Academics – you just never know when they'll turn on you

According to an editorial in the Australian today, I’m part of the solution, and part of the problem.

According to research carried out by a pair of economists, Andrew Leigh and Justin Wolfers, Australians are a happy lot, coming in 12th out of 77 countries in terms of happiness and 19th out of 78 nations for life satisfaction. More than that, Australians have been shown to be a happy lot ever since pollsters started asking about such things in the 1940s.

The Howard haters, angry at the way their interests are ignored, have locked Labor into a series of policy prescriptions that reflect the interests and attitudes of public sector union officials, academics, party apparatchiks and more than the occasional ABC broadcaster and Fairfax journalist, who just know that what they think matters most.

Update, 29/6: Sydney Morning Herald columnist Miranda Devine makes a surprisingly similar argument, though I’m sure any resemblance is merely coincidental.

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13 Responses to Academics – you just never know when they'll turn on you

  1. Sacha says:

    Would you describe yourself as a Howard Hater, Andrew?

  2. Geoff R says:

    Newspaper editorials have long passed their use-by date as a media form. Sometime in the 80s AM and PM stopped quoting editorials and finished with a market wrap instead. In the past editorials had some value. SMH editorials from the 1930s are certainly very partisan but at least then there was an attempt to make coherent arguments about public policy. The SMH didn’t devote editorials to criticising the Labor Daily’s take on the news for example. The Australian’s editorials are now mostly strange raves against people they dislike devoid of argument. 10 years from now (or sooner) they will make no sense to anyone.

  3. James Morrow says:

    Do you think they make sense now Geoff?

  4. I agree with Geoff that editorials don’t have the significance they once did. I’m not sure that they are worse than in the past, but there is far more competition in the opinion market, including from the newspapers’ own opinion pages (and blogs of course). While much other opinion is by experts, the editorial is usually written by a generalist. The expert is more likely to have something to say that I won’t know or could guess, and given the inevitable limits on time that is the writer I am likely to read.

  5. Andrew Leigh says:

    Sacha, I don’t think of myself as a hater in general. Hating isn’t good for your soul.

  6. Sacha says:

    I agree Andrew. Sorry, I read the quote too quickly – I thought that you were self-described as a Howard hater!

  7. Sacha says:

    grammar… 😦

  8. Corin says:

    In general but perhaps not specifically?

    I’m not so sure that editorials are of less-value or have less-power now. The Australian it seems has fought and won a long battle to reduce the tax for the top 3% of Australian income earners: whether this is warranted or not – is not the point – the point is – they nearly single-handedy kept a rather politically unappealing line (for most people) in the press and part of the ambit of good economic management.

    I’d suggest that the constant line has been as effective as any other editorial line – whether in the 1930’s or now.

  9. Corin says:

    Andrew – you made the Guardian pages as well:,,1807947,00.html?gusrc=ticker-103704

  10. Corin – I think the broader editorial line of a paper, ie including what kinds of stories they run and where they put them (p.1 versus p.10) can have influence. But I think the impact of the editorial (ie the unsigned opinion piece that normally appears on the letters page in broadsheet papers) has lost out to competition from other opinion sources.

  11. Corin says:

    Fair call. I read that the Oz used to be known as the Daily Kelly in the early 90’s – and from what I see it still largely is his editorial line – though could be wrong. i.e. Pro market, pro-business-immigration, pro-New Labor, anti-Labor itself, etc. Mixed with Janet A.etc – she tends to push more the paper in the direction of the British Daily Telegraph (;jsessionid=3ZNYHAGRLXQBXQFIQMFCFFOAVCBQYIV0) than the Times.

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