There's something I find depressing about the Tory whining about Duncan Weldon's appointment as Newsnight's economics editor. It's a sign of the tyranny of party politics.
Put it this way. Would there be so much moaning if an arts or sports reporter had leftish views? I suspect not, because arts and sports are (mostly) obviously separate from party politics. The fuss over Duncan's appointment therefore reflects a belief that economics reporting is party-politically sensitive.
Of course, this is obviously true for some aspects of economics, such as the debate about fiscal policy. But there's much, much more to economics than this small matter. Many questions can be discussed indepdendently of party politics, such as: are we really in a period of secular stagnation? Will robots take our jobs? What are the pros and cons of behavioural economics? How does evolutionary economics help illuminate social affairs? What, if anything, can we learn from happiness economics, or neuroeconomics? And so on.
The idea that someone's leftist opinions debar them from a job requiring some kind of political neutrality seems to rest upon at least deeply dubious views: that a journalist can't leave his opinions at the door and be impartial; that economics is a branch of party politics; and a narcissistic tribalism that wants to hear its own ideas echoed back to it.
It doesn't have to be like this. I've managed to spend 20 years at the IC, even though - I suspect - most readers aren't sympathetic to my Marxian views. This is because these three ideas don't apply to me; I can, mostly, hide my Marxism; much of what I write about is independent of politics; and my readers are intelligent enough to want to read something interesting rather than stale reminders of what they already believe*.
The tyranny of party politics here consists of two forms. The obvious one is the demand for "impartiality" between the main parties - or, to be more accurate, a balance between truth and falsehood.
But there's another, more subtle tyranny. If economics is subordinated to party politics, some issues will be kept off the agenda. Neither Labour nor the Tories would be keen on an economics writer who raises thoughts such as: maybe politicians can't do anything to raise long-term economic growth; perhaps bosses pay is a reward for power rather than skill; economic forecasting is impossible so talk about fiscal policy in the next parliament is mostly otious; or perhaps there are more intelligent ways of allocating public goods than by government decree.
Ideally, we would discuss economics without having to defer to imbecilic, narrow-minded (and partly irrelevant) party politicians. And, happily, in many contexts such as this one we can. Duncan, though, has lost this freedom. I think he deserves better.
Another thing. Of course, there is a huge overlap between economics and politics: both are about who gets what and how? But the problem is that party politics is not the same as politics; the latter is about the conscious examination of power, whereas the former quite often is about obfuscating the nature of power.
* Granted, I have few readers - but this only shows that there's a sharp trade-off between quality and quantity.