Here are two opinions with more in common than one might think:
Murdoch’s withdrawal of his bid for BSkyB is a bad thing for both liberty and efficiency. The question of who owns what should be decided by market forces and the rule of law, not by majority opinion.
One obvious solution to the euro crisis is for there to be significant fiscal transfers within the euro area - from Germany to Greece, Portugal and perhaps Italy. This is both economically logical - it’s been a commonplace for years that monetary union requires some kind of fiscal union - and consistent with the aims of the EU, which, remember, are for “ever closer union.”
What these ideas have in common is that, with the odd honourable exception, they are not being expressed very widely or strongly. Yes, the Times’ leader said something like the former, but it is hardly unbiased; I looked in vain for a similar sentiment in the FT and Telegraph.
What’s going on here, I fear, is a form of what Mill called the tyranny of the majority. Because these opinions oppose the view lots of vocal people, “men of judgment” are scared to express them for fear of seeming out of step with the public mood. Regardless of the intellectual merits of these arguments, they look eccentric.
I think this is to be regretted on two grounds.
First, it stifles debate and narrows the terms of public discourse. Even if the above opinions are wrong, we need them expressed in order to get a livelier impression of the truth by investigating why they are wrong.
There are, of course, other examples here. The fear of the tyranny of the majority also limits public debate about the case for legalizing drugs or for open borders.
Secondly, it prevents radical change. If public opinion is regarded as a datum to be accommodated rather than as something to be changed by persuasion - as I fear is Ed Miliband‘s view - we are more likely to get cowardly populism than genuine libertarian socialism. It’s easy to forget that the “free market revolution” of the 80s was founded upon ideas which were canvassed by “cranks” and “eccentrics” in the 1970s, when such ideas were very unfashionable.
The point here is that the issue of plurality and diversity in public discourse is not merely about who owns the press. It is also about whether people have the courage to express unpopular views. The problem is that both politicians and the media lack that courage - and, indeed, have good incentives to lack it.