head shaking “what the hell is wrong with these people” sense of satisfaction in the morning, but I don’t really read them. Similarly I find that these days the national review reads a lot more like glen beck than george will.

    Speaking of Will, he’s an ass, but he’s at least as tolerable to read as he ever has been.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  57. michael reynolds says:

    In the early 16th century the quality of earth-centric cosmological commentary was quite good.

    After 1543 the quality of same began to decline dramatically. And by the early 17th century earth-centric commentary fell to imbeciles and Jesuits.

    When an idea is demonstrated to be stupid, you’re going to find that most of those defending it are themselves, not geniuses.

    The quality of conservative commentary is in decline because at the core of conservatism is a discredited nostalgia for a non-existent past. It’s nonsense, so it follows as summer follows spring (you know, from the earth going around the sun) that the defense of nonsense will be somewhat less than compelling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  58. Barry says:

    jwest – ah, the old ‘there were two wars’ lie.

    George – wrong. Just in case you didn’t read my post, or in case your grasp of recent history is poor, I confined myself to examples where things the facts on the ground were pretty clear.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  59. sam says:

    @gs

    ” But Bill admired good writing and thinking whether on the left or the right, which explains his friendships and admiration for those he disagreed with.”

    Which was what made Firing Line such a joy to watch. I always struck by the end of the show. The camera would remain Buckley and his guest. Invariably, you would see Buckley lean over to his guest, and they would continue the conversation, with Buckley, I’m sure, wishing to probe more deeply some point or argument launched in the main discussion.

    From that we’ve descended to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and the mediocrities that populate Fox News. Cui bono?, cui damn bono?, as Buckley would say.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  60. Patrick Laske says:

    There’s plenty of good conservative material out there, but it might not be entirely readable. The medium matters. Liberals ideas tend to look better on paper, where as conservative ideas work better in conversations, pithy rhetoric, speeches, and the like. Even if we look at a cross performer, look how much better David Frum’s BloggingHeads appearance is than his writing, or how much better Glenn Beck’s Radio Show is compared to his television show and books. If Audio improves these men, imagine all the really good stuff you’re missing out on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  61. @Patrick:

    Liberals ideas tend to look better on paper, where as conservative ideas work better in conversations, pithy rhetoric, speeches, and the like

    You appear to be saying that conservative ideas work better as entertainment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  62. Patrick Laske says:

    On some level it is all entertainment, but I think there’s something inherent in the audio / reading distinction that matters towards how enjoyable the argument is to listen to or read. This is really what James is arguing, that he no longer gets enjoyment from reading Conservative thought, instead preferring to read liberal ideas.
    There’s a bit of information snobbery in the O.P., in that he assumes the only legitimate form intelligentsia is found with the written word. This shuts down one of the thriving market of Conservative Debates, Speeches, Monologues, Radio and Internet Shows, and interviews, because conservative ideas just don’t ‘jump off the page’.

    One might instead turn the argument around and ask, “Why is it that our imaginations produce these towering intellectual giants when we read the left, but they’re ideas seem to fall flat when they’re given voice?” And this isn’t a denunciation of liberal radio, but that the good ones worth listening to are as numerous as conservative writers are worth reading.

    My guess would be monetary incentives, but I’m open to other suggestions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  63. jwest says:

    “The bigger the German, the smaller the Speedo.”

    This quote was shamelessly stolen from the comments section at Ace of Spades. Where in the writings of liberals could you find such absolute truth? Here are 8 simple words that philosophers could spend a lifetime contemplating.

    Intellectualism lives in our quest to understand the world around us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  64. @Patrick:

    On some level it is all entertainment

    If so, then that is the problem. We cannot base governance, nor an understanding thereof, on information gleaned from entertainment.

    Indeed, I think it is telling that some of the above recommendation are to humor/satire sites, but they are cited as “serious” conservative writers.

    And while I will leave to James to explain himself should he desire to do so, I really don’t think that this is his point

    This is really what James is arguing, that he no longer gets enjoyment from reading Conservative thought, instead preferring to read liberal ideas.

    I think his critique is about quality, not about enjoyment value.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  65. gs says:

    sadly, a good many of you cannot separate the idea of good writing from your own narrow biases. here is a stunning idea: might not two reasonable people thoughtfully disagree about Iraq, or climate change or homosexuality. To read some of you, apparently not. If you are looking for dogmatism, look in the mirror.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  66. Careless says:

    I still read three of those “Conservative Blogs” pretty regularly – they are Andrew Sullivan, Balloon-Juice, and Outside The Beltway

    I’m curious: Was Balloon Juice ever a conservative blog, or is this person crazy? Never read it before last year.

    And I like the irony of talking about how few conservatives are both not crazy and currently relevant, then someone mentioning Sully who is crazy and irrelevant.

    The average graduation rate in Wisconsin, which Iowahawk neglects to mention, even though it was he who brought up Wisconsin in response to Krugman? 88.5% (2006-7). For Texas? 71.9% (2006-7). No wonder Iowahawk avoided it.

    A) “The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings.” (Iowahawk quoting Krugman there). Yes, he made it clear that Texas has a bad high school graduation rate in the original, non-updated post

    B) You’re playing the same game Krugman did, except you can’t claim his (feigned) embarrassing ignorance because you read Iowahawk and must be aware of what drives the difference in dropout rates.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  67. @Careless:

    John Cole (founder and main author at Ballon Juice) was at one point a self-identified Republican.

    Things change.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  68. mantis says:

    A) “The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings.” (Iowahawk quoting Krugman there). Yes, he made it clear that Texas has a bad high school graduation rate in the original, non-updated post

    But he made the Wisconsin comparison, and ignored Wisconsin’s numbers. Try again.

    B) You’re playing the same game Krugman did, except you can’t claim his (feigned) embarrassing ignorance because you read Iowahawk and must be aware of what drives the difference in dropout rates.

    I’m aware of what Iowahawk wrote, but he does not, in fact, explain the difference between the graduation rates of the two states. He offers a substance free “I dunno, maybe it’s the Mexicans” explanation, but that’s not a real, fact-based explanation. He’s just makes it up.

    Iowahawk, and you, are the ones playing games.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  69. Tlaloc says:

    John Cole (founder and main author at Ballon Juice) was at one point a self-identified Republican.

    Things change.

    It really didn;t in this case. He went from an authoritarian cultist for the right to an authoritarian cultist for the left. BJ is O-bot central where to notice what a scumbag Obama has turned out to be is to be alled a “firebagger.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  70. Rick W says:

    The guys at Power Line, Belmont Club, the team at Hot Air, Roger L. Simon, to name a few. All intellectually serious. All “fact-based”. There is any number of counter-examples to demonstrate that liberal blogs have also become “brain dead”, if that is the exercise. Who are the intellectually serious, fact-based bloggers on the left, so that I can concentrate on the worthy ones?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0