Friday, September 02, 2005

Philosophy: The View from the Right

So I have this friend who's a diehard Conservative Republican, and he had this to say about me and Liberals:
if a really good guy like you can be taking this stance at a time of national tragedy, then my incredibly negative view of the political left wing is NOT NEGATIVE ENOUGH. Your side of the political spectrum is even less moral, less decent, less rational, less intellectually honest and more sinister than even I previously thought. And I wonder how that can be? I love this country and what it stands for, and I really wonder how it's possible that a large segment of the American population can have such a horribly negative view of their own nation.

That's a pretty sweeping indictment. But I find it all too believable that he would say this; Conservatives look at Liberals like they are some kind of Martians, with strange ideas and viewpoints that Conservatives just can't fathom. We seem to be utterly irrational to them; and I must say, the feeling is mutual. So let's go over these points, and hopefully a Conservative will come along and educate me on what their position is, how it differs from the Liberal one and why their position is better.

1. Liberals are less moral than Conservatives. That implies that there is some standard of morality out there, some objective moral truth we can measure Liberals against and find them wanting in relation to Conservatives. But what is it? Is it compassion for our fellow man? I don't think you can argue that Liberals are not compassionate. Do we have no code of conduct, no standard of behavior in polite society? I think Liberals are as well-behaved as anyone; we don't advocate lighting farts or going around naked everywhere or public drunkeness. Is it really that we have less morality than Conservatives? Or is it rather that we have a different morality? That we don't kowtow to rules laid out in a book written by Jewish shepherds two thousand years ago, that we base our morality on utilitarian reason?

2. Liberals are less decent than Conservatives. Well, I already mentioned compassion. Liberals have no shortage of human decency; in fact, the accusation has long been that we have too much decency. That we're suckers for any cause that claims discrimination, that we'll increase taxes at the drop of a hat if some interest group comes begging. So how are we less decent than Conservatives, who espouse "individual responsibility" above all else? An example: If you lose your job and are unemployed, under Conservative rules you get a certain amount of time with assistance; but after that, you're on your own, and if you weren't able to get a job that's your tough luck. Is that decency?

3. Liberals are less rational than Conservatives. I believe that Liberals invented the "think tank," where experts debate and help develop policy. Most members of these "think tanks" are considered experts in their field; many are university professors. Are they all irrational crackpots? Am I? What irrational ideas am I espousing? And am I so one-sided in my advocacy that I reject all opposing viewpoints out of hand? Are Liberals in general that way? What constitutes "rationality", if not using science and reason to support your positions?

4. Liberals are less intellectually honest than Conservatives. What this seems to imply is that Liberals are hypocritical; we advocate one set of policies in public but in private we enact something else. Or that we are self-delusional, advocating policies that are so utterly opposed to immutable human nature as to be ridiculously impractical. For the first, if we are hypocritical then we have good company. We did not propose Clean Water and Clear Skies and Healthy Forests initiatives that enabled corporations to pollute more and overuse our natural resources. We did not reject all scientific evidence that humans have affected the global climate (and even if not, that the climate is nevertheless changing) and refuse to even try to help slow down this change, with the excuse that it would just be too economically hurtful to the richest nation on the planet. All the while encouraging our citizens to consume more and more fossil fuels in ever more wasteful ways. For the second, we did not advocate codifying into law that the legal benefits and privileges of marriage could not be conferred on same-sex partners in committed relationships. We did not advocate preventing women from having the ultimate say on the uses of their own bodies and reproductive processes. We did not advocate invading foreign lands and forcing our system of government on them. So please educate me on how Liberals are more intellectually dishonest than Conservatives.

5. Liberals are more sinister than Conservatives. One definition of sinister [m-w.com] is "singularly evil or productive of evil." I assume that is what is being referenced ("of, relating to, or situated to the left or on the left side of something" doesn't carry as much weight somehow). The definition of evil [m-w.com] includes: "morally reprehensible"; "causing harm"; and "marked by misfortune". Well, we certainly seem to be marked by misfortune :) but I think the other two are what was meant. So that being the case, the accusation is that Liberalism in and of itself is morally reprehensible and/or causes harm. We talked about morality back in point 1; finding something "morally reprehensible" depends in large part (if not absolutely) on what your concept of morality is. And it's easy to accuse something of "causing harm", but I have to ask just what that harm is? Do we harm the poor by advocating giving them welfare? Do we harm the elderly by advocating giving them Social Security and Medicare? Do we harm national security by insisting on military action only as a last resort after careful examination of the evidence and consultation with our allies? Do we harm the public by advocating that the operations of government be disclosed as fully as possible? Is all of this symptomatic of a philosophy of evil, of a powerful elite trying to impose its will on the general public through unaccountable procedures, obfuscation, corruption and even outright deception?

I don't deny that there are politicians out there who claim to be Liberals and yet pursue these very power games. But the Liberal philosophy does not stand for that, and Conservatives should come up with better arguments than "you Liberals are as corrupt as anyone". Liberals may be corrupt, as they and Conservatives have been shown to be throughout history; but we don't discard Conservatism as a philosophy because it has some corrupt adherents, and the same consideration should be extended to Liberalism.

So, here I stand, mind open, waiting to be educated on the evils of Liberalism. Who will take on the task?

Oh, and on the subject of loving this country and what it stands for, I take a backseat to no one. It has been positively heartbreaking to me to watch the great ideals that this country used to (and should still) stand for corrupted and piddled away in the name of economic development and corporate profits. This country is supposed to be a beacon of freedom and democracy, an example to the world. Instead, we curtail our freedoms in the name of security; we discount international law and cooperation when it doesn't suit our purpose; we selectively apply standards of human rights depending on our enemies of the moment; we allow exploitation of foreign labor for our own economic benefit and to the detriment of our own citizens; we pursue unsustainable fiscal policies and bankrupt our children's future for temporary luxury of the few; and on and on. I don't have a negative view of our nation. I'd rather live here than anywhere else on Earth. I DO have a negative view of our current leadership, which seems bent on destroying what has been built over generations with their dreams of empire and wealth. I DO have a negative view of religious fundamentalism, which is opposed to science and reason and wishes to turn back the clock to the 11th century when their power was absolute. I will fight these hydras rhetorically with all the strength I have to muster, and to the extent that I find them in my own nation, I will fight them with doubled effort. I love my country and see it as a powerful force for good in the world, and I will not allow it to be used to spread darkness and despair. See, I can be just as romantic as they are.

7 comments:

Mark D. said...

Rob,

I don't have time to post right now, but I will provide answers to your comments tomorrow. Why I would waste my time in this kind of discourse with anyone who obviously cannot, or will not, concede the potential veracity of anything I have to say is beyond all logical comprehension, but apparently I am still foolishly clinging to the idea that your national identity means more than your political ideology. While my relative optimism may be misplaced, I will nonetheless endeavor to explain my position...tomorrow.

Rob said...

With that ringing endorsement of my openmindedness, I eagerly await your post. If I mischaracterized any of your positions, please include clarifications.

Mark D. said...

Rob,

OK. Before I address your post point by point, a few clarifications. My comments are not aimed at "liberalism" in general as you imply...far from it. My comments are aimed at the modern political left wing, who despite being termed "liberals" by the media and other conservatives, are anything but liberal. To fully understand the distinction I'm making, let's consider a post you made here on your own blog a few threads back. You post a dictionary definition of "liberalism" and that ask rhetorically, "what's wrong with that, what's there to be ashamed of?" The problem with your post is that this definition is based on the concept of HISTORICAL liberalism, which has NOTHING to do with what we now define as liberalism in the 20th/21st Century. Now you may not be aware of the historical evolution of the word "liberal" but I think you're too smart not to understand that when historians or political theorists use the word "liberal" to describe an ideology, they are NOT referring to the current left wing/right wing split in American politics. So when you use a traditional dictionary definition of liberalism to describe the modern political left wing, you are in fact engaging in the kind of intellectual dishonesty that is pervasive in the modern left wing movement.

What we now refer to as Democrats AND Republicans are ALL LIBERALS within the historical definition of that word. The historical struggle between liberalism (best represented by representative democracy, republicanism as first defined by Plato and later expanded upon by Locke, and relatively unrestricted laissez-faire capitalism)and conservatism (best represented by order-based societies such as a monarchy, feudal systems, fear of any and all change that might lead to upward social and economic mobility, government controlled markets that tolerate capitalism and individual freedom only to the extent that it allows the nation-state to compete for power against other nations) is a battle that has already been fought. The FACT is that historical liberalism WON the battle over historical conservatism. Using the historical definition of the word "liberal" everyone to the left of cretins like Pat Buchanan are liberals. I'm a liberal, George Bush is a liberal, Ronald Reagan was a liberal, etc...It's only our modern manipulation of the historical words that creates the current liberal/conservative split. This is why, for example, the European Left Wing views there to be little or no difference between the American Republicans and American Democrats.

So when I lash out at the modern Left Wing, I am lashing out at a group that is wrongly labeled as liberals, but is more accurately a loosely organized group of various left wing ideological disciplines which combine to make up the rank and file of the Democratic Party activists. Some of these people are Socialists, some are Marxists, some are Utopians, some are Libertarians who don't really understand the concept, some are Anarchists who don't really understand the concept, some are merely Pacifists who might otherwise be considered traditional liberals. And many in the modern left are merely what I call "contrarians" or "shit disturbers". These are people who have an irrational fear and hatred of convention and conformity, and they think that radical left wing politics are "chic" and a sign of higher intellect. These are the kind of pathetic people who have posters of Che Guevera and think Fidel Castro is misunderstood. Essentially, morons who think they're smart.

Now that I have clarified my position, let's examine your post on a point by point basis.

1. Less Moral--well, you essentially prove my point for me in your own post. You immediately take the position that all morality is subjective, and that there is no way to objectively label something as "true". Well, this is a patently false statement, thus establishing your own ideological and moral shortcomings. Let me try and explain the intellectual inconsistency in your "subjective morality" argument. I hear the Left Wing talk about "human rights" over and over and over again. What are these rights and where do they come from? Ignoring religion, these "human rights" are a loosely defined collection of VALUES arrived at by making objective societal value judgments. For example, it's morally wrong to murder (notice I said murder and not kill) people, so a person has a "human right" not to be murdered. So if you believe in basic human rights (which I know you do) then you also believe in objective morality. Now, realistically, the concept of morality should be divided into "simple" and "complex" morality. The "simple" morality guarantees the basic human rights which people on the left and right like to acknowledge as a given. The "complex" morality is that which is in fact subjective, like whether or not to engage in pre-marital sex, whether to cheat on your spouse, etc, etc....In essence, there is man-made morals (complex) and morals inherit in nature (simple) often referred to as Natural Law. And as for your argument about truth being a subjective or "fluid" concept open to the interpretation of the perceptions of an inidiviual...well...true to the extent of "complex" truths, but there ARE objective truths. It is objectively true that 2 plus 2 equals 4. If your name is Rob and you tell me that your name is not Rob, but David, then it is objectively true that you lied, etc, etc...

2. Less Decent...now this is not as clear as the "less moral" argument which you clearly lose. Decency is essentially the "complex morality" issue I raised above. Hence it is impossible for me to logically prove my point in the clearly defined manner above where I demonstrated the clear flaw in your ideology. Decency, is in fact, an individual choice skewed by perception and life experience. As for your example of the person who loses his job, I could argue why the liberal view is more decent AND I could argue why the conservative view is more decent. And I could argue both sides very, very convincingly as to the superior "decency" of both sides. But let me try and use a story to illustrate why I think the conservative side is more decent. We come across a man who is starving to death by a lake. The left winger comes up to him and says, "You poor man. Clearly society has exploited you. Come back here every day at exactly 1 PM and I'll give you a fish so you can eat and survive." The right winger comes along and says, "How in the hell did you get yourself into this predicament? Look, come here. This is a fishing pole, let me show you how to fish so I don't have to come down here and give your dumb ass a fish every day." The right winger's position is FAR MORE DECENT because the left winger turns that man into a SLAVE, dependent on someone else for his very existence, not to mention the keeper of his pride and human dignity.

3. Less Rational---This one is obvious. Using your own examples. You talk about Professors, scholars, etc...The vast majority of them have no real life experience and live their lives in some theoretical bubble. For example, how rational can a person be who still openly advocates Marxism in the year 2005 after the failings and/or shortcomings of the Soviet Union and EVERY OTHER Marxist state? Many, if not most, professors of history and/or political science are either Marxists or highly sympathetic to the Marxist cause. And these are the people you fall back on as proof of rational behavior on the left? Now most of your "rational shortcomings" are not necessarily a default in logic as much as they are an exercise in intellectual dishonesty, and that's where I'll really, really, really go to town on the Left Wing.

4. Intellectual Dishonesty--Now this is where you guys REALLY fall apart. You consistently ignore FACTS, TRUTHS, DATA, etc...to advance your own political ideology. Ironically, this is the biggest reason that the Democratic Party has lost so much ground with the American electorate over the past 35 years as people have voted AGAINST you more than they vote FOR Republicans. Let me give you a few examples of intellectual dishonesty...by the way, I can think of HUNDREDS of examples where the Democrats/Left Wing have engaged in intellectual dishonesty in recent years on truly substantive issues to your own detriment. Time does not permit me to post them all, but here a few illustrative examples...

1. You pretend that man-made Global Warming is a scientifically established FACT when you KNOW that a significant percentage of the scientific community disputes its existence, and others who concede a global warming trend, write it off to natural weather cycles that have ALWAYS been present in the history of mankind. Pushing Global Warming as FACT is intellectually dishonest.

2. You continue to promote the lie that Bill Clinton was impeached for getting a blow job when you KNOW that he was impeached for lying under oath in Federal Court. The legal system is one of the foundations of our society, and the oath to tell the truth in court is at the very heart of the legal institutions. For the President of the United States to get up in court and LIE under oath...this is inconceivable. And for you to pretend that his "crime" was having his dick sucked, that is intellectually dishonest.

3. You continue to pretend that is an established FACT that George Bush lied to the American people about WMD in Iraq. A "lie" is not merely a factually incorrect statement and YOU GUYS KNOW IT! Yet, you continue this Bush lied, kids died horse shit even though you know that cannot be proven and that there's no real evidence to suggest that Bush knew there was no WMD. If I tell you that the Yankees are going to win the World Series and they don't, did I lie??? Of course not, I made a statement that turned out to be factually incorrect. To understand this distinction yet continually perpetuate the idea that Bush LIED about WMD is intellectually dishonest.

4. Left wingers are now claiming that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts MUST answer questions about how he would decide certain cases that came before him. They say he cannt be confirmed in good conscience unless he answers these questions. YET, the very same people (Senator Biden, Senator Leahy, Senator Kennedy, etc...) sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1993 and not only told Ruth Bader Ginsburg that she didn't have to answer such questions, but they even went so far as to tell her that it would be INAPPROPRIATE for her to answer such questions. Ginsburg was approved by a vote of 96-3 with one abstention, so Republicans played be well estblished rules. Roberts will receive no more than a handful of Democratic votes when he's confirmed. This is intellectual dishonesty.

5. Left wingers were all for Humanitarian Wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, etc...when Clinton was President, but when George Bush does it in Iraq, he's an imperialist, a Nazi, etc...

6. I have 100s of these examples, but my fingers are getting tired of typing.

In closing, I'll tackle your attempt at Patriotism in the end of your post. I'm sorry, but this is going to really piss you off. You say you "love your country" but I'm here to tell you that you're wrong, you only THINK you love your country. Or more specifically, you love what you THINK your country is, and you are sadly mistaken at what your country truly stands for. Your country is about Freedom and rugged individualism as much as it is about compassion and decency. And it's as much about responsibility as it about rights, perhaps more so. The United States has gone from scattered former British colonies to the second greatest power in the history of the World because of it's desire to win. Not win at all costs, but win in the most decent manner possible, all the while never losing sight of the fact that winning comes first. And "winning" is not just war, no, far from it. "Winning" translates into inventions, markets, and anything else that has an element of competition. The United States has prospered because unlike our friends in Europe, and among the modern American political left, we realize that the purpose of life is not merely to survive, but to THRIVE! The natural state of mankind is not merely to live and co-exist with others, but to better himself, physically, materially, emotionally, spiritually, etc...That's why Marxism and other left wing ideology doesn't work, it goes against human nature. And America has understood that fact better than any nation in the world which is why we have thrived so much. Society is not merely about survival of the fittest, but the unfit can never expect to compete in our society and they never will regardless of all the social engineering the left wing hopes to engage in. But Americans DO have a sense of decency which is why conservatives seek to empower the unfit with the ability to compete. Not the guarantee to compete or succeed, but the right and the opportunity to compete. This is an important distinction, because we feel you have the right to succeed, but you also have the right to fail, and when you fail, anyone who picks you up is not doing so out of some obligation to do so, or some inherent "human right" of welfare, but instead they are doing so out of the goodness of their heart and a commitment to their subjective sense of decency.

Well, I've typed far too long as it is. Your response should prove interesting.

Mark D.

Rob said...

Mark, thanks for a very rational response. This is the kind of discussion I wish took place more often. And there's no such thing as a post that's too long; bits are free, and it's better to take time to make sure you get your point across than to leave a thought half-finished.

You post a dictionary definition of "liberalism" and ask rhetorically, "what's wrong with that, what's there to be ashamed of?" The problem with your post is that this definition is based on the concept of HISTORICAL liberalism, which has NOTHING to do with what we now define as liberalism in the 20th/21st Century.

I think you missed my point though. The term "liberal" has become a four-letter word in our political discourse. You are exactly right: most Americans are Liberal if you distill their political philosophies down to their roots and try to match up a political tradition with them. The problem is, as you say, the term "liberal" as it is commonly used today isn't based on that historical definition. Instead, "liberal" is used to imply that the designee is somehow less American, "out of the mainstream", and their ideas unworthy of consideration. They even are accused of sinister motives. The goal of that post (and this blog, if anyone ever runs across it) is to point out that this automatic dismissal is a mistake. Yes, some modern Liberals support some zany things; but so do some self-identified Conservatives, and we do no one any service by rejecting their ideas based on a label.

For now, I think we can stipulate that we are not talking about Liberalism as a political tradition (although I think the Conservative movement DOES attack modern Liberals on that basis; more on that later), but Liberalism as it is used to define the political Left. Do you differentiate between modern Liberalism and modern Progressivism?

You immediately take the position that all morality is subjective, and that there is no way to objectively label something as "true". Well, this is a patently false statement, thus establishing your own ideological and moral shortcomings.

Ouch! That's a pretty strong accusation (to put it mildly). First off, what you originally said was "Liberals are less moral". My response was, in comparison to what? You first have to identify what moral standard or code you are using to make this measurement. I didn't say there was NO way to objectively label anything as "true". I said there was no single way to measure EVERYTHING as "true". One person might consider drinking on Sunday as obviously, objectively immoral; whereas another finds nothing wrong with it at all. You call these "complex morals" and differentiate them from "simple morals" that as human beings we all agree on. OK, I can agree with that...so what is your basis for the statement that modern Liberals are less moral? You never got to that part.

Less Decent...now this is not as clear as the "less moral" argument which you clearly lose.

I don't think I've "clearly lost" yet...and don't forget, this is about understanding, not winning or losing. I don't understand what you mean when you say Liberals are less moral.

Decency is essentially the "complex morality" issue I raised above.

OK...so 1. and 2. are the same thing since we agree on "simple morality" (I think). My question still stands: why do you say that Liberals are less decent? It's not obvious to me.

On to the "teach a man to fish" example...

The right winger's position is FAR MORE DECENT because the left winger turns that man into a SLAVE, dependent on someone else for his very existence, not to mention the keeper of his pride and human dignity.

I completely agree that teaching the man to fish is exactly what we should be doing. Here's the difference though between your example and the real world. In the real world, Conservatives say "I'll teach you to fish ONE TIME. You take your pole, put some bait on the hook, throw it in the pond, and when the fish takes it you reel him in. Now, off you go. Get your own pole, get your own bait, and by gum don't go fishing in MY pond!" If all the ponds are already taken, tough noogies. If you don't know what bait to use or can't get any, tough noogies. If there aren't any fish, tough noogies. And that's ASSUMING that they deign to teach the guy to fish at all, which isn't exactly a given (how much do modern Conservatives support retraining programs?).

Modern Liberals don't support making people slaves to the government. Instead, they believe in using the power of government to enable people to get back on their feet and be productive citizens, and supporting them until they are able to do so. Yes, some people will abuse the system; but a certain level of abuse is a decent (in my opinion) tradeoff versus simply abandoning everyone including the guy who legitimately tries and just can't make it. Some guys just can't fish.

On to relative rationality...

For example, how rational can a person be who still openly advocates Marxism in the year 2005 after the failings and/or shortcomings of the Soviet Union and EVERY OTHER Marxist state?

The quick answer is that true Marxism hasn't ever been tried on a national level. And Conservatives laugh and say how can I say that, look at the USSR and North Korea and Cuba and China, obviously I'm just deluding myself and lying to the public. Not true. The fact is that in NONE of these cases was true Marxism ever implemented. They all devolved into self-perpetuating oligarchies or dictatorships, as those running the revolutions became enamored of their positions of power and just set things up to keep themselves on top- not Marxism at all. They violated the trust their people placed in them to relinquish power peacefully and allow government to wither away as it was no longer needed; something Libertarians should take notice of.

No, this is (ahem) a Red herring. Just had to say that. Actually it's just a convenient fallacy that fools the rubes and can be used to promote your own agenda, so ably exploited by McCarthy until he was revealed for what he was. Marxism may not be compatible with human nature as it exists today. It may be a fundamentally flawed theory in that respect. But if you accept the assumption that human nature is mutable (or at least susceptible to persuasion), and can at least conceive of a world where people are more interested in helping each other than exploiting each other, then the workability of Marxism becomes much less far-fetched. It becomes a rational alternative to capitalism. And certainly, rational people may discuss its merits.

You talk about Professors, scholars, etc...The vast majority of them have no real life experience and live their lives in some theoretical bubble.

I was trying to come up with examples of rational people who might be Liberals. You said, "Liberals are less rational". Is it your opinion that all academics are irrational? Only steelworkers and truck drivers, who have a lot of "real life experience", are capable of being rational? (Does President Bush have a lot of "real life experience"?) What does it mean to you, to be "rational"?

And now for intellectual dishonesty...

You pretend that man-made Global Warming is a scientifically established FACT when you KNOW that a significant percentage of the scientific community disputes its existence...Pushing Global Warming as FACT is intellectually dishonest.

Well, I can make the same exact argument: pushing Global Warming as a FICTION is intellectually dishonest, when you KNOW that a significant percentage (in fact a clear majority!) of the scientific community supports its existence. How does that prove that your side is any less intellectually dishonest than mine? We're just calling each other names.

Neither you nor I are climate change experts (well, I know I'm not); we have to rely on scientists to tell us what the objective evidence says. It's true that there is some evidence that says the climate change we are seeing is not unprecedented in history. But I don't think ANY of the evidence says that there is NO climate change going on, regardless of who is causing it; and that being the case, isn't it more prudent to err on the side of caution and try to retard a change that will certainly impact us negatively? Yet modern Conservatives seem to be saying that unless there is a 100% consensus and the Apocalypse confronts us, we shouldn't do anything that might hurt our economic bottom line! Tell me, when was the last time an earthquake was predicted with 100% accuracy, or the path of a hurricane predicted when it was a lowly tropical wave off the coast of North Africa? You can't wait until 100% of scientists agree before making a decision that affects the survival of humanity on this planet! It may be too late by then. And feel free to say I'm exagerrating or my fears are ridiculously overblown; that's just what Conservatives are doing. But that line of argument didn't seem to carry much weight in 1980 when Ronald Reagan said we just had to engage in an arms race with the USSR- remember "doesn't it make sense to be as strong as the bear, if there is a bear?" That was an argument about preventive action too, the necessity of which was debateable, and scientists and analysts differed at the time. You can't have it both ways. That's intellectual dishonesty, in my book.

You continue to promote the lie that Bill Clinton was impeached for getting a blow job when you KNOW that he was impeached for lying under oath in Federal Court.

...about getting a blow job. Forgot to put in that part. You can't get around it- he wasn't subverting the electoral process and thereby threatening the legitimacy of the entire government; he had an affair he didn't want to admit to anyone, least of all his wife. It's one of those "complex morality" issues again, where to one person it's high crimes and misdemeanors and to another it's "eh". To some people, the inability to keep control of one's impulses automatically disqualifies you for high office. Others weigh that against other attributes and decide that bad decisions in that area don't negate the benefits of good decisions in others. Does this mean that Liberals are intellectually dishonest? Should we expect absolute moral purity (according to any and all definitions in use!) in our leaders and immediately expel them if they make any mistake? Will ANYONE be able to satisfy that requirement?

You continue to pretend that is an established FACT that George Bush lied to the American people about WMD in Iraq.

Not true of me personally, but you are talking about Liberals in general...do you consider me to not be a Liberal?

To understand this distinction yet continually perpetuate the idea that Bush LIED about WMD is intellectually dishonest.

I agree with you, with some reservations. Just as there is no concrete evidence that Bush knew there were no WMDs in Iraq, there also is no evidence that he knew for certain that there were WMDs. It was an assumption based on faulty intelligence and a predisposition to want to "take care of unfinished business". And what really sticks in the Left's craw is that he decided we couldn't wait any longer, not one more month or one more week, we had to go in RIGHT THEN or we'd be in IMMEDIATE danger; and then after the fact we find out that in fact there were no WMDs, the intelligence was faulty in ANYONE's estimation, and so he started moving the goalposts rather than take responsibility for a poor decision. After the fact, he declared that we didn't go into Iraq to stop WMDs! After he'd spent months telling us that the reason we HAD to go in was WMDs! So what do you call it, when before the fact the reason is one thing, and after the fact the reason is another? You tell me.

Let me be clear: I don't say that President Bush lied to us about the rationale for the invasion. I think he truly believed, based on the intelligence and advice he had at the time, that there was a WMD program there. At the time, based on what he presented us, I agreed with his decision. I simply believe he made a hasty decision, is trying to avoid responsibility for it turning out to have been based on faulty intelligence, and his subordinates have been incompetent in their strategy and tactics of winning the peace. And for the purposes of this discussion, I assert that a Liberal plan for the neutralization of Saddam and the liberation of Iraq would have been far superior to the one his administration has pursued. But we'll probably never know now. I'll talk about it if you want.

I agree with your analysis of the Roberts confirmation process, except for the claim of intellectual dishonesty. I don't know the specifics of the Ginsberg confirmation but I'll let that pass without comment; it's immaterial to the larger point, which is that judicial confirmations have become political hide-and-seek games where opposition members try to bait the nominee into saying something controversial, which they can then use as a pretext for not supporting the nomination. But I have to ask, when was this ever different? I invite you to read this historical overview of Supreme Court nominations, which shows that in fact it's been fairly common for nominations to be contentious; only in a few scattered cases and one short period after WWII was a confirmation battle unusual. So if this is intellectual dishonesty, it's been going on since at least 1795, and it's not always been Liberals doing it.

What's the solution? I don't know that we need one. The "constitutional option" is already in place; the majority will get its way, though we may hurt the country by lowering the threshold of success to a bare majority rather than the 60% which preserves respect for the minority. I think that would be a big mistake, but possibly it's unavoidable when the ideological lines are so strongly drawn. It is intellectually dishonest to insist on ideological transparency when your opponents do the same? The much-maligned President Clinton avoided confirmation battles on Ginsberg and Breyer by consulting with the Republican leadership before nominating them. (See this article on nomination myths, #5 in particular.) Did President Bush do the same?

Left wingers were all for Humanitarian Wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, etc...when Clinton was President, but when George Bush does it in Iraq, he's an imperialist, a Nazi, etc.

What were Right wingers saying when Clinton was embarking on those operations? Pot, kettle, black. And remember, Iraq wasn't primarily a humanitarian war- it was to end the threat of Saddam's WMDs! The Right keeps forgetting that.

Lastly, on my perceived un-patriotism...

I'm sorry, but this is going to really piss you off.

I don't get pissed off that easily. Maybe you see that as a fault.

...we realize that the purpose of life is not merely to survive, but to THRIVE! The natural state of mankind is not merely to live and co-exist with others, but to better himself, physically, materially, emotionally, spiritually, etc...The United States has gone from scattered former British colonies to the second greatest power in the history of the World because of it's desire to win. Not win at all costs, but win in the most decent manner possible, all the while never losing sight of the fact that winning comes first...Society is not merely about survival of the fittest, but the unfit can never expect to compete in our society and they never will regardless of all the social engineering the left wing hopes to engage in. But Americans DO have a sense of decency which is why conservatives seek to empower the unfit with the ability to compete. Not the guarantee to compete or succeed, but the right and the opportunity to compete.

First of all apologies for picking out a couple of your points from their total context. In the main, I agree with your analysis of America's success and my feelings about it; though I don't see how my loving "what you THINK your country is, [but] you are sadly mistaken at what your country truly stands for" disqualifies my feelings as patriotism. Maybe MISGUIDED patriotism, but patriotism nevertheless. Is the only kind of patriotism that is acceptable to you the kind that agrees with you on all points? Perhaps my patriotism being founded on misguided principles counts as intellectual dishonesty in your eyes; instead, I should be rabidly calling for the violent overthrow of the government and the installation of myself, King Robert the First! I am reminded of the "when I am King" segments on The Man Show. But seriously...

I picked out the statements above as most illustrative of your position (and by extension, that of Conservatives). To recap, your argument is that America has succeeded because our focus has been on winning; not necessarily at any cost, but almost any cost, and any loss is something to be avoided. Very well; but in order to win, usually someone must lose. I believe there are very few win-win situations on the macroeconomic level. For the United States to prosper, we must have a cheap source of labor for production of goods; we must have markets for our goods where we can realize profits relative to production costs; and we must have international stability and peace for our citizens to enjoy the blessings of liberty without fear of physical danger.

For the United States to have a cheap source of labor, we must either exploit the low standards of living of the poor at home or abroad, or pursue mechanization which reduces labor costs. In either case, citizens whose jobs are outsourced or mechanized lose those jobs. For the United States to realize profits in the sale of goods, sale prices must exceed production costs. Those profits come out of the pockets of domestic consumers, who (if their jobs have been outsourced or mechanized) have an increasingly smaller surplus of income to pay with. For the United States to promote stability and peace abroad, other nations must restrain those citizens who advocate violence and mayhem; and nations who do not do so must be forced to do so. These efforts are not without cost either. No free lunches. In all of these areas, Liberals have differing ideas of what constitutes the preferred approach from those of Conservatives. Is my support for alternative approaches unpatriotic?

You bring up what I see as an insoluble dichotomy in Conservative thinking: while insisting on rugged individualism and individual responsibility on the one hand, you try to remain decent about it. The unfit may never be able to succeed in America; but at least we'll be decent when we deny you support.

How?

In this perfect Conservative America, what happens to those inevitable unfortunates who simply can't succeed? Charity can only go so far; unless you are beating people over the heads with it day after day after day, charitable donations are paltry. We have heard time and again how the solution is local efforts and "faith-based" solutions; yet these have been around for decades, do you mean to claim that we've never really tried them yet, that somehow they'll do so much better when government support is removed? It boggles my imagination; it's relying on magic, hoping on some fairy godmother will come down and wave her wand and everything will work out. What if she doesn't come?

Rob, you'be being defeatist! Negativity! Can't never got anything done! Well, we're playing with people's lives here; I think we need to be a little bit cautious before we start praying to God to take care of them when we're already doing that (and it appears he isn't doing a very good job as it is). No offense intended, but let's be realistic here.

So no, I don't agree with the Conservative definition of "decency". Not in this case. It is not decent to deny help to someone suffering, when it is in your power to give it. No one is considered "decent" when they say that the Katrina victims deserve no sympathy since they knew all long that they were living in a dangerous area. No one can be considered decent when they deny support to someone who will starve and die without it. And no one can be considered decent when they say support should be ended because some part of it is being stolen or diverted to other purposes. I just don't see that as decency. If that is truly the position of Conservatism, then I am relentlessly opposed to it. But at least now I understand it.

Anonymous said...

Rob is from Texas which means he's fucking retarded. Don;t waste your breath responding to his sweeping bullshit.

Fact 67: Conservatives are more likely to post retarded bullshit.

a

Anonymous said...

oops, rob's conservative friend, I meant to say

sorry rob,

a

Rob said...

Let's keep it civil. Mark is a good guy; attack the philosophy, not the man.