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An interesting line in David Marr’s article in today’s Herald. Marr asked Bob Carr whether he “had heard it said that the purpose of the tabloid press is to persuade the working class to vote Tory?”

So here’s an interesting question, if we have free and competitive markets and if we have free speech and free media, why don’t we have a left-wing tabloid press to persuade the working class to vote for the (supposed) party of the worker? If we have free markets and free speech, then surely if the left’s political agenda was truly beneficial to the working class, then a left-wing tabloid ought to be quite popular.

There are several rebuttals to this, but I find them unpersuasive.Firstly, we don’t have free and competitive markets. Australia has a oligopolistic media market with reasonably high barriers to entry into the print media. But barriers to entry into the online media are reasonably low – one simply needs to gain critical mass. America has the Huffington Post, a left-wing tabloid if there ever was one. Mud-racking, badly fact-checked rubbish dressed up as ‘news’. So why hasn’t, e.g. Larvatus Prodeo, become a left-wing tabloid? Fairfax media, publisher of is actually faring better than the publisher of the print SMH, so its not as though Australians aren’t going online for news. If we assume free speech, then any new entrant can quickly grow in appeal through word of mouth alone.

Secondly, a purist economic doctrinaire would tell you that a code of journalistic ethics and the Press Council acts like an enforcer for a cartel, deterring new entrants. (Similar arguments are applied to the Bar Council, AMA and other professional bodies). I agree with these arguments to an extent, but I can hardly see why.

Third, just because, objectively speaking, the left’s policies are better for the working class, doesn’t mean that you can always convince them they are better, even in a free speech environment. True – but you can make compelling arguments and hold your own ground. If you had a genuinely strong argument, you’d garner enough readers to make your newspaper reasonably profitable.

So the only answer that I can reasonably agree with is that the Left’s policies don’t benefit the working class or that the working class are pre-disposed towards conservatism. Economic conservatism has given more benefits to the working class than any redistributionist policy of the Left. And on social conservatism, if you can’t make genuine arguments that persuade the working class to vote Left then the only conclusion can be that they are pre-disposed towards voting Tory.

I don’t think anything I’ve said is terribly controversial. There is a good reason the Labor Party has abandoned the working class (despite a recent resurgence in the NSW branch) – there are no long-run electoral prospects for them in wooing them. And I think the ALP should abandon the working class. By adopting intelligent economic conservatism combined with a healthy dose of social liberalism, they can fill the void which the Liberal Party has vacated on both fronts.

I think in the very long-run (let’s say, the next fifty years), we’ll see a complete reversal of the ALP and LNP’s roles. The ALP will become the new classical liberal party, defending good economic and social policy based upon principles of rationality, liberalism and empiricalism. The Coalition will regress to a Tony-Abbott/One Nation party, with social conservatism combined with a curious amalgam of economic conservatism and occasional protectionism.

Whilst a radical pronouncement, it has happened before. In the US, the Republicans and Democrats completely reversed their constituencies some time in the last century. The Australian parties will reverse their’s sometime in the next century.


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