Best Blogs from “The Other Side”

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It’s easy to become entrenched in our own ways of thinking. Each of us lives in “a separate moral universe with its own facts, its own experts,” says social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. “We all feel as though we’re living in reality and they’re in la-la land. But we’re all in la-la land.” Haidt believes if we make an effort to understand each others’ la-la lands, we may still disagree, but we’ll likely disagree with more civility.

To that hopeful end, we asked two respected bloggers — liberal Kevin Drum and conservative Reihan Salam — to share favorite and trusted blogs from the other side of the liberal/conservative divide. See their picks and send us your own recommendations.

Kevin Drum is a political blogger and columnist for the progressive magazine Mother Jones.
Reihan Salam blogs about domestic policy for the conservative National Review.
The National Review‘s group blog The Corner often seems like a direct pipeline into the conservative id, with its writers fighting as much with each other as they do with liberals. If you think that conservatives all march in lockstep, taking their talking points each morning from Right Wing Central, try reading The Corner regularly. You won’t believe it for long.

In spite of a debating society style that sometimes grates, Megan McArdle in her blog for Bloomberg, makes a lot of sharp points and draws her data from a wide variety of sources. She might make you mad, but sometimes she’ll also make you think.

If you inhale liberal economists like Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong, you should be reading Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok’s Marginal Revolution too. They provide the blogosphere’s smartest and most lucid counterpoints to mainstream liberal economics, not just the stale supply-side snake oil found in so many other places.

I’ve had my issues from time to time with the National Review’s Reihan Salam, the co-author (with New York Times columnist Ross Douthat) of Grand New Party, but he reads deeply, engages seriously with liberal arguments and covers a staggering amount of ground.

“The Apostates” is my pet name for three bloggers (Bruce Bartlett, David Frum and Andrew Sullivan), all of whom still consider themselves conservatives but who have, in various ways, broken with the increasingly reactionary GOP of the tea party era. Their criticisms of Republicans may draw you in, but while you’re there you’ll also be treated to some of the best, most clear-eyed defenses of conservative thought around.

On discovering that Jamais Cascio had written for a little-known role-playing game called Transhuman Space, which featured an elaborate scenario about a 22nd century defined by radical advances in nanotechnology, genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, I knew I had to read his work. His blog, Open the Future, covers a wide range of issues, including the ethical questions surrounding geoengineering, from a left-of-center, humanist perspective.Apart from being tremendously prolific, Matt Yglesias, author of Slate’s Moneybox blog, is consistently intelligent and irreverent. Yglesias is a heterodox liberal, who crusades for freer markets in housing and transportation. Yet he is also a brutally effective critic of conservatives like myself, which makes him a valuable read.

Tim Lee, who edits The Switch for the Washington Post, is a libertarian-minded liberal who focuses on technology policy and civil liberties. Lee dives deep into his subject matter, offering a level of detail and clarity that few other bloggers can match.

The Canadian science fiction novelist, free culture activist and BoingBoing blogger Cory Doctorow is a tremendously creative thinker. He’s had a huge influence on how I think about technology and freedom, though we disagree on much else.

Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute has a gift for synthesizing ideas drawn from sociology, anthropology and economics. We are ideological opposites, but we’re both fans of interdisciplinary thinking.

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  • Byard Pidgeon

    I know this will sound partisan, in what’s supposed to be a bi-partisan area (for now)…but it seems to me that Drum is more willing to confront a variety of opposing views, and on a wider range of issues, than is Salam…who reflects, to me, the general tone of smugness I associate with National Review and its contributors, past and present (yes, David Brooks, you’re included).

  • leftofcenter

    Are we allowed to recommend other blogs here? Or, is that spamming in your system?

  • jan

    After the one appearance I saw Mr. Salam needs to leave his ivory tower.  He’s lived there too long and gotten too comfortable.  Advocating cutting jobs because they’re there and for the heck of it in a time of high unemployment is highly irresponsible.  People aren’t chess pieces to played, lost and/or discarded. 

    I didn’t realize/wasn’t interested enough to see that he has a blog but I went there tonight.  He thinks women become conservative after they get married?   (the January unemployment story)   How little he knows about women.   rofl.      


    Yes, we encourage you to suggest blogs you feel are intellectually rewarding, especially ones that come from the opposite side of the partisan divide. Demonstrate your open mind like Professor Haidt has.

  • Anonymous

    With experience we learn that mediators help parties reached better and more lasting agreements.
    We can blog till the cows come home, but we cannot replace the systemic anti-mediators that are the commercial media.   The funding is not for public service, but for product and numbers of clicks.  The media, where all busy people must refer effectively is an anti-mediator.  Bomb throwing pays in the media world of advertisers fighting for eyeballs.

    Only when citizens pay more than 50% of the media’s freight will democracy work.  A free people need an ethic of funding a free press.  Free press is not gratis, as in free beer.    I can and do have a number of candid conversations across the political divide, after all, politics is talking with the other guy.  But that will not make our politics functional again.   Will it?     

    We need a civil main-stream and for that we must have a different funding model for gathering information, funding and protecting reporters.

    To be functional, the press must fund content from the citizens. We must have an ethic of
    a citizen funded press.

  • leftofcenter

    I’ve been lucky enough to live and travel extensively abroad. Being based in London and then in Japan, I got exposed to a lot of media people and inside MSM politics. Having said that, do I have a problem with state media (ex. the BBC)? If it’s a quality product, a license fee is fine. The average BBC annual fee is roughly $400. In Japan, it’s lower ($240).

    Now, in a society that has a HUGE problem with the word socialism, how do we implement this when corporations have much of the power? Create your own model. If you check, you’ll see that most progressive radio talk hosts have their own LLC’s. This means that they have more control over content and potential profit, while keeping costs down. The others tend to be the “token liberal” on a corporate network (ex., Randi Rhodes on Premiere that carries lots of neocon people).

    Keep in mind there is no Fairness Doctrine. The FCC won’t touch many complaints because it’s “free speech”. CNN blatantly censors Cindy Sheehan by graphically wiping out the anti-Bush message on her T-shirt she was wearing at the time. Did The Time Warner top brass apologize to Sheehan? Did any CNN heads roll? Did the FCC do anything? No.
    Why? Because the truth is, unless you cut into their profit margin, they could care less what you think.

  • leftofcenter

    Here are two examples. One would be Sibel Edmond’s Boiling Frogs. Occasionally she’ll make a good point about Obama or some foreign policy issue. However, at times this is a little too libertarian for my views.

    Another one would be Global PTSD healing. Two reasons I like this. One, it covers a wide range of holistic health information for many people and stops a lot of stereotypes (only vets have PTSD). In fact, current estimates are that 30% of the total population has some form of PTSD. Two, considering the political issues that could be covered (wars, single payer health care, sex abuse and more), it fights the urge to be yet “another progressive political blog”. Instead, it focuses on being a one-stop blog to help a wide range of people. This in turn could potentially turn many onto being more politically active later.

  • Anonymous

    I cannot argue with your points.   My point still stands though.   The media and the citizenry have different goals and the media (anti-mediator) position wins.
    In the 90’s media expected humungous profits, sometimes 40% if I recall.   Those are rare profit margins.

    Not to be a piker, but if our society is to stick together, some body must stand for society.   The best organized society with the freest folks wins.  Currently that is
    not us.  The FCC, like the FEC, or Fed is no answer.  The law is currently a purchased thing. (I apologize for my cynicism.)

    But without a functioning media we are both unseeing and ungovernable.

    I imagine putting a 50% content fee on ISP bills, disbursed by number of clicks, and capped so that income is dispersed, not concentrated.   Reporters, who supply
    actual facts must be paid and protected.  Right?   And it would be good if content creators,  ‘the creatives’ got a cut as well.


  • Albie Farinas

    In the same way that I knew in my genes, back in the mid 1950s, when I attended 1st grade at a school taught by Jesuit brothers. that 90% of their dogma was BS, I also knew in my genes, that I did not “need to seek anyone’s approval” to exercise my civil rights, and I knew exactly what they were without anyone ever having told me.

    Everyone mentioned in both lists, articulate convincingly and persuasively, however, there is always a personal agenda rooted in the cause that is being advanced.  Yes, we may cloak ourselves in selflessness, but that is a fragile veneer that will not withstand extreme heat or cold.  

  • DaveWisconsin

    I enjoyed the talk with Jonathan, and I think people should watch it with a good understanding of what psychologists do and the mistakes they commonly make when describing and understanding groups.

    Psychologists are helpful in understanding in a statistical way why individuals interact the way they do with groups.  However, a common mistake that is made is in taking the statistical profile of a group and applying it to the individual psychology of a person.  This simply isn’t valid.  Conservatives can become liberals and liberals can become conservatives.  It happens all the time. 

    And the message of what a person should do to understand the other side is not valid in a political arena where everyone hears the same message from prominent politicians.  Understanding on a personal level conservatives and liberals is actually quite easy.  Grouping them together to form political parties is not that hard either, because there’s a natural tendency to exploit the traits of supporters as much as possible within ethical bounds to form that support.  But just because a person is showing certain traits that match a group concocted by our political systems doesn’t mean they have a natural tendency to those traits.  People can swing from one extreme to the other depending upon the people they are around.  Proving otherwise isn’t possible, because we are all subjects of the current world understanding of politics, government and religion.

    Jonathan is trying to help us solve our political divide I think, but his actions could be more harmful than helpful, because our current culture is much more strongly in confirmation bias mode than ever before.  Confirmation bias is a tendency, but it is not a rule.  So when strong divides form in a cultural drift, this bias tends to overwhelm other biases.  So the likely take away from this episode by most people is that conservatives are reasonable and liberals are not.  If this is the message Jonathan was trying to get across, he is doing harm.  It is nothing more than a pseudo-scientific explanation of why once cohesive societies drift into war.

    I do hope this show was really about a bit of reverse psychology.  By telling liberals to get their moral act together with a moral message seems like it could be helpful, but in the reality of politics, it probably won’t work.  It could easily serve to alienate many members of the current party, thereby creating a challenge from the left.

    So if Jonathan’s advice was intended as political help, or if it was intended as personal help without any intention of using reverse-psychology, then it was a disaster.  I think this is actually the case.  Psychologists have a hard time with this, I believe.  Through understanding how people are behaving, they seek to explain everything as a normal human condition.  Was the civil war normal?  In cultural and psychological terms, yes, but if we’re trying to prevent another one based upon learning from history, first one must understand history.

    Psychology isn’t enough, but it can be interesting.

  • DaveWisconsin

    To Kevin, I think it is a huge mistake to recommend the blog Marginal Revolution in balance with Krugman and Delong.  If the point is to read about and understanding the different ideological points of view, then perhaps this can’t hurt.  But people need to be aware that the economic ideas on Marginal Revolution are not mathematically sound.  They are purely ideological.

    Marginal Revolution is an ideological blog that confuses people about economics.  Balance is not valid when it comes to mathematics.

  • DaveWisconsin

    I think this is an accurate point of view, but I would suggest a different fix.  Media companies generally expect huge profits if huge profits are available, and this is entirely because of the laws which require the officers of corporations to maximize shareholder value.  The purpose of the corporation has been corrupted by the judiciary.

    So fixing the laws surrounding corporations can also address the problems with modern media without resorting to government-sponsered media.  I don’t think government media is a good idea.

    Some states are creating something called B Corporations.  They look very promising to me.  They essentially free the officers of a corporation to pursue other goals besides just maximizing profits and shareholder value.

  • bitters

    I’d be inclined to agree with your second paragraph..The first sounds more like a rant..

  • bitters

    I think with our new ‘information’ age..far too many people have made the mistaken presumption that we really do care about their ramblings..

    I think a vast multitude needs to get a ‘day’ job..we have way too much talking and not nearly enough doing..

  • hbooth

    Agreed.  Drum’s sources seemed to be high-profile  while Salam’s were obscure and, from his descriptions, sounded like they might not be what liberals would call liberal.

  • Anonymous

    I certainly agree with the point that the corporations are forced to maximize profits and that is nothing less than sinister.   Adam Smith who penned the Theory of Moral sentiments would agree, I believe.

    But we have existing culture and momentum, and… the Big AND the press.   It is not covering our interests, it seems to me to be a vehicle in the war for eyeballs, because that is it’s funding model.

    The presidential campaigns could not be so insanely narrow and wedge oriented if we had a citizen funded press, in my opinion.  What the left calls the corporate press, the right calls the liberal media…. same media.   The media does not mediate.

    Many of us are acting like fogies, hey, and I am one, who expect the media to function like it used to.   But Google sucked all the money out of advertising, and advertising paid the freight.

    My suggestion above was not government media by the way.  Though I do like what the BBC has done for years, with its competing strands.   I strongly feel that the citizens must get their collective oar in the soup or we will have a grim future indeed.

    PS. sorry for the slow response,

  • 4 whirledpeas

    I have been enjoying the writings of Ted Frier (who could qualify as another “apostate”).