November 12th, 2012

The two sides

Liberals fear that the right will legislate (or appoint justices who will dictate) what used to be known as conventional morality, in the bedroom and regarding reproductive rights. Conservatives are afraid that the left will legislate (or appoint justices who will dictate) an end to conventional morality regarding those same things, as well as marriage.

In the fiscal arena, conservatives are afraid that liberals are bent on legislating a new fiscal morality based on covetousness of the successful, and a class warfare “fairness” that will end up killing the golden goose of capitalism and impoverishing us all in the name of a hypocritical “fairness.” And liberals of course say that conservatives are bent on screwing (financially speaking, that is) everybody but themselves.

Note that in the above two paragraphs I am speaking of “liberals” rather the “the left.” When I say “liberals,” I’m attempting to refer to the group of well-meaning and not-all-that-political people whom I know very well. I am not referring to the far left (a few of whom I’ve also known fairly well) , who are completely different in beliefs and motives. And yes, I’m aware that the former group enables the latter and is mostly controlled by them, although liberals may be largely unaware of that fact, or of the motives of the far left.

88 Responses to “The two sides”

  1. Harry the Extremist Says:

    yes, yes, yes. All that has been established. But who’s right and what are we going to about it?

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    Harry the Extremist: well, a lot of my other posts try to address the “what are we going to do about it” issue. This one just attempts to describe something, and to look at the concerns of the more reasonable (and perhaps reachable to a certain extent) wing of the Democratic Party.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Neither side Harry is completely right or wrong. Any position can be taken to extremes.

    Re: conventional morality and society attempting to regulate it (somewhat outdated), whether one agrees with Heinlein’s aphorism that, “Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other ‘sins’ are invented nonsense.” It’s difficult to make a rational argument that behavior between consenting adults is anyone’s business but their own.

    Re: ‘reproductive rights’ the argument remains unresolved; whether a pregnant woman’s body is entirely ‘her own’ is entirely dependent upon whether it’s ‘only’ a fetus or a baby with the unalienable right to life, etc… the status of which science cannot either prove or disprove.

    The recent battle over contraception is entirely bogus and a political tactic by the left to move the narrative further to the left.

    Liberals “new fiscal morality” is based in ignorance and envy, which allows the left to use it as a tactic to attack conservatism.

    Capitalism’s susceptibility to greed and using financial resources as a means of unethical leverage is unavoidable.

    “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries. “ Winston Churchill

  4. Harry the Extremist Says:

    Neo: I dont know that anyone on the left is reachable with the near complete liberal lock on the media but your previously posted article has some good ideas.

  5. Harry the Extremist Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: “Neither side Harry is completely right or wrong. Any position can be taken to extremes.”

    Thats where I step in. ;^)

  6. Sam L. Says:

    And then there’s “Animal Farm”, where all animals are equal, but some are mor equal than others. In the USSR, they were called ‘nomenklatura’.

  7. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    G.B. said, “Capitalism’s susceptibility to greed and using financial resources as a means of unethical leverage is unavoidable.”

    Yes, and we have to kind of go back to basics to get a handle on the idea of equality and economic unfairness. So here’s my take:

    Originally, the idea of equality emerged as equality of souls before God and did NOT, until at least the late eighteenth century, imply that all people must have equal legal and political rights.

    For America’s founders, equality never meant that all humans were equally talented, smart, healthy, or any of the personal qualities that we all recognize; their assertion that all men are equal meant that all men should be treated equally by the law. Being able to have a fair trial, to have property rights protected by the law, to be secure in your home and person were all steps forward from the conditions of most humans up to that point. It helped unleash the energies of industrious citizens who finally saw a chance to improve their lot in life.

    When legal equality appeared as reality in political thinking, it came under fire from those who thought of it as insufficient! As a result, slowly but surely, liberals maintained that liberalism must also strive to make “equality of opportunity” the goal. The idea of a level playing field in life seemed to be such a “fair” idea and some believed it was actually possible to achieve. We have heard much about it in the last four years. A fair shot, an equal chance, a fair share, etc. It has a sweet sound, but is it possible? IMO, only by passing laws opposed to human nature and to the interests of the nation. Should West Point and Annapolis reduce the requirements they have for entrance? Should airlines take all comers for a job as pilot? Should any business be required to hire anyone who applies even if they have no qualifications for the job? You get my point – I hope.

    Unfortunately, instead of bringing people together, the liberal definition of equality has set the stage for attacks by socialists, which tends to drive wedges between people. When equality is limited to the constitutional and legal sphere, economic inequalities are bound to persist. Rational people recognize that people are born with differing levels of intellect and talents. They accept that all humans are not equally talented and industrious. They know that talents and the role of fate, or luck, inevitably leads to economic inequality. But utopian socialist dreamers don’t accept it.

    Those who see unfairness or inequality proclaim that such can be and must be overcome. This leads to demands that equality MUST run its full course in other fields, including the field of economics! Liberals moved on to wanting not only a level pllaying field but equality of results – a fully egalitarian society. Where have we heard all this before? Does anyone remember the USSR, or Red China? They tried universal egalitarianism and they failed economically, socially, and spiritually. Will it ever work?

    However, hope springs eternal and that hope is used by liberals to coincide with improving their political party’s fortunes. Using a jujitsu move of breathtaking audacity, Democrats inverted their political opposition to civil rights for African Americans and managed to tar Republicans with those sins. Proclaiming themselves the new, best friends forever of minorities, it was relatively easy to use victim identity groups to devlop permanent voting blocks. The quid pro quo has always been clear: vote for me in return for moving money from the top to the bottom. The question is, however: have the victims been energized to improve their status? Some, yes. But most remain stuck.

    A more realistic view is to recognize that some people will always be on the bottom of the economic ladder. Attacking the successful may give them more freebies, but will never get them off the bottom. Creating more wealth improves the lot of everyone on all rungs of the ladder. And that is the truth that needs to be recognized and implemented.

  8. GoneWithTheWind Says:

    I would not disagree with what you said but I think it is all that and more. As a conservative I want to restore us to a constitutional republic. I want the rights the constitution guarantees me and that have been lost over the years with a huge acceleration in the past 50 years or so. I want a smaller less intrusive “constitutional” federal government. We have a perfectly good constitution, perhaps the best constitution ever created, lets live it. I really don’t care what someone else does in the bedroom or how they choose to live their lives. I want equality for all not “fairness” as defined by politicians. I want the federal government to field an adequate military, to keep federal courts running and to give congress and the president a place to meet. Almost everything else is a waste of my money and arguably unconstitutional.

  9. holmes Says:

    The country’s going to move South, especially the baby boomers when they retire. Conservatives need to move to Florida, Texas, Virginia, for their votes to count. Ohio is a lost cause.

  10. expat Says:

    It’s more than just talent and fairness; it’s also about choice. Some people prefer a more modest life in their hometown surrounded by lifelong friends and relatives. Others want to see the world and try their hands at challenging ventures. I would absolutely hate being a rich banker’s wife in NYC, having to go to awful theater or museum openings. God forbid that equal outcomes were really possible. Life would be so boring.

  11. Steve Says:

    You might find this video interesting:

  12. DNW Says:

    “Note that in the above two paragraphs I am speaking of “liberals” rather the “the left.” When I say “liberals,” I’m attempting to refer to the group of well-meaning and not-all-that-political people whom I know very well. I am not referring to the far left (a few of whom I’ve also known fairly well) , who are completely different in beliefs and motives. And yes, I’m aware that the former group enables the latter and is mostly controlled by them, although liberals may be largely unaware of that fact, or of the motives of the far left. ”

    How could anybody of even average intelligence not recognize what they are enabling and selling out to?

    With liberals tremblingly sensitive to every supposedly causal filament, no matter how fine, that stretches from the invention of the steam engine to maimed children in Iraq, how can anyone be expected to believe that they do not know?

    And what would it say about their capacity to function as moral beings and trustworthy political peers, if despite that, they didn’t?

    I truly wish that you could seriously engage one of that stock of liberal friends you have – on point. Maybe they would grant it as an exercise. Would it make them “uncomfortable”? Would they become “resentful”? Would they retort that you are posing a “false dichotomy” or that you have misconstrued the “real” question because you don’t understand the latest findings in biology or physics, and that they refuse to answer on your terms?

    I’d pay 50 bucks to just once get an honest unrhetorized answer as to what they are actually thinking … the reasoning process, the chain of syllogisms, that leads to what they conceive of as the boundaries and limits of legitimate governance.

    Because, you know … this is really, critically, transcendentally, important.

  13. holmes Says:

    A lot of liberals just engage in this fuzzy, impressionistic thinking about helping the poor and middle class. They don’t really analyze how their ideas function and work in reality, not the results. The intentions are what’s important as it’s mostly a way to absolve themselves of guilt (at being white, or rich, or whatever.)

  14. Artfldgr Says:

    Liberals fear that the right will legislate (or appoint justices who will dictate) what used to be known as conventional morality, in the bedroom and regarding reproductive rights.

    corrected to

    Liberals are told to fear that the right will legislate (or appoint justices who will dictate) what used to be known as conventional morality, in the bedroom and regarding reproductive rights.

  15. thomass Says:

    The problem is the liberals want to screw me… on my healthcare, income, et cetera. When you complain; you are attacked for being selfish. They are also getting more and more pushy about family life / inserting themselves into it.

    I don’t really want to dictate anything to them or in their personal life. They can do whatever they want. Just don’t use the state to redefine religious sacraments.

    Overall it is to the point I eye roll when they say things about what conservatives want to do to them. Conservatives say in poll after poll they support civil unions… do we all even say we want to outlaw abortion? I’m just against third trimester (which libs won’t even admit is legal… but it is).. and probably half of the second (which is pretty much in line with a lot of lefty Euro countries)….

  16. Rob Says:

    “Capitalism’s susceptibility to greed and using financial resources as a means of unethical leverage is unavoidable.”

    I realize this is the conventional wisdom. However, like a lot of conventional wisdom, I find it far from obvious. “Unavoidable” is an awfully strong word. Capitalism might just be getting a bad rap here. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time!

  17. parker Says:

    I find it frustrating to discuss politics with liberals. So my take on the liberal mindset is similar to holmes. They live in an “if only” world where the correct policy, the correct level of taxation, obedience to political correctness, and so forth will magically transform society to guarantee ‘fairness’ and equal outcomes for all. And they tend to be stubborn in their adherence to their ideology; reality has no place in their world.

  18. neo-neocon Says:


    You write “do we all even say we want to outlaw abortion?” We don’t “all” have to say it to make way too many people think that’s the agenda, because it is the agenda of a vocal few. In this election, Akin and Mourdock did untold damage, IMHO, by feeding into the worst fears of liberals and even moderates who believe abortion should be legal. These two men are in the minority and represent fringe elements in the extremity of their views, but they were still Republican candidates for major office, and as such they are spokespeople for the Republican Party.

    In addition, the Party had a platform that stated this. I saw ads and columns about the Republican platform, designed to scare people. And there was plenty there to scare people with. Although you can nitpick about what each sentence of the platform statement actually meant, these things certainly could be interpreted as evincing a desire to cut back on abortion rights. If not now, then certainly eventually:

    …[A]ffirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children…will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

    And then of course Romney spoke out against Planned Parenthood. Most people don’t know much about the organization or why he is against it, but this particular election was a very poor time for him to try to start educating them.

  19. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    DNW said I’d pay 50 bucks to just once get an honest unrhetorized answer as to what they are actually thinking.
    They don’t rationalize. You can’t get what you want.

    As to abortion. Where do you draw the line on what in some cases (if not all) is murder? We can’t agree that Partial Birth Abortions are murder, we need “science” to tell us? WTH? So there is some point before that where it is still murder. But it’s a chance we’ll take, right?

    The problem is, if it’s murder, then it’s not a philosophical problem, is it.

  20. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    I’m afraid that I have been persuaded that the “Fall” of Communism and our great “Victory” were quite illusory, that the game was rigged, the “Fall” a KGB and high level nomenklatura choreographed charade, and that the many tens or hundreds of thousands of these former Communists and their leaders who ran that “dictatorship of the proletariat”—say, if we in the West and among the “satellite states” of the U.S.S.R. “won,” just where were all the resulting trials and massive purges all over the countries of the former U.S.S.R.?–merely retired for a little bit, cut and dyed their hair, put on new clothes, ran up a few new symbols, slogans, and banners, and reemerged as selfless, noble “progressives,” “liberals,” “crusaders,” and “activists” for various causes—the environment, minority and women’s rights, justice, fairness, equality, open borders and free immigration, etc.—whose solution just happened to be granting them and their hand-picked cadre of technocrats—startlingly similar to “the vanguard of the proletariat” and the former nomenklatura–exactly the same sweeping, dictatorial political, economic and social power so avidly pursued and used by the bad old Communists.

    Thus, when we are talking about the Left today we are not talking about or dealing with the old, idealistic Liberals of the past but are really–in large measure–talking about Communism and Communists reincarnated, and we must always keep that in mind.

  21. neo-neocon Says:

    Ed Bonderenka: actually, it is indeed a philosophical question but most particularly for our purposes a legal question, as well as a religious question.

    Murder is always defined legally, and abortion is not the only gray area regarding murder by any means. Just to take a single example, there’s the question of self-defense, which makes a killing not murder. We saw that question at play, big-time, in the Trayvon Martin case (of course there were other questions there, too, but self-defense was major).

    Even different religions have different attitudes towards abortion, and when it’s okay and when it’s not, when it is murder and when not. When the US was more homogenous as well as more religious, we could adopt the mainstream Christian religious attitude towards abortion and have the law be consistent with it, and that was okay with most people. That is no longer the case.

    As for partial-birth abortion, it’s not a popular practice ( to say the least) even among the secular, pro-abortion crowd. The basic question is whether it is ever necessary to save the life of the mother. There are those who say it is and those who say it is not; I’m not going to delve into the merit of those claims right now, except to say that’s the gist of the argument, and that the argument for it is in essence a self-defense argument.

    When abortion first became legal, abortions were banned after the point where the fetus would be viable if a birth occurred. A strange thing is that, over the passage of time, that point has been redefined, because babies can survive (with a lot of heroic intervention) at earlier and earlier stages of development. That has made the situation even murkier.

  22. parker Says:

    Abortion is a difficult and divisive issue. And, a thorny problem for republicans. A middle ground does not exist, at least so far. All attempts to limit late term abortion are viewed by the left as a step towards a total ban. For those who are staunchly absolutists about their pro-life position allowing abortion with limitations is unacceptable.

  23. holmes Says:

    It’s not murky. The Hippocratic Oath forbade abortions of any kind, so even ancient pre-Christian peoples recognized that. We make it murky because it’s easier to make the wrong decision when we decide it’s all very murky. i.e. “Couldn’t help those guys in Benghazi, the situation was very murky.” It wasn’t murky to me each of the three times we’ve seen a heartbeat at 5 weeks (two of them dying before coming to term).

    It’s a clear choice, but we’re capitulating to the culture on abortion. 1+ million a year with many of those repeat abortions? It’s a very small fragment of society that we’re battling over, much as with gay marriage. But it makes the side defending it feel very good about themselves, so there’s that. Why have a strong economy and strong rights if we don’t value life? It seems rather pointless.

    But it’s a weird right, one is only enshrined by virtue of a majority of 5 justices. A fait accompli.

    Anyway, I’m willing to cede every other social issue…except abortion. I would even make the trade explicit. We’ll give you gay marriage, you give us the ability to have states regulate abortion the way they see fit.

  24. parker Says:

    “.. when we are talking about the Left today we are not talking about or dealing with the old, idealistic Liberals of the past..”

    The distinction neo made was, “I’m attempting to refer to the group of well-meaning and not-all-that-political people whom I know very well.” And then she added a caveat, “And yes, I’m aware that the former group enables the latter and is mostly controlled by them, although liberals may be largely unaware of that fact, or of the motives of the far left.”

    This is the heart of the problem. Liberals, as defined by neo, lack firm principals and are swayed by emotional appeals. Unfortunately, being idealistic and mostly wrong in the face of reality does not excuse their willful myopia and makes it nearly impossible to engage them in a meaningful dialogue. They invariably fall back on a political correctness mantra and become intransigent. We on the right have to find a way to get through to 10% of them.

  25. Artfldgr Says:

    There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be “equality” between the oppressed and the oppressors, between the exploited and the exploiters. There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be real “freedom” as long as there is no freedom for women from the privileges which the law grants to men, as long as there is no freedom for the workers from the yoke of capital, and no freedom for the toiling peasants from the yoke of the capitalists, landlords and merchants.

    Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women (1919)

    Women’s vote carries Obama to victory on historic election night
    Record numbers turn out to send more women than ever to Congress in powerful snub to conservatives’ ‘war on women’

    “Feminism, Socialism, and Communism are one in the same, and Socialist/Communist government is the goal of feminism.” – Catharine A. MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (First Harvard University Press, 1989), p.10

    Spinster not! Single women fastest growing sector in U.S.

    42 percent of women in the U.S. over the age of 18 have never married

    15.3 million women currently live alone, doubling the figure since 1970.

    Employment Policy Foundation study found that single women living alone with full-time jobs earn more than men living in comparable situations

    and of course when they give out this fact sheet packet, the message of who to hate is clear
    Women earn approximately 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Latinas earn 56 cents for every dollar white men earn. African-American men earn 75 percent of what white males earn.

    College-educated African-American women annually earn approximately $800 more than white male high school graduates and $17,727 less than college-educated white men. (“Money Income in the United States,” U.S. Census Bureau, Table 10, September 2000)

    Young Women Are More Likely Than Men to Aspire to College, and to Graduate

    could the fact that one group has no scholarships?
    that that groups parents pay higher taxes but cant get loans, no direct scholarships, and now there is title IX expansion to STEM.

    and reconcile the above with
    America falls behind in the education race

    The United States is lagging behind the international competition in every category — reading, science and math. Out of the 34 countries that were part of the study, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.

    Science Quotas for Women–A White House Goal

    Quotas Limiting Male Science Enrollment: The New Liberal War on Science

    and just so you know, only one group will pay and be affected

    The National Minority STEM Fellowship Program (NMSFP) is a two-year fellowship funded by the US Department of Energy and administered by the Educational Advancement Alliance, Inc. (EAA).

    Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: for minority students in STEM fields

    Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate: for minority students in STEM fields

    since i dont see them stopping their hate as the justification to bleed one group dry and deny them participation. Not even making a distinction between those who were here and those who are refugees or immigrants of recent times showing their justification is a farce.

  26. neo-neocon Says:

    holmes: whatever the Hippocratic oath says, different religions differ on this. And the law differs, too, and has differed over time.

    But when I used “murkier,” I was actually referring to increasing uncertainty in determining the time when a fetus would be viable if born.

  27. parker Says:

    I view abortion at any stage in gestation and under any extraneous circumstance as homicide. IMO an abortion results in the taking of a human life. I recognize no ‘scientific’ or ‘religious’ nuances. (Color me as you may wish.) However, some homicides are justifiable.

    For example, if during their childbearing years the life of my wife or the life of my daughter were in danger during pregnancy I would demand they receive a safe abortion. In fact under such circumstances, were abortion illegal, I would not hesitate to hold a gun to the head of a doctor to obtain a safe abortion. If abortion were limited to this sole circumstance abortion would be exceedingly rare.

    PS – I favor legal abortion when incest or rape has occurred.

  28. thomass Says:

    neo-neocon Says:

    “You write “do we all even say we want to outlaw abortion?” We don’t “all” have to say it to make way too many people think that’s the agenda, because it is the agenda of a vocal few.”

    The fringe elements in their party is larger and more influential. They never have to deal with that thanks to the media memory holing it.

    That bit from the platform; you do have to parse it, but it does not support outlawing abortion. Still; true, there is plenty to scare people. My take is most republicans do not want to ban it from day 1 of pregnancy. If you have poll data saying something else; I am curious. I live in the west and conservatism has always been much more libertarian out here. It does say we should fund it; like via planned parenthood. That I do agree with. They don’t do mammograms. They provide abortion. I don’t want to pay for them.

  29. neo-neocon Says:

    thomass: it doesn’t matter what most Republicans think. What matters is the perception of what most Republicans think, plus the perception of how determined the more extreme fringe elements are. The platform, Akins, Mourdock, and Romney’s statements on Planned Parenthood played into those fears.

    I didn’t realize that this perception was as strong as it was, until after the election, when I talked to a lot of moderates who might have voted for Romney but for this. I think it actually was extremely important in determining Obama’s victory. And by the way, these voters were not all women, by any means.

  30. holmes Says:

    Neo- my mistake. Thanks for clarifying.

    I honestly don’t understand why rape or incest changes the legality of an abortion. It’s either a life or isn’t, the surrounding circumstances doesn’t change that. And I think nothing changes as a result of the abortion. The woman, actually usually younger girls in those circumstances, are still in awful circumstances and dealing with a terrible trauma. Killing the child doesn’t fix it.

  31. holmes Says:

    circumstances don’t change*. Ugh.

    But I am probably what’s known as an extremist these days.

    By and large, if women don’t want to get pregnant, they don’t have to.

  32. neo-neocon Says:

    holmes: I believe the argument to allow abortion if the pregnancy is a result of rape is a sort of “self-defense” argument, as in “to save the life or health (including mental health) of the mother.” Bearing your rapist’s child against your will is arguably quite a bit more seriously traumatic than bearing your lover’s (or ex-lover’s) child against your will.

    Of course, having an abortion is often very traumatic psychologically as well. But I think there is a pretty strong argument that bearing a rapist’s child is especially difficult emotionally.

  33. thomass Says:

    neo-neocon Says:

    “thomass: it doesn’t matter what most Republicans think. What matters is the perception of what most Republicans think”

    So you’d vote republican if the platform did not talk about abortion? Or said hands off first trimester?

  34. neo-neocon Says:

    thomass: what are you talking about? I did vote Republican, of course. We’re not talking about me. I’m talking about many voters I know, and have spoken to, who say that the abortion question is what stopped them from voting for Romney. Voters who are not pleased with Obama. The scare tactics over abortion worked.

    And as I said earlier, these voters are not just women, either.

    But if you’re asking me whether I’d still vote Republican if the platform said nothing about abortion, I most definitely would. I have written about abortion before on this blog, but I’ll repeat my basic position: I personally had such a horror of it for myself that I was assiduous in my efforts to avoid unwanted conception, and so fortunately I never had to face that terrible decision. But I am mostly a federalist, and a libertarian on this issue. I think reasonable people can differ, and if it’s against a person’s religion they should (a) never have an abortion; (b) be protected from having to fund one for another person; and (c) expend their efforts against it to trying to reach people to change their minds on the personal individual (and perhaps religious) level, rather than to ban it for others who disagree with them.

  35. M J R Says:

    DNW asks, 4:46 pm:

    “How could anybody of even average intelligence not recognize what they are enabling and selling out to?”

    It’s not a matter of intelligence, or even of thinking. It is a matter of how someone ^identifies^ himself. “I am a “progressive”, I fervently believe in all the “progressive” ideas — abortion, global warming, gun control, spreading the wealth, universal government-run health care, the usual laundry list. (Not to mention how eeeevil are those troglodytes on the other side.) That is not just what I believe, it is ^who^ ^I^ ^am^, the very core and essence of my being.

    Consequently, I am not concerned about what I am enabling, because ^I^ ^MEAN^ ^WELL^ ^AND^ ^THOSE^ ^UNEVOLVED^ ^CRETINS^ ^DO^ ^NOT^.


  36. DonS Says:

    Capitalism’s susceptibility to greed and using financial resources as a means of unethical leverage is unavoidable.

    All systems have that problem, because greed is part of human nature. However it is less of a problem in capitalism then other systems.

    In capitalism, resources are allocated to those who provide the most value. The competition for resources is via market competition.

    In socialism, resources are allocated by politicians or those who work for them. The competition is political.

  37. holmes Says:

    Well, as Glenn Reynolds said on a different subject, alluding to “Serenity”, I may be on the losing side in the abortion debate. I’m not convinced it’s the wrong one.

  38. Gringo Says:

    Those who voted against Romney out of fear would happen with regards to abortion law did not bother to reflect on the following. Since 1980, the US has had 20 years of Presidents from the Republican Party. All these Presidents of the Republican Party elected from 1980 on have expressed some sort of discomfort with abortion. What has happened to abortion law during these 20 years with Presidents from the Republican Party? Very little to nothing.

  39. ConceptJunkie Says:

    Holmes, you are the only person here who holds a consistent and logical view on abortion.

    Everyone else is simply adding all kinds of ridiculous conditions that shows they may as well accept abortion at all stages and for any reason, because their distinctions are all entirely arbitrary and meaningless.

    Parker has literally stated that homicide can be justified. Not “killing” but “homicide”. Go back and read the whole post. I can’t understand how his or her head doesn’t explode.

    The whole argument of “viability” boils down to technology. The more technology progresses, the earlier a child can survive. So the “viability” argument defines human life in terms of how much technology is available, or to put it more bluntly, how much money you have.

    If you’re rich, your baby is human.

    If you’re poor, she is not.

    Just think about that for a moment. A time will, perhaps in this century where a human embryo can be conceived and gestated entirely ex utero. What happens to the “viability” argument then?

    The morality of this discussion, minus Holmes, is absolutely sickening to me and if that’s the best Republicans can come up with then they not only deserve to fail, but I would cheer it on.

    Until we recognize, without condition, that the unborn’s right to life is absolutely no different from the born, this country will continue to decline and it will deserve every bit of it.

    Otherwise, as far as I’m concerned, the Rev. Wright has it right. And that’s one person I never, ever, thought I’d agree with.

  40. causauk Says:

    J.J. formerly Jimmy J: I don’t think equality of opportunity is a contentious issue.

    The American school system is failing too many students. Funding education through local property tax is a mistake. It creates unnatural inequalities. We’re doing a crappy job of giving everyone a fair shake. Is it any surprise they end up voting Democrat?

  41. chuck Says:

    Fear can be a powerful issue. My uncle by marriage tells of his family gathered in prayer the night before the family farm was to be repossessed. That was in Missouri at the beginning of the Great Depression, and the fact that they kept the farm was something of a miracle. It is easy to see how their loyalties would go to anyone who could offer safety at such a time.

  42. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    ConceptJunkie: I guess you didn’t read my comment or I’d take umbrage.
    I’ve been tearing my truck engine apart since my comment so i haven’t held back.
    Once again: Take it back logically.
    If partial birth abortion of which Obama is one of the few champions, wherein a baby is allowed to get within inches of legal safety before being killed is not unjustifiable homicide, nothing is.
    So what about a week earlier, two, three.
    I don’t care about various religions or legalities, PBA is murder and defended by the left.
    IF you accept that at some point abortion is ethical, how do you know when that point is?
    How do you dare terminate what you don’t KNOW isn’t a human life?
    And what does the circumstances of it’s conception matter?

  43. ConceptJunkie Says:

    I apologize, Ed. I definitely missed your comment. I think you state it very well.

    I’m not trying to attack people, although I am quite frustrated at what I’m reading. What I really think is happening is that some of you are not thinking things through to their logical conclusion, just like Ed describes. It’s not an easy topic, but I believe it is a very cut-and-dried one if you are really honest with yourself.

    Unless and until we, as a culture, recognition the awesome power of procreation, respect it fully and refuse to see conception as a problem to avoid at any cost, we will continue to rot our souls and open ourselves to more evil.

    I really feel that this is a George Bush moment. You are either for life or against it. There’s no in-between, no matter how much people try to rationalize one. Once you allow exceptions, you’ve compromised yourself.

  44. thomass Says:

    neo-neocon Says:

    “thomass: what are you talking about? I did vote Republican, of course.”

    Just double checking you didn’t loan out the mic.

    “We’re not talking about me. I’m talking about many voters I know, and have spoken to, who say that the abortion question is what stopped them from voting for Romney. ”

    Well; my first point in asking is how many people who cite abortion or gay marriage as THE reason for voting democrat would never really vote republican if the issue went away. Most who cite it as die hard partisans in my experience. These are wedge issues they love to cite so they can go off on republicans… which they wanted to do anyway…

    In this case; you do have a certain subset of women who may not have voted at all were the issue not raised to them in targeted ads. Which raises another point. The ads have to be targeted since half the population does not support the democrats anything goes abortion policy. Non targeted ads could backfire and send as many people to vote republican as democratic… and this is a point in response to your questions.

    So yeah; I see the language could scare some people. I also think removing it could turn off others who were going to vote republican. We’d have to really crunch numbers to find out if changing it would help or hurt. As to me; my perception is that the plank is the starting point for possible negotiations. I’d be willing to concede on the first trimester… now if we could just get them to get out of my pacemaker decisions…

  45. thomass Says:

    darn it, sorry for the word screw ups… ugh

  46. neo-neocon Says:

    thomass: I certainly don’t know whether removing the language would gain voters, net, or lose them.

    But I can tell you for a fact—and this is not an abstraction or a poll—that many people I personally know, who are not doctrinaire liberals and who would have definitely been open to voting for a Republican (and who are very unhappy with Obama), did not vote for Romney in 2012 because of fear about this issue. And they were not all women, either. And they didn’t just sit it out, they held their noses and voted for Obama.

    Plus, let me just add that I was surprised that this happened. I absolutely did not expect it and wasn’t looking for it. But in talking to person after person, it just leapt out at me.

  47. thomass Says:

    neo-neocon Says:

    “Plus, let me just add that I was surprised that this happened. I absolutely did not expect it and wasn’t looking for it. But in talking to person after person, it just leapt out at me.”

    Ok, but I remember liberals saying things like they’d consider voting republican if they’d only nominate someone reasonable… like John McCain. None of them considered voting for McCain.

  48. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    expat said, “It’s more than just talent and fairness; it’s also about choice.”

    Just so. In my haste I omitted that fact. My life has been changed hugely due to choices made. And those choices were not necessarily about economics. All of us reach intersections along the path of life. The path chosen can make all the difference. Or as a wise man I knew once said, “I bumped into many opportunities for wealth during my life. I always excused myself and stepped aside. And that is why I’m sitting here in gentille poverty.”

    casauk said, “I don’t think equality of opportunity is a contentious issue. The American school system is failing too many students.”

    Agreed. Our school system is failing to do what it should. In spite of trillions of Federal dollars injected to improve it. Like home gardens, our school system requires the attention of those on the ground at the local level not some remote higher authority. On the other hand we find young adults with degrees in social studies etc. and huge student loan debt unable to find jobs in their field or any field that pays a decent salary. Also, how is it leveling the field to encourage those who are not college material to matriculate and waste their time? Affirmative action has done no great favors for African Americans. (Colin Powell excepted, of course.) To what extent are we prepared to go to make sure everyone has a “fair shot?” It just isn’t a valid concept except in a police state. And we know where that leads.

    Of more interest might be taking care of those who, for reasons beyond their control, cannot take care of themselves. Yep, it’s called a safety net. But it’s better that it be administered as close to the needy as possible. When a huge, centralized, faceless bureaucracy gets involved, the opportunities for fraud are too great. Even at the local and yes, church level, there will be fraud. Just not as much because local people tend to watch that sort of thing more closely.

    Just to weigh in on abortion. I agree with you, neo. It may be a somewhat gray position, (Yes, Concept Junkie, I’m thinking about you.) but in a society that values freedom it is necessarily a hazy stance unless all people are also imbued with a Spartan sense of responsibility. (And General Petraeus has demonstrated that even our Spartan heroes can have feet of clay.) Is there a resolution? Only when we all become without sin.

  49. Curtis Says:

    Why would anyone think legal abortion is so necessary that they would hold their nose and vote Obama? I’m trying to come up with answers and none readily present.

    Unless it be that old canard that is a foundation of Marxism and of the classic were-running-out-of-food fear mongering. The underpinning values and faith systems could not be more opposed than the zero-sum vs creation groups. The former believes themselves on a lifeboat with only so much to go around. Every extra mouth and all the resources must be zealously protected. The latter believe in an infinite God with infinite resources and acknowledges the command “be fruitful and multiply.”

    That fear of lack is especially pronounced today as it has been supported by the claims of climate science, green concern, and more importantly, received not even as science anymore but as faith. It has reached the absurd. Perhaps the absurdity of the opposition to abortion reform, even in the face of a declining population, is a pointer to the reason why the seeming unconnected and ripe for reform issue of abortion points to the way the illiberal mind works: by fear of lack dominating faith in creation.

  50. GoneWithTheWind Says:

    I think it is hilarious that someone wouldn’t vote for a candidate because he has a moral objection to abortion but they would vote for a candidate who has a proclivity to take money from Peter, at the point of a gun if necessary, to pay to Paul in exchange for his vote.

  51. parker Says:

    “Parker has literally stated that homicide can be justified. Not “killing” but “homicide”. Go back and read the whole post. I can’t understand how his or her head doesn’t explode.”


    Hmmm, it seems to me you have problems with concepts. Homicide in many situations is most certainly justifiable. Enter my house and threaten me or a member of my family and you will definitely discover how justifiable it is. But you will have to digest the concept rather quickly because it will only take me a fraction of a second to pull the trigger. 😉

    And of course, there is a legal term for justifiable homicide. The legal term is, drum roll, justifiable homicide. FYI:

    I have very strong feelings about abortion and want to see legal abortion strictly limited to a few specific situations. How you fail to understand that is truly puzzling. I respectfully suggest you take a deep breath and “Go back and read the whole post.” Oh, one last tidbit of advise: never enter my home uninvited. (Which does not necessary mean I would never invite you as long as you are capable of behaving politely.)

  52. causauk Says:

    J.J. formerly Jimmy J: I’m not disagreeing. I’m just pointing out a failure that exists in many states. K-12 education in this country, particularly in some parts, leaves a lot to be desired. This is something the Republican Party ought to tackle.

    Everyone has an interest in education. Taking a more active approach will win us support. And we won’t have to sacrifice any principles. And of course it should be dealt with on the state and local level.

    I like the idea of taking the fight to the inner city. This is a way to do it.

    Republicans ought to tackle student loans too. The government shouldn’t be subsidizing student loans. Same for vocational programs.

  53. neo-neocon Says:

    Curtis: many many people have come to depend on access to legal (and relatively safe) abortion, especially people in their reproductive years. They also have never lived in a world without easy access to abortion, and can’t even imagine doing so. To them it would be like going back to the horse and buggy. The idea of having to bear a child they don’t want, because some Republican elected official says so, fills them with dread and opens up the door to still greater invasions of what they see as their privacy and their body and decisions about it.

    The whole thing fits in with a fear of the religious right legislating sexual morality of all kinds, culminating in the Scarlet Letter or the stocks or the bad old days when even married couples were not allowed to get contraception in some states (and that wasn’t so very long ago). It is, to them, the most basic issue of personal liberty and choice.

    Do you know how common abortion is? If you look up the statistics, it’s usually estimated to be between one third and 40% of all women have had an abortion by the time they are 45. That’s a lot of women. Even if she hasn’t had one herself, practically every woman in America has a close friend or relative (or many of them) who’ve had abortions, and so do men.

  54. Mitsu Says:

    Hello, Neo-neoconers! Been a long time since I visited you guys, but I thought, in the aftermath of the election, I’d come to see what is up here. I just read the last several of Neo’s posts and haven’t the time to read all the comments, above, but I wanted to respond to Neo’s post itself.

    I think Neo is right that conservatives fear liberals are trying to enact policy based on “covetousness” which will kill the engine of capitalism. However, I think this view is incorrect, as I’ve argued many times here and elsewhere. The vast majority of smart liberals are pro-business. Pro-entrepreneurship. Pro-market, pro-innovation. What liberals, by and large, want is simply a moderate amount of oversight (banking regulation, for example, to stabilize the system and make systemic failure less likely and less catastrophic to the real economy, or health and safety regulation, or environmental regulation) — but NOT micromanagement, state control of all enterprises, and so on. They want moderate levels of safety nets to cushion people when they lose their jobs, to help them get health care if they lose their jobs or change jobs or get divorced, etc. What most American liberals want is certainly not a Stalinist command economy, and most of them don’t even want European levels of democratic socialism.

    I myself prefer the dynamism of the American economy to that of the social democracies of Europe. I think if you innovate you should have the opportunity to make money — a LOT of money, which you can then reinvest in other productive enterprises. I am against micromanaging regulations, and I think many regulations should be streamlined or eliminated — but not to the point of getting rid of needed oversight. Smarter regulation, not NO regulation. Efficient government services, not every man or woman for him or herself.

    The idea that social democracy is the first step towards becoming the USSR, however, I think is pretty absurd. I mean, even in Sweden or other quite extreme social democracies in Europe, there’s no Stalinism, at all. These are free countries by any reasonable standard. You can speak your mind. There are no gulags. There is free enterprise. Most goods and services are provided by private businesses. Income levels are quite high, standard of living is high. It seems to me a lot of this stuff is paranoia.

    Furthermore, I think a lot of liberal fear of the right is not simply opposition to social issues; it’s the sense that the right is not putting forward coherent policy even by its own standards. The budget put forward by Ryan and Romney doesn’t work, it doesn’t add up. There are huge spending increases and massive tax cuts and not enough can be made up by simply tweaking deductions. It just doesn’t work. So, we’re left to think: where are the serious thinkers on the right? If a Republican came forward with a truly fiscally responsible budget that adhered to Republican policy, then let’s go and have that debate. But we’re afraid that there’s no one on the other side to have a rational debate with, because the rhetoric and the math do not match up. One gets the impression that the Republican Party has been taken over by the innumerate.

    That’s the real fear: not just fear of social issues. It’s fear of what appears to be lack of intellectual seriousness, lack of intellectual honesty. I’m not saying you, Neo, lack this, or all the posters here do. I’m saying this is how the right appears to this liberal. I want to have a robust, rational discussion of policy prescriptions. But the extreme positions of the modern Republican Party seem to me hard to justify.

    I’m pro-free market, and I certainly am anti-excessive-regulation. I just think the moderate positions are those taken up by the modern Democratic Party.

  55. fiona Says:

    How do you explain Dodd-Frank, then?

  56. kolnai Says:

    Mitsu –

    Well, thanks at least for not following your Democratic brethren in being a total a-hole in the wake of Tuesday and presenting your case without rancor. I disagree with pretty much every word you’ve said, but I respect the way you’ve said it.

    Now, on to the meat.

    1) What you’ve identified as what “smart liberals” want is so vague as to be meaningless. It’s exactly what “smart conservatives” say they want. I hope you realize that.

    Actions speak louder than words, and there are readily accessible metrics to consult that bear out the claim that liberals are much more inclined to micromanagement and overregulation than conservatives. The problem is that what conservatives consider micromanagement and command and control policies, liberals consider reasonable “free market” policies.

    There’s no discussion to be had here. You think Obamacare and Dod-Frank are pro-market, moderate, and sensible. We don’t. No amount of back-and-forth will change that. You might respond by saying that that’s why we’re extremists, but then we reply by saying that’s you’re an extremist.

    Never the twain shall meet, and that’s that.

    Above and beyond that, however, it is simply naive to think that these “smart liberals” you mention have any say at all in the process of policy development within the Democratic party. Coalitions reveal more about that, who is in hock to whom, why, and for what quid. Suffice it to say that the majority coalition in the D party is very much in favor of indefinitely increasing control over the economy: government unions, the education and media establishment, relatively poor, disaffected, and unassimilated minorities, and single college educated whites between ages 18 and 44.

    The proof will be in the pudding, Mitsu. Monitor entrepreneurial activity for the next four years (since the flatlining of it for the last four doesn’t seem to have perturbed the liberals who ostensibly love entrepreneurialism). Monitor the size of the Federal Register and number of so-called major regulations coming down the pike.

    I doubt that will matter to you, for the reasons stated above. Our understandings of what constitutes a statist, command-and-control policy is different, radically so.

    Thus, if you insist on describing any of that stuff as “moderate” and “sensible,” then you are begging the question against conservatives by describing your position in a way that a priori renders conservatives incapable of being “sensible” unless and until they become – liberals. Think about it.

    In short, we have a disagreement NOT over WHETHER there should be prudent and sensible oversight and regulation, but over WHAT KIND and HOW MUCH of same there should be, and therefore over WHAT CONSTITUTES dangerous statism. Liberals think we want too little, conservatives think liberals want too much. That’s the situation.

    Refutation by (perhaps unwitting) caricature works in the public sphere – obviously – but not when your seeking a serious discussion. I conclude that you aren’t.

    2) Relatedly, you say, “What most American liberals want is certainly not a Stalinist command economy.”

    Perhaps true, but as neo has been pointing out on the “women’s issues” questions for conservatives, it really doesn’t matter what “most liberals” want. It matters what the liberals with the power to legislate and hand down opinions from benches, and their respective coalitions, want.

    I am not convinced at all that they do not want a command economy, whether or not one describes it as “Stalinist.” If you are convinced, then, well, there’s nothing much to talk about. We fundamentally disagree. (This will be a theme in these remarks.)

    3) “Smarter regulation, not NO regulation…”

    Strawman. Invidious caricature. Begging the question. So many fallacies in one comment…

    Name me one prominent or powerful conservative, or conservative coalition, that argues for “NO” regulation.

    You can’t, because that is a leftist talking point, not a serious point intended for “rational” debate. Accordingly, I won’t debate it. Just do some research.

    4) With respect to European social democracies – give it time.

    First of all, you are normally not all that free to “speak your mind” in those countries. Consult Bruce Bawer’s body of work (he lives in Norway) for ample evidence on that score.

    Second of all, there are complicated reasons why the Scandy social democracies have not led to “Stalinism” thus far. One reason is the American security umbrella (which, if we slash our own military, we will clearly not be able to give ourselves). Another reason is that in many ways the Scandy economies are LESS regulated and freer than ours. A good book to read to get some facts on this is Peter Baldwin’s “The Narcissism of Minor Differences.” Yet another factor is the small size and relative homogeneity of the countries – not traits shared by either Russia or America. Megan McArdle has written quite a bit on this, but the gist of it is that scale and composition matters, in biology as in politics. There are no bees and beehives the size of lions and lion dens, no ants as large as hippos. Analogously, there are no socialist or “social democratic” nations absent tyranny of greater size than roughly France. And even in the small ones of the proper scale and size, tyranny often comes eventually anyway. None of this is an accident.

    In any case, the Scandy countries, and the euro socialist countries more generally, are on the precipice socially due to multiculturalist dreams transforming into nightmares. This problem is not getting better, but rather worse. See, on this theme, Paul Sniderman and Luke Hagendoorn’s data-driven study of Holland, “When Ways of Life Collide,” as well as the politically moderate Walter Laqueur’s “The Last Days of Europe” and “After the Fall.”

    Seeing disaster in social democracy is thus not paranoia. It’s a legitimate reading of the facts before us, which may or may not be right. The ad hominem is not appreciated. I’m sure you wouldn’t find in me a serious interlocutor it if I retorted by saying that sanguinity about social democracy is mostly a result of liberal avoidance of inconvenient facts, and their typical complacency about evil (namely, Islamofascist infiltration of Western societies).

    Courtesy involves more than just speaking in dulcet tones. It involves an actual effort to understand. I see no evidence that you have made such an effort.

    5) “The budget put forward by Ryan and Romney doesn’t work, it doesn’t add up.”

    More question begging.

    Who proved that it doesn’t add up? What alternative that has been proved to add up have Democrats offered? Have they even proposed anything that adds up BETTER? Can you show me the Democratic budget to substantiate your opinion?

    I’ll wait. I really want to see this budget.

    I can’t tell if you’re being mendacious or just repeating the talking points you absorb a bit too easily, but either way, stating as a fact what is most certainly just a highly tendentious opinion is not kosher. It may fly in less heady realms, but not ’round here. This is, I might reply, a typical problem with liberals. They confuse their propaganda with reality and reflexively affix “It’s SCIENCE!” (or, “It’s just RATIONAL!”) to every transient whim they have.

    Live by begging the question, die by it.

    Nonetheless, you’re right that the public PERCEIVES our solutions as being inadequate and incoherent, but this is largely because of the way they have been mischaracterized and lied about by the Gramscian complex of the MSM, the schools, and the entertainment industry, all of which are more than happy to willingly parrot and defend whatever the left-wing party line of the day happens to be. By itself, that fact is unrevealing of anything except a cultural problem conservatives have. It says nothing about our actual policy proposals, which have not received (to say the least) a fair hearing.

    6) If you’re afraid there’s no one on the other side to have a rational debate with, I suggest you look in the mirror.

    In any case, debate at this point is purely a formality, something we do to make sure we remember not to kill each other – and that’s well and good. But, qua political, these problems revolve around power, and as such partisan engagement occurs in a war context. We’re fighting, and we want the other side to lose. We disagree on principle, despite the left’s attempts (reflected in your comments) to co-opt Reason Itself for their own side of the partisan divide.

    So be afraid to your heart’s content. You and your representatives on the left don’t really want a discussion – and neither do we. You’re not interested in giving up your principles; neither are we. I’d suggest that instead of going around and concern trolling conservatives you just try and understand what it is conservatives really stand for, and pay it real respect by acknowledging that it is, in fact, a set of coherent principles. I would appreciate that much more than a discussion which won’t have any effect aside from, perhaps, sharpening our polemical skills.

    Johnathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” will go some way to helping you do that. Go forth and learn.

    7) Continuing with the last point: “I want to have a robust, rational discussion of policy prescriptions.”

    No, you really don’t. Why? Because,

    “the extreme positions of the modern Republican party seem to me hard to justify.”

    No, they really don’t.

    You know nothing about the positions of the “modern” Republican Party (which, in fact, are pretty much the positions of the “old” Republican Party). What is hard to justify about our “positions”? Which ones? On what basis do you make these claims?

    Show your work.

    I repeat: liberals and conservatives both have policy ideas, and both sides think the other side is extreme. That’s the nature of political warfare. It is pointless to try and convince the other side to be less “extreme” and pretend that this is because we want a “rational” discussion. That sentiment, stated in terms of what it really means, only says this: We want the other side to forfeit and join us.

    What would constitute a “rational” conservative policy, as far as you’re concerned? Give details. No generalities. You said you’re serious, so be serious.

    Finally, you say you don’t accuse neo or some of us commenters of being the kind of irrational extremists you want to condemn. Mere throat clearing. You’ve already singled out Romney and Ryan as enablers of the irrational, extreme tendencies of the party. Who the hell do you think neo, and the rest of us, voted for?

    To see what I mean, just flip it around. I think Obama is a Marxist by conviction and therefore a left-wing extremist. You voted for him, and agree with his policies. But then I say I consider you to be “one of the good ones.”


    There isn’t a lot of air in between an extremist leadership that you agree with and support and your own convictions.

    You’re essentially pretending to respect us and asking us to pretend to respect you, so that we can pretend to have a rational discussion. That’s nice to keep us friendly, but otherwise it is completely and utterly pointless.

    8) In closing, I would recommend the following to you: stop wasting your time trying to get conservatives to abandon their principles and beliefs in order that they may sound “rational” to you, and instead go and try to learn something about actual conservatism. It would be a much more profitable use of your time, and as a bonus you may learn a thing or two.

  57. thomass Says:

    Neo, I’m ok with having a big talk in the party and coming to a consensus that might lower the bar on goals (it is only a faction within the party that wants a total ban on abortion). But I don’t believe liberals who say it is a main problem with the GOP. They have various goals. Including trying to look moderate (oh, if the GOP just didn’t do blaw blaw blaw I’d consider them). I don’t buy it. They are in too deep into government control of the economy and government rationing of resources (such as healthcare) in the name of fairness to leave the democratic party for a free market one (with a traditional view of rights and privacy)…

    But number two is baiting us into a contentious debate so we circular fire-squad each other…

    On the other hand; I do believe non political people who went out to vote just because of this one issue.

  58. Mitsu Says:


    The key point I am trying to make here is that we both agree that a Stalinist command economy, a one-party totalitarian state is a Bad Thing. I am not trying to convince you that Obamacare or Dodd-Frank are good ideas, just that they’re not intended to be, by either their architects or by the vast majority of us who vote Democratic, to be steps on a slippery slope towards commissars and committees allocating resources.

    I work in the tech industry. I don’t want government telling me how to code my next consumer web application. If, however, I’m writing code that runs a nuclear power plant, I DO want government forcing me, or other software contractors, through a rigorous testing procedure and validation process.

    As for whether the nefarious hidden Powers That Be behind the “liberal coalition” want an endless expansion of government — even if “they” wanted that, I can’t see how they could implement it. They try to institute the KGB, liberals would stop voting for them in droves. They try to nationalize every industry, same thing. Believe it or not, liberals are very concerned with, yes, liberty. It would only take a few percent of us to change sides to stop such a thing from happening.

    If I had lived in the USSR, or any other totalitarian state, I would fight to the death to dismantle it — and so would every one of my liberal friends. I would be on the side of Solzhenitsyn or other dissidents. There’s an optimal amount of government intervention in the economy and society, and Stalinism goes past that optimum by a factor of at least 1000.

    Okay, now we can get to the things we’ll probably never agree on 🙂

    >Monitor entrepreneurial activity for the next four years

    It’s fairly well-known at this point that the economy does better under Democratic administrations than under Republican administrations, on average. Even if you shift the window by a year (i.e., so that you’re looking at growth after the president has taken office for a year or so), Democrats tend to do better than Republicans, by a fairly large factor. By that very basic measure it seems to me that the numbers don’t support the thesis that Democratic policies inevitably destroy growth or entrepreneurship.

    Of course, a lot of this is luck — the business cycle goes up and down regardless of who is in power.

    >doesn’t add up

    It’s simple: the Romney-Ryan plan, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, would lower revenues by $500 billion/year. They also proposed increasing defense spending another $200 billion/year. Capping deductions at, say, $25K, would only raise revenue by about $140 billion. Where does the other $560 billion come from? A simple analysis from the Tax Policy Center, reported by Bloomberg:


    This is another example of something that, quite honestly, is rather hard for us liberals to grasp. Obamacare in its basic structure is patterned after a proposal by the Heritage Foundation, which was the template for Romneycare in Massachusetts, which is basically the same thing. Retain private insurance, hospitals, and doctors, maintain competition, add subsidies for low income, get rid of medical underwriting (varying rates based on preexisting conditions), have a mandate or a tax penalty for not having insurance. I mean, I think we can argue about the details of the plan, there are lots of things in Obamacare that might be changed, but in what way is this radically different from either what Romney did in Massachusetts or the Heritage Foundation originally proposed? It’s not “rationing”, it’s not government-controlled health care. There’s a requirement that insurance companies spend 80-85% of premiums on actual health care.

    I personally actually am more in favor of the French single payer system. It’s government health insurance but private doctors and hospitals. It appears to be more entrepreneur-friendly than the UK’s system which is entirely government controlled. It is lower cost per capita and you have total choice in which doctor you want to use. There do not seem to be long waiting lists. A kind of best of both worlds. The single payer aspect appears to be a lot more efficient than the Romneycare model. However, I’d take Romneycare or Obamacare over what we have now. We spend roughly twice what the other industrialized nations spend per capita on health care, yet get only middling results, on average. Our wait times are actually rather poor, on average. We do well in a few areas (cancer in particular) but terribly in many others (prenatal care). And tens of thousands of people die every year due to lack of health insurance (Harvard study). Spending as much as we do and getting such mediocre results doesn’t sound particularly efficient to me.


    Yes, I do believe Dodd-Frank is reasonable, on the whole, and I know you disagree. The general envelope of it is: the Volcker Rule (prevent consumer banks from trading on their own account — insulate consumer banking from the speculative market, in other words, reducing the impact of a crash), Consumer Financial Protect Bureau, to oversee banks and prevent exploitation and fraud, regulation of shadow banking sector, and a resolution authority to wind down a failing institution and break it up in an orderly way, in theory preventing more bailouts (I have my doubts about whether this will actually work in practice).

    The details of this, of course, can be debated endlessly, and I think that’s a productive debate to be had. But where’s the Stalinism here? I mean, Canada has by far more regulated banks than we do — their banks, alone in the world, didn’t crash at all during the 2008 crisis.


    As for Sweden and Norway, and so on, I just think the real reason these countries aren’t totalitarian is because they’re democracies. I think democracy, a strong tradition of transparent elections, is plenty to forestall Stalinism. And no, I don’t think they’re “teetering” on the brink. They’re strong, liberal Western democracies just like we are, just like the rest of Europe and Japan and South Korea. I mean, we can agree to disagree here, but I have friends in Sweden, there’s just nothing happening there that is even in the same ballpark as some sort of totalitarian nightmare you seem to envision. Maybe if you think having a social safety net, government-sponsored child care, etc., is “totalitarian”, that’s one thing, but I measure it as secret police, gulags, total government control of everything, Animal Farm, Brave New World. That’s not what they have over there. Or in France, or in Germany, or anywhere else among the established Western democracies + Japan.

  59. Mitsu Says:

    Oh, and one last thing: the reason, in my view, growth has been lower under Obama than it was under Reagan, for instance, is that this was a depression caused by a financial crash and excessive debt. In the aftermath of this crash we had significant deleveraging as people fled from credit in droves. That is going to slow the recovery:

    It’s not surprising that we have had a slower recovery, in other words. The right thing to do is to stimulate the economy, in my view, and then, once the recovery is proceeding, turn to the deficit. It seems to me the objective evidence is in favor of this —- we’re recovering and Europe is not, but Europe engaged in immediate austerity (despite their reputation as social democracies, the main policy after 2008 was driven by center-right parties who were in power in Germany, France, and the UK).

  60. NeoConScum Says:

    kolnai..I am absolutely awed by your apparent patience, energy and thoughtfulness above.

    ‘Fraid my patience-restraint or even energy where Lib-Lefties—even a sane one like mitsy looks to be—hasn’t been restored from 1-week ago. But, I can sure admire seeing it. Nods to you.

  61. Zachriel Says:

    neo-neocon: Note that in the above two paragraphs I am speaking of “liberals” rather the “the left.”

    An important distinction.

  62. Curtis Says:

    Thanks Neo. What you said is persuasive. I can’t agree that it’s good, but the solution cannot be merely to outlaw abortion, which is not most conservative’s (including me) solution. The solution is a society where the value of life is much higher than it is now.

  63. kolnai Says:

    Mitsu –

    I see you failed to take my advice.

    I repeat: Just because you insist on something over and over again doesn’t make it true.

    I think you missed the point of my riposte.

    Let me try again.

    1) First, you continue to bleat on about Stalinism.

    Why, I don’t know.

    You do know that ‘command economy’ and ‘Stalinism’ are not synonymous, right?

    2) Second, “It is well known that the economy does better under Democratic administrations…”

    It is no such thing. You have a habit of appealing to authority which – free advice from me to you – is absolutely inimical to “rational discussion.” Try dropping it.

    You work in the tech industry; I am a PhD in political science, in academia. So you drew a bad card on this one. I know exactly the studies you are referring to, and I have dissected them countless times. You’re simply wrong. The claim you are making is an opinion – I repeat: an OPINION – that certain partisans such as Larry Bartels have forwarded and tried to back up with data so cherry-picked it beggars indulgence. And that is my opinion, along with other of my colleagues with sterling credentials.

    All of which is beside the point, which is: drop it. You will not convince me, and I will not convince you. “It is well known” that this is true.

    Your rhetorical tics and earnest citation of “studies” is what I mean when I say you missed my point. When I recommended books to you, it wasn’t to try to turn you into a conservative or to “prove” anything, it was simply to help you understand conservatives so that you could be as fair-minded as you claim to be.

    Of course you think “it is well known that…” x,y,z (liberal talking points). We already know that you think that, as all partisans do. But it doesn’t change the fact that we are arguing over basically philosophical understandings of human nature and how these are refracted in society and affected by incentives and constraints.

    There’s no question of “proving” anything here, no question of arguing by appeal to authority, and certainly no question of furthering a discussion by batting epithets and caricatures back-and-forth. We understand these matters – matters of political economy – like we take Aristotle, Burke, Locke, and Adam Smith to have understood them. Liberals understand them differently.

    Stomping your foot and insisting otherwise just supports my point, nota bene.

    3) If you can’t see how indefinite expansion of government could be implemented, then that speaks to your imaginative powers, I guess.

    When conservatives look at the growth of the American state from FDR to today, we see very clearly how it could be “implemented” – gradually, over time. “It is well known,” as you might say, that that’s how it usually happens, especially in countries with a democratic infrastructure.

    4) No one’s talking about the KGB, so I don’t know why you are.

    I’m happy you and your gazillion liberal friends would prove to be heroic freedom fighters leading the charge for freedom and justice should the secret police come a-knockin’.

    Courageousness is like being a lady – if you have to claim to be it, you probably aren’t.

    5) “The nonpartisan Tax Policy center.”

    You must be joking. The Tax Policy Center under the auspices of the liberal Urban Center and the liberal Brookings Institute?

    The Tax Policy Center which some guy named Adam Looney works for? Who is that guy? Worth checking out.

    Allow me to cite the “non-partisan” Tax Foundation:

    And so on for their other studies of Obama’s supposed “plan.”

    Impressed? Why not? Because my studies are biased? I hope my point is starting to sink in about now.

    We can do this all day, really, and, to return to my thread, it is utterly pointless. We all have “studies.” We all think the other side’s studies are tainted, biased, skewed, and cherry-picked. If you want a real discussion, then try to understand the philosophy, the principles, and then you will understand the different views on policy. Farting around with studies and wielding them like talismans is a sure-fire way to drag any discussion down into the talking-heads gutter.

    With respect to the Romney-Ryan plan, the bottom line is that even if it didn’t add up – which is impossible to say as a matter of fact because it was so non-specific in so many areas – it is still better than anything Obama and his crew have offered. That is our view. We have “studies.” Some analysts thought it did add up, others didn’t. It depends on the assumptions one makes about the relation of the moves made in the budget to incentives for economic activity, how aggressive the code simplification turned out to be, and other things that – always – get worked out after elections and in tandem with Congress. This is, if you will, “well known” Campaigning 101.

    Sort of like when Obama adamantly opposed the individual mandate, using conservative arguments, in the 2008 campaign, and then did a 180 once he had to actually cobble together a black-letter law. There was no reason to take anything really specific he said in the campaign terribly seriously, just as there is no reason to do so with any candidate. Those things always change and get worked out when the rubber hits the road. What one looks for in campaigns are general principles and guidelines to policy that one agrees with.

    But liberals love to play babe-in-the-woods about policy pledges during a campaign, as though a platform meant in part to appeal to and gather together separate factions of one’s base were ever going to be a model of coherence and down-to-the-last-detail practicality. As though they aren’t aware of everything I just said above. As though we must take what Romney-Ryan said as 100% iron clad and press them for every last detail, because that’s just what campaigns do. Legislate from the stump.

    It’s not what campaigns do. Liberals know that (see: indulgence of Obama in office vs. Obama campaigning). Please stop pretending otherwise.

    So, no, it’s not “simple.”

    6) Obamacare.

    Not going to get into it. You do realize that when I asked you to show your work I was being rhetorical, right?

    Anyway. I disagree with both your analysis of the law and the problems with our system. Disagree with your analysis of France’s single payer system. Could cite a million things in support, but to come back to the thread here, it’s beside the point.

    Do you not know that these are matters where people legitimately disagree, based on principle and how they interpret data?

    Do you really believe that marshaling a bunch of data that supports your side, and discounting data that doesn’t, is what it means to be reasonable or rational?

    But I know, I know – when the rationing starts (which, after all, is what Obamacare was created to do – mainly via IPAB) you’ll just find a study to support your contention that it’s not really rationing, but “investing” in “smart healthcare” or whatever.

    The game. It gets old, fast.

    7) Dodd-Frank.

    Again, not going to get into it. See point 6 above.

    There is no Stalinism. No one said there was. (You need to work on the caricature thing).

    8) “I think that’s a productive debate to be had.”

    Stop it. For the love of Great Merciful Zeus, I beg you.

    You don’t think it’s a productive debate to have. You think Dodd-Frank should remain, in its salient clauses, the law of the land, regardless of what emerges from any debate. NO debate, NO study, could ever change your mind on that (unless it proposed another liberal policy as better, perhaps). And that’s fine. Because no debate or study would change my mind either, or any partisan’s mind.

    Thus, again, again, and again, the point of my original riposte to you. If you want fruitful debate, you’re wasting your time, because the issues under discussion are not subject to fruitful debate. They are subject to partisan warfare. Can’t you kind of see how that’s happening already in our “discussion”?

    Because it’s inevitable. It’s the nature of what we’re talking about.

    If, hypothetically, we conservatives repealed the law in toto, and then offered to talk to you about it out of noblesse oblige, I’m sure you’d find the suggestion that we were “just interested in reasonable debate” to be laughable. Same goes here.

    9) Scandies.

    I’m happy you have friends in Sweden. That’s awesome. So do I. I’ve even been there a couple of times. It was cold.

    I’m sure you’d agree that these facts do not give my thoughts, or yours, on the country’s political economy and social problems any special authority.

    10) I never said anything about “teetering on the brink” of becoming Stalinist or a totalitarian nightmare. I said that multiculturalism is turning into a nightmare, then I spoke of tyranny, which connotes something more generic than Stalinism or totalitarianism. Pinochet was a tyrant; he was not a totalitarian. See how that works?

    11) You think Japan is a strong Western liberal democracy? Interesting. I’ll let that stand as stated.

    12) You think democracies never vote for tyranny or implode into totalitarian systems because of built-in, structural vulnerabilities? Interesting.

    13) Finally, Mitsu, I’m going to say this nicely one more time, and then if you keep insisting and going wonk with your “studies,” the gloves are going to come off and things are going to spiral downward in here in a hurry:

    Stop saying and implying that conservatives think that regulation and a social safety net are “totalitarian.” It’s silly and mean-spirited, and belies a woeful, prejudiced understanding of the people you’re supposedly trying to engage respectfully.

  64. kolnai Says:

    NeoConScum –

    Heh, thanks. But my patience IS only apparent 🙂

    I don’t think Mitsu intends anything bad. I just don’t think he/she realizes that intentions don’t “correlate” 1:1 with results. So he/she is in fact being insulting and condescending, while not trying to be (assuming we don’t know what “studies” show, repeating that conservatives believe that all regulation and safety nets are stalinist/totalitarian, in general coming here as if to “educate” a bunch of ignorant rubes – very annoying).

  65. Mitsu Says:

    >You do know that ‘command economy’ and ‘Stalinism’ are not synonymous, right?

    You mean, the fact that Stalinism is just one of many possible command economies? Or are you asserting that Stalin’s Soviet Union was not a command economy?

    >It is no such thing. You have a habit of appealing to authority which – free advice from me to you – is absolutely inimical to “rational discussion.”

    The phrase “appealing to authority” usually means making an argument based on the authority of the person speaking; what I think you mean to say here is that I didn’t cite objective evidence.

    In any event, I’m just talking about the relatively well-known fact that GDP growth has been larger under Democratic presidencies. I’m sure there are reasonable counterarguments to this, or reasons to question whether it is relevant or important (I personally am persuadable that it isn’t that important).

    Or are you saying that GDP growth hasn’t actually be larger under Democrats?

    Here’s an example of a simple calculation done by Fox Business:

    Another analysis:

    And so on. I’m happy to read counterarguments or other analyses, obviously. If you disagree, great, what’s your argument? With what data?

    I personally think this, as I said before, isn’t particularly an interesting thing, and it is perhaps just due to random chance.

    >When conservatives look at the growth of the American state from FDR to today, we see very clearly how it could be “implemented”

    I just think we’re arguing over inches here. To get all the way to a totally command economy, with no markets, no free enterprise, etc., is light years beyond where we’ve ever gone, or even the most socialist of the Western democracies has ever gone. So yes, I don’t think we can possibly go to a total command economy because it will fail economically for obvious reasons and get voted out of office. There’s a built-in safety valve there.

    A command economy is inefficient for the reasons Hayek proposed. Information bottlenecks. Any sane person has to agree with that fact. (I don’t agree with Hayek that this means ANY government intrusion in markets are bad — I think markets without any regulation tend towards bubble/crash behavior that can be dampened through government monteary and fiscal policy — i.e., I don’t agree with the Austrians in general. But the basic criticism of central planning by Hayek is obviously correct.)

    >Courageousness is like being a lady – if you have to claim to be it, you probably aren’t.

    A personal attack which is really unwarranted. Yes, I would die to stop fascism or totalitarian statism. Naturally, you have no reason to believe me, but then again I’m not questioning your commitment to freedom — I’m sure you would do the same.

    >Impressed? Why not? Because my studies are biased?

    Okay, but this is just an ad hominem argument. What’s wrong with the analysis? Are you disputing that a 20% across the board cut in rates, etc. would lower revenues by $500 billion/year? Are you disputing that a $25K cap on deductions would only raise about $140 billion? Yes, you could also get rid of the non-deductibility of health insurance, but that’s also a tax increase on the middle class, essentially.

    >We all think the other side’s studies are tainted, biased, skewed, and cherry-picked

    I don’t think that, at all. I think there is such a thing as looking at the numbers. Just like the preelection polls: they weren’t biased (or they were, but slightly towards Romney as it turned out). It’s not just “well we all have studies”. There’s a rational basis on which to discuss this stuff. Of course my studies might be biased and so might yours, but it’s not just an “anything might be true” situation.

    >It depends on the assumptions one makes about the relation of the moves made in the budget to incentives for economic activity

    Okay, sure, you might assume that the tax policy would spur growth. That’s a pretty big gamble.

    >Sort of like when Obama adamantly opposed the individual mandate, using conservative arguments

    The individual mandate was originally a Republican idea! And Obama was simply wrong. There’s no way a Romneycare style plan works without at least a tax penalty.

    >Do you not know that these are matters where people legitimately disagree, based on principle and how they interpret data?

    Of course. But that’s the problem: I’m not saying my studies are definitive. I’m putting forward arguments and data, and you’re just saying “I have different arguments and data” without actually addressing the arguments or data. Many of the things I’ve said are quite objectively findable: our system DOES cost by far the most per capita in the industrialized world. That’s pretty much objective fact, it’s not in dispute. It’s actually a bit surprsing: markets generally are pretty good at lowering prices, but in health care it doesn’t seem to work. Perhaps because people don’t really shop around for the cheapest price when they are headed to the emergency room. The dynamics of the incentives are different in health care than other markets, perhaps that’s why.

    These are just points that could be interesting for discussion. Why is our system so expensive?

    >You don’t think it’s a productive debate to have.

    Of course I think it’s a productive debate. Who knows whether the Volcker Rule is the best way to go, or whether there should be a resolution authority, or whether it should be Glass-Steagall. Who knows whether the shadow banking regulations will work. It’s all just theory, because the next crash hasn’t happened yet.

    >You think Japan is a strong Western liberal democracy? Interesting. I’ll let that stand as stated.

    By “strong” I mean there is relative freedom of the press, and the elections are not fraudulent. There are lots of problems with Japan, but it’s also not going to go Stalinist anytime soon.

    >You think democracies never vote for tyranny or implode into totalitarian systems because of built-in, structural vulnerabilities? Interesting.

    The only cases where democracies voted for totalitarianism were nascent democracies that hadn’t yet had an established tradition of democratic government. I.e., Weimar Germany voted for Hitler. Perhaps the stable Western democracies might devolve into tyranny at some point, that could happen. But it doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to that point now.

    >Stop saying and implying that conservatives think that regulation and a social safety net are “totalitarian”

    Okay, I withdraw the concern. It’s just that I so often read paranoia on the right that Obama is about to institute what appears to be a totalitarian state that I wonder what the hell is going on — I can’t see what in his policies is remotely along those lines. If you and I agree that neither party nor their voters want totalitarianism, then we have at least a place to begin.

  66. Mitsu Says:

    >that’s a pretty big gamble

    I meant to say, it’s a big gamble that you can cover a hundreds-of-billions-of-dollars hole with tax-cut-spurred growth. I don’t dispute that tax cuts are likely to spur growth (but if they blow up the deficit, that will eventually come back to haunt us).

  67. GoneWithTheWind Says:

    Regarding Dodd-Frank and all legislation. Legislation should never exceed 2 pages double spaced and it should be carefully written (ever notice how ambiguous bills are?) and understandable to high school graduates. There is no excuse for what they pass today. Legilation should also not be a vehicle for everyones wish list and therefore be restricted to one thing. I would also favor sunsetting all federal laws at five years (the side benefit would be to keep congress busy enough so that they would stop destroying our country).

  68. GoneWithTheWind Says:

    Oops! I meant to add about Dodd-Frank that if you read the bill it was a monsterous payoff to cronies and a intentional jobs and business killer. A classic left wing bill full of gifts for left wing interests at the expense of the common citizen.

  69. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Mitsu said, “It’s not surprising that we have had a slower recovery, in other words. The right thing to do is to stimulate the economy, in my view, and then, once the recovery is proceeding, turn to the deficit.”

    And that is precisely what Romney/Ryan were proposing to do.

    Yes, deleveraging takes time. However, there are many things that Obama could have done to encourage business. For instance he could have refrained from demonizing them as not paying their fair share. (The top 1% pay 71% of all income taxes.) He could have quit talking about only higher taxes as a way of lowering the debt.

    He could have put forth some plan to deal with the entitlement crisis.

    He could have encouraged the exploration for our energy and approved the XL Keystone pipeline.

    He could have reined in the EPA from forcing our farmers to use less of their arable land in the name of saving “wetlands.”

    He could have ovrridden the EPA on their shutdown of the irrigation water to the San Joaquin Valley farmers.

    He could have cancelled the Cap and Trade efforts, which will raise utility rates for both residents and businesses alike.

    He could have allowed potential factories and power plants to be built without having to run a gauntlet of ever more complex and expensive Evironmental Impact Statements followed by years of court challenges by environmentalists.

    He could have worked diligently to open up new free trade agreements with Columbia and other South American countries.

    What you may not recognize is that Obama and those who are behind him (Soros, the Greens, and others) are promoting Agenda 21. Read about it here:

    Agenda 21 is a UN sanctioned plan that is being implemented here in the U.S. In 1995 President Clinton signed on to it via an executive oreder. It basically is designed to use environmental concerns about AGW, endangered species, and over population to be able to control all use of resources and private property through government fiat. In othere words a soft dictatorship.

    In Skagit County where I live we now have a forward looking plan called Envision Skagit 2060. This plan follows the ideas of Agenda 21 almost exactly. It will make Skagit County a place where it will be difficult to farm, to own a home, to drive a private car, to fish, or to hunt. Since farming, fishing, and hunting are major activities today, this plan envisions stripping many people of freedoms that they presently enjoy. And it’s all to be done in the name of sustainability. Remember that word. Whenever you hear it in concert with any government program you will know that Agenda 21 is involved. Many Skagit residents are opposed to Skagit 2060, but the liberal county government is continuing blithely on.

    Business recovery requires confidence that expanding or creating new businesses will not be a fool’s errand. President Obama has not provided that confidence. He has, in fact, done just the opposite. His second term, unless the House can muster enough opposition to block many of his plans, will be a concerted drive to bring more of the economy to heel using the Agenda 21 principles.

  70. kolnai Says:

    Mitsu –

    1) Okay, you got my point this time, I think, but disagree with it and want to go back to the studies route. I cited one study on the Romney-Ryan budget, just for fun. Read it if you like, or don’t.

    I don’t care.

    Did you read what I said about campaigns and their pledges? It awaits addressing.

    2) No, I am not disputing that GDP growth has been generally higher, as a descriptive matter, under Democratic Presidents. But this is not just possibly meaningless, it is completely meaningless, as you almost acknowledge (but then why mention it in the first place?). It’s a question of causation, not descriptive statistics.

    I am going against my pledge to not get into the studies game here, but here is one paper (yes, the author is a conservative) casting doubt on the methodological problems of determining causal claims about economic stewardship:

    Jim Manzi also had a section dealing with the terminal flaws in such studies in his book “Uncontrolled.”

    3) I don’t agree that at present there are any ways to use data-driven studies to prove objectively any of our contentions. Sorry. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, so let’s get it over with now.

    We haven’t found reliable ways to account for the complexities involved in economy-wide issues, and when we try to do so, well, that’s when the assumptions come in, and those usually come back to a philosophical view – called “bias” more colloquially.

    So I did answer your question, you just don’t like my answer. You equate studies with good arguments; I don’t. You think you’re making good arguments, I don’t. You think I’m not making good arguments, I do.

    As I said, never the twain shall meet.

    4) Yes, I was asserting that Stalinism was not a command economy.

    (Did you really ask me that? Talk about insulting…)

    5) I know damn well what appealing to authority means, and it’s exactly what you were doing.

    There is no restriction in the fallacy to appealing only to individual people. It could, for example, be a group of people, who authored a study, under the auspices of an institution. Or it could be the sterling reputation – “non-partisan” – of an institution.

    I also meant to say – as in, in addition to pointing out your appeal to authority – that you didn’t cite objective evidence. So you got that one right.

    6) You’re not questioning my commitment to freedom? Really? You really are a knight, aren’t you?

    So all of that stuff about conservatives being opposed to regulation and safety nets and being extremist has no implications, in your mind, about our attitude to freedom? That’s amazing. Tell me more about that. (Please, don’t).

    Just because I make my ad hominem’s explicit doesn’t mean you don’t engage in them too. Passive aggressive mischaracterization is not necessarily better than outright aggressive overstatement. I did the latter, you do the former. Different strokes.

    But, alright, point granted. I just didn’t see the relevance of your braggadocio, and took the opportunity to slip in a zinger. I withdraw it.

    7) Pointing out that all studies are biased is not an ad hominem argument.

    (Our discussion is going nowhere, my friend – it’s the second law of internet debates: when we start arguing about our understanding of different fallacies, the debate is over).

    My argument goes to the root of the practice of citing studies in support of everything one already believes.

    I’m not impugning anyone for being biased, and I’m not saying that bias necessarily invalidates any particular data point on causality. I am saying that it makes it a crap shoot to hit on a study, in the social science sense, that turns out to be right. Even if we do hit on one, we could never confirm or “prove” it. That’s just the way it is.

    I’m saying it’s human nature, and it’s the nature of problems of political economy to not be susceptible to proof by regression analysis, computer simulation, small-scale lab experiments, and data-sifting.

    Again, not an ad hominem argument. An argument, rather, about necessary limitations inherent in the sorts of studies you’re extremely fascinated by.

    Clearly, we disagree on that. Oh well.

    8) I’m not going to present any argument about Obamacare, because you can go and find conservative arguments against it whenever you want. Not my responsibility, nor my problem. I probably agree with most of them, so go to town.

    I love how you keep repeating that the mandate was a conservative idea (factual claim) and that this somehow means that it is a *conservative* idea (normative claim).

    It was concocted, in haste and alarm, and abandoned just as quickly, as a tactical measure to beat down the surge toward Hillarycare. Liberals know that; they just pretend not to because it gives them a good talking point.

    Almost all conservatives agree on this: the mandate was bad then, and it’s bad now (and they didn’t like it back in the day, either).

    Nothing more to be said about the talking-point of it once being some Grand Conservative Policy.

    Have any conservative policies ever originated with Democrats; policies which they no longer agree with?

    You go on to say that Obama was “wrong” to oppose the mandate. Great. But not the point. He wasn’t right or wrong, because he wasn’t trying to be right or wrong. The context was not one in which candidates are judged on their rightness or wrongness, and thus, it was one in which the concern of the candidate was not to be right or wrong. Obama was campaigning; everything he said on details was meaningless. For someone to have gone off and said, “Obama’s healthcare plan can’t work! We scored it, so nyah nyah nyah,” would just have been funny.

    It was a campaign tactic. Maybe he’d do it, maybe not. At any rate, the possibility of it being embedded in anything like the exact framework of the campaign sketch he had was about zero.

    Same for the Romney-Ryan plan.

    This whole discussion about scoring campaign promises is too absurd for me. I refuse to get sucked further into it.

    9) Again, you point to descriptive statistics, which indeed can (more or less) be objectively accurate in a lot of cases. You think I’m denying that we can’t count beans?

    Yes, our healthcare system is costly. So what? The question is why, and whether or not we get a good bang for our buck, and whether or not we agree with x,y,z policy underlying the system, etc.

    Some descriptive stats on our system are amazing, some less so, as you point out. They tell us nothing one way or another about cost-justification and equity and “what is to be done,” if anything.

    Conservatives like myself think that the system is so distorted and overly costly largely because of too much government involvement. (NB: too much does not mean there shouldn’t be any). If you want studies showing that, then go ahead and read them – you seriously want to descend into partisan wonkitude right here? Seriously?

    Richard Epstein wrote a good book on the healthcare system. So did Arnold Kling. So did Regina Herzlinger. Etc., etc. Not hard to find any of this. Not sure why you need me to cite all of it.

    So I’m not surprised that our system is costly. It’s not a free market, not by a long shot. The dynamics and incentives aren’t terribly different than in any other market. They hold in force.

    10) “…just look at the pre-election polls.”

    I did. They’re largely descriptive, though subject to dispute given sampling assumptions. The only question was whether their assumptions about partisan split and likely turnout were correct. They turned out to be.

    But again, this is not relevant to studies supposedly showing what the effects of Obamacare will be fifteen years hence. Those are normative, etiological claims, this-effects-that-effects-the other thing – feeds back on this and that and thus and such…. etc.

    Social scientists still have not figured out how to use their methods to establish simple causality, never mind macro-causality related to large scale policy initiatives over many years. Just go on amazon and feast your heart out with the tons of books on the topic.

    11) No, again, you’re not interested in discussion on these matters. You support Dodd-Frank. You support the man who signed it into law. I can objectively verify that.

    “Who knows…x,y,z?” Evidently, you know enough to think it’s perfectly acceptable to pass Dodd-Frank and implement it.

    And I think I know enough to want that atrocity repealed in full. Maybe we can keep the regulations on derivatives. Maybe.

    There’s books on this too. Skeel’s book is pretty good. You’ll get more out of engaging that, as I keep stressing, than you would throwing data and causal assumptions back and forth with conservatives in a comment section at a blog.

    12) “Relative freedom of the press [in Japan].”

    Very relative.

    No one said it was going Stalinist.

    13) Weimar Germany did not vote for Hitler. Not the example I was thinking of anyway.

    In my view the EU is already a tyranny (not Stalinist, not totalitarian). Venezuela voted for Chavez. Argentina voted for Kirchner. Chile (arguably) voted for Allende. Et al.

    I know what you’re getting at, which is that “strong” democracies with deep-rooted principles along liberal (small l) lines don’t go for tyranny, but there’s a difference between hardcore thuggish tyranny and what Tocqueville called “soft despotism.” That’s what I, and most conservatives, are worried about. And in that understanding, many, if not all, strong democracies have voted for tyranny (= soft despotism).

    Tocqueville didn’t even know about Stalin, so he couldn’t have thought this meant Stalinism. Worth noting.

    14) I agree that most liberal voters – yourself included – don’t want totalitarianism. I don’t agree that they don’t want soft despotism.

    Not sure that gives us much of a place to begin.

  71. Mitsu Says:

    If I’m reading you correctly, you’re basically saying there’s NO empirical evidence that could possibly be used to weigh in on any political matter, which is tantamount to saying your political views are unfalsifiable in the Popperian sense, that no matter what happens, or what any numbers collected by anyone ever says, that won’t be persuasive to you in the least. That no evidence could possibly ever convince you, even if your predictions turn out to be entirely false.

    We certainly do disagree there; I think it is possible to look at the data, cull out noise, make some predictions, and revise hypotheses based on observation.

    But, you mentioned at the beginning of this: look at the entrepreneurial activity over the next four years. I think that’s an empirical prediction: that it will be anemic? I predict it will start out relatively anemic and grow steadily until we’re in a fairly strong economic situation. And I think that probably would have happened had Romney been elected as well. Just because that’s the business cycle we’re in, that’s where we are in the business cycle. Thus I actually agree that the numbers regarding Democratic and Republican presidents and the GDP are probably not that crucial.

    But, they aren’t totally irrelevant, or otherwise why would we care who gets elected? I think they shift the probabilities somewhat. In general, my view is the dial is something like: less regulation, more dynamism, but more instability and less economic security for any given individual. More regulation, less dynamism, but more stability and more economic security (in the sense of safety nets). I think the American dial is already set largely towards the “less regulation” side of the spectrum relative to most industrialized nations. Obama is slightly towards the “more” side and Republicans are towards the “less” side, in general. But both Democrats and Republicans are, for the most part, to the right of most parties in Europe, for instance. Even the Tories in the UK are in some respects to the left of our Democratic Party (though they pushed austerity which I think is the wrong way to deal with the aftermath of a financial crash).

    Regarding the Romney-Ryan budget, if your point is basically that they were just making campaign promises but were likely going to totally revise it if they were elected, on that we can certainly agree. However, my original point is more to do with Neo’s original post — i.e., what we’re afraid of. We’re not just afraid of Republican social programs, we’re afraid of what appears to be Republican incoherence and innumeracy. The fact that Ryan and Romney didn’t really mean what they said in the campaign is almost certainly true, but the fact that they put forward proposals that, at least on the surface, appear to be impossible mathematically, does make us afraid that there’s a lack of reason there. I’m talking here more about what “liberals” fear, at least the liberals I know, my friends, etc. We aren’t only afraid of Christian morality being imposed on us (though we are also afraid of that).

    Yes, I do think Dodd-Frank is a reasonable stab at a regulatory framework, because I think we went too far in the “deregulation” direction under Reagan, Bush and Clinton. But I don’t know if it’s the right AMOUNT of regulation (too much? too little?) or if the details are right. For example some people think it would be better to break up “too big to fail” banks so no individual bank is so large its failure would destroy the economy, requiring a bailout. That’s not part of Dodd-Frank, though there is a provision that allows the government to step in if it decides that’s happening — but there’s no hard limit in the law. Some say there should be. I personally am not sure. I think it’s probably better not to put a hard limit on size in there. There are lots of other examples of places where Dodd-Frank could turn out to be wrong.

  72. DNW Says:

    Mitsu writes:

    “If you and I agree that neither party nor their voters want totalitarianism, then we have at least a place to begin.”

    I don’t know why the thrust of modern liberalism should not be seen as a process of totalizing the state’s ability to shape “society” when the trendline of liberal legislation has been to act in furtherance of it. Abortion and contraception , which supperficially appear to offer a counter example, in fact mutated under law into a “positive right” to have, which others then are obligated to provision. Rather than contracting then, the power of the state merely shifts focus and while so doing expands further.

    Although there may not be a copyrighted definition of “totalitarian”, even Wiki can come up with a relatively useful definition as a starting point.

    “Totalitarianism (or totalitarian rule) is a political system where the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life wherever necessary.”

    The power under law to control all aspects of public and private life does not mean that every aspect will be controlled at every moment, but only that no aspect is recognized as unconditionally or even ideally exempt from it.

    Perhaps you could stipulate a liberal rule for determining what absolute limits a state must recognize to its power to command individuals and regulate social behavior.

    The notion that it will be well-meaning “liberals” in charge, ones who won’t seek to control “really important” aspects of our lives, is probably not very reassuring to those who forsee themselves as the target of this type of self-proclaimed Western Educated Industrial Rich and Democratic liberals:

    “Why should we regard the moral universe of the lower classes and primitive people as a consequence of their ability to taste more moral flavors than those we poor WEIRDs can distinguish? … lower class people try to give a rationale in terms of harm for their gut feelings that sex between siblings, cleaning toilets with flag rages, etc. is bad by contriving scenarios involving harm. These poor, dumb, ignoramuses … I’m a liberal, one of your WEIRDs, and an academic. But I have nothing but hatred and contempt for working class Americans and members of non-Western cultures. And, c’mon Haidt: don’t you think that if these people get some education and financial security, they’ll become as WEIRD is us? The 6-dimension moral structure you describe is a defect—the illusion of stupid, unreflected, uneducated people. Our aim should be to dismantle their detestable shit cultures …”

    Harriet Barber philosophy professor at the University of San Diego in a comment to Professor Jon Haidt and readers of his blog, October 2012; in a remark that was at first, and mistakenly, thought to be facetious.

  73. Mitsu Says:

    >Perhaps you could stipulate a liberal rule for
    >determining what absolute limits a state must
    >recognize to its power to command individuals and
    >regulate social behavior.

    Well, let’s start with freedom of speech. Having any element of the state pre-approve or censor the speech of any individual, provided it is not obscene, is an absolute limit that I think all liberals subscribe to. Similarly, the sanctity of the democratic (voting) process — the secret ballot, counting votes accurately. Civilian control of the military: the military and police should be under the absolute authority of democratically elected civilian leaders. The right to due process. The right to a trial by jury of your peers. Equal protection under the law.

    There are quite a few absolute limits to the power of the state which almost all liberals would support.

  74. Mitsu Says:

    (Regarding “Harriet Baber” — I have no idea who she is, what she’s going on about, but it just sounds like completely incoherent ranting by a lunatic, not representative of anything anyone I know, academic, intellectual, leftist, or liberal, would ever think or say. It sounds like a bad parody. It certainly has nothing to do with liberalism as a political philosophy.)

  75. kolnai Says:

    Mitsu –

    One more then I’m done.

    1) No. Not unfalsifiable, in a Popperian or any other sense. It means no SOCIAL SCIENCE STUDY is going to change my mind (I can’t italicize in this combox, so I have to YELL – apologies). And in reality, they rarely change anyone’s mind.

    That is what I said, very clearly, over and over again. I would love to see your list of all the things social science has conclusively proved with respect to the causality of policy. And I don’t mean things evident to common sense observation, such as, “price controls lead to shortages, ceteris paribus.” I mean things like, “The Reagan era deregulations led to the housing crisis.”

    Proof. I want it. I need it. Show me the papers or books I have somehow missed in all of my years of studying this stuff. Surprise me.

    2) As for “empirical evidence,” I give more weight to general trends in descriptive areas (relatively raw data, not manufactured data), what I see around me, and how I see current policy working its logic out in action given these general things that I see.

    It’s filtered through my worldview, in other words. Mr. Popper, meet Mr. Kuhn.

    Anyway, “studies” are not about that stuff. They are about interpreting raw data and generating causal hypotheses. I ask you: if your liberal views give you a certain understanding of what tends to cause what, then what sort of threshold would need to be met in order to “falsify” those views (in a Popperian sense, of course)?

    A large threshold would be needed, probably, and no handful of studies, probably put out by partisans, are going to meet it, at least for a very, very long time. In other words, you’d only change your mind if the policy disaster/success was completely obvious, or due to something not really data-driven.

    If Obamacare turned out to be a budget salvaging masterpiece of invigoration to our healthcare system, that would be pretty obvious. We wouldn’t need a study to confirm it. I’d read some studies telling me that the liftoff could be explained by other factors, note the objections, and then probably go on believing what I saw. Or maybe not. You don’t really know how ideological you are until those moments arise.

    But what will happen instead – in reality – is that costs will continue to rise, people will continue to lack coverage, there’ll be all sorts of groaning about conservative obstructionism or failures at the (red) state level of implementation, and then there’ll be all these studies supposedly showing that Obamacare, in itself, is truly awesome – but all these other extraneous problems are holding back its awesomeness.

    And THAT kind of thing won’t change my mind, which is the kind of thing we’re talking about. If it changes yours, in the opposite direction, mutatis mutandis, then I admire your credulity. It must be nice.

    3) The definition of “evidence” is not “whatever social science studies claim to present.” Most evidence is, what the word implies, EVIDENT. We interpret it in accord with our wont, until the evident things become so overwhelmingly contrary that we can no longer refrain from an admission of error.

    So, for instance, when I was liberal, I kept noticing that all the liberals I associated with and read and studied were rather vicious and condoned a lot of things that I considered outright evil. I didn’t like their apologies for communism, yes. I didn’t like their hostility to Israel. I didn’t like their philosophical statism. I didn’t like their incessant knocking down of America. I didn’t like their affinity for ascription and breaking people up into groups and classes. All of that was evident to me, and I didn’t need studies to show me that I was wrong about my previous views.

    When it came to economics, I read the usual stuff, majored in it for my BA, and concluded that the logic of free market economics was essentially sound. I looked at commie societies and saw catastrophe. I looked at statist policies and saw distortion and misallocation. And I took in a lot of studies that told me I was right, and a lot that told me I was wrong. I agreed with the ones that told me I was right. As everyone does, for the most part. And we have our reasons.

    Studies, at best, are single data points in a much larger argument with all kinds of evidence and assumptions, and they usually don’t have much to do with how anyone – anyone, not just me – views a particular policy or its impact.

    Social science is not physics.

    4) You keep saying “numbers collected.” Sorry, but these numbers are not “collected.” They are manufactured, artifacts of technique and model-dependent, BASED ON numbers collected. Like certain movies, one might say they are “based on a true story.”

    I told you that social science has no consensus on what it means to statistically prove a causal claim. I wasn’t pulling your leg. Even there they only talk about “failing to falsify the null,” or the converse. And then a thousand caveats (entirely necessary) are appended in the discussion sections. At best, a responsible “study”-driven person should consider these to be interesting suggestions, perhaps indications, but not dispositive one way or the other.

    5) Yes, entrepreneurial activity is, in a sense, an empirical prediction. But the general evidence in the jobless numbers, startups, investment capital allocation, stock market levels, etc., will pretty much tell the tale on that one. It doesn’t require “studies.” It requires reports.

    Again, you mistook me for a cretin and thus made it harder to understand what I was saying, which could have been avoided by construing my words charitably.

    But it’s a good opportunity to restate my larger claim. Even if entrepreneurial activity ticks up slightly to look more “normal” on the business cycle at this point in a recovery, I won’t be singing Obama’s praises. I’ll think this all would have been much, much better under Romney.

    That’s the way it goes.

    Liberals do the exact same thing (see: recession, unemployment, and stimulus). Studies are, for all intents and purposes, mere window-dressing. Only if entrepreneurial activity skyrocketed with no other plausible explanation would I begin to think, “Hm, maybe, just maybe, I misjudged some of this guy’s policies.”

    6) So, do you have studies that have proved we have too little regulation, and that have proved how this economic free-for-all led to the recession?

    You know, studies that assiduously filtered out all the noise, isolated precisely the relevant causal variables, and hit the mark, bullseye, confirming this hypothesis? (or whatever it is you believe).

    I must see these studies. I am eager to read the first social science studies to prove something like that.

    Or are you going to pull back now and say you only claim that we can “revise hypotheses”? But hypotheses are “revised” ON EVERY SIDE of almost every question. That’s why we speak of “schools.”

    Do you really think that you are the one who lives a purely data-driven life, while guys like Richard Vedder or Edward Prescott, stuck in their ideological, Chicago-based ways, just can’t see what social science has “proved”? Why do they remain so immune to Popperian falsification?

    No. They read more than you or I do combined, plus another ten or so eggheads, and they’ve forgotten more of the relevant data than we’ll ever learn. Yet, somehow, they remain fixed in their views. As does Paul Krugman. As does, basically, everyone. Data is itself, with respect to belief in policy causation, “noise” to the human intellect, by and large.

    Do the hundreds of economists who opposed the stimulus, vocally, and now see their views confirmed, and have done “studies” showing this, just not understand falsifiability? After all, there are so many studies showing the contrary.

    I think your views on studies and social science data are naive. A lot of people in my profession agree with it, and I think they’re naive too.

    But I won’t let you get away with saying I don’t care about empirical evidence. We have a real disagreement about the value of social science methodology in this particular area – one that won’t be resolved in a combox, or anywhere else for that matter – not a strawman situation where I’m just a data-hating reprobate and you’re a science-driven pragmatist.

    That’s the easy, liberal way out of an argument with an opponent. Resist it.

    7) As I said in my first post: the reason the Ryan-Romney plan seemed so incoherent to everyone is because the Gramscian complex only parroted the liberal studies claiming to “prove” it (or to “falsify,” in a Popperian sense, if you will, the claims of R&R).

    How many people heard about the “non-partisan” Tax Foundation study? How many heard about the “non-partisan” Tax Policy Center study?

    I hope you don’t need a study to know the general answers to those questions. If you do, I might begin to suspect you’re actually a robot.

    In any case, I’ve already addressed this point. Shall we rinse and repeat, or just drop it, as I suggested way back when?

    8) The Tories pushed austerity? Interesting.

    9) Austerity is the wrong way to deal with a financial crash? I forgot the study that proved that, or “refined its hypothesis” enough to constitute a mind-changing event. Remind me which one it was. Help me refine my hypotheses.

    10) Don’t worry. You won’t be doing much criticism of Dodd-Frank no matter what happens.

    Or of Obamacare.

    Or of Obama.

    Or of Democrats in general.

    Consider that an empirical prediction, one honed over years of experience with partisans and politically-minded people of all stripes over several continents.

  76. kolnai Says:

    DNW –

    THANK YOU for chiming in. I’m so tired…

  77. kolnai Says:

    Hmmm… Ace has a post today sounding a lot like little old me.

    Coincidence or something more?

    I report, you decide 🙂

  78. DNW Says:

    Mitsu Says:

    November 13th, 2012 at 4:48 pm
    >Perhaps you could stipulate a liberal rule for
    >determining what absolute limits a state must
    >recognize to its power to command individuals and
    >regulate social behavior.

    Well, let’s start with freedom of speech. Having any element of the state pre-approve or censor the speech of any individual, provided it is not obscene, is an absolute limit that I think all liberals subscribe to. Similarly, the sanctity of the democratic (voting) process — the secret ballot, counting votes accurately. Civilian control of the military: the military and police should be under the absolute authority of democratically elected civilian leaders. The right to due process. The right to a trial by jury of your peers. Equal protection under the law.

    There are quite a few absolute limits to the power of the state which almost all liberals would support.

    Please reread what I actually wrote. It will immedaitely dawn on you if it hasn’t already that I didn’t ask for a litany from our Constitution and bill of rights which we could all undoubedly agree to agree on.

    And that is aside from the fact that you have conflated, if not confused together several types of and civil political rights with mere procedures.

    I wrote: “Perhaps you could stipulate a liberal rule for determining what absolute limits a state must
    recognize to its power to command individuals and
    regulate social behavior.

    The question is the rule used for determining the legitimacy of and limit to rules, if any, according to modern liberals.

    And although I imagine that you are sincere when you argue for the notion that almost all modern liberals would agree that freedom of speech is sacrosanct except in the case of libel and obscenity, and that there should be no prior restraint in ruole or effect, the fact is that almost none do; and that there is not another country that I can think of off the top of my head where you cannot be prosecuted for the violation of speech code statutes which are intended to censor the expressions of certain kinds of evaluative speech. That includes Canada and the UK.

  79. parker Says:

    “The budget put forward by Ryan and Romney doesn’t work, it doesn’t add up.”

    While I can agree that Ryan/Romney’s numbers do not add up; I have to note (with a loud sheeeee-it) Obama-Reid-Polosi can’t add 2+3 or cipher 5-2. Its kindergarten math Mitsu, and it doesn’t require many hundreds of words to explain. Only four are required: sixteen trillion and counting.


    You have far more patience and a much greater intellect than I. I marvel at your willingness to engage the likes of Mitsu in conversation. Keep on trucking.

  80. neo-neocon Says:

    re Mitsu: those of you who don’t remember Mitsu should know that he tends to come here at these post-Democratic-electoral victory moments. Mitsu used to be more of a regular commenter on the blog, and his style has always been exactly as you see here: the seemingly reasonable man who is interminable and indefatigable in his postings and has a “yes, but” and a goalpost to move for everything a person might say to him. It is a time-consuming, pretty much thankless and pointless energy drain to respond, I have found—although Mitsu himself seems to be a decent guy.

  81. Mitsu Says:

    Thanks, Neo, for the vote of confidence, sort of. 🙂

    I come here primarily because I think we’re all isolated in little filter bubbles, the Internet has isolated us into Balkanized zones of “speaking with people you already agree with.” I actually would welcome discussion across party lines, though kolnai, you seem to be arguing that such a discussion is impossible. Perhaps it is, but I’d like to hope that it isn’t. There must be some universe of data we can at least try to understand *why* it is we disagree about. I am, quite sincerely, interested in having that sort of discussion, although I’ve only managed to find it in rare circumstances when I come to blogs that are on the right. It happened with Belgravia Dispatch, a former neocon blog in which the author eventually concluded the Iraq War was, in fact, a mistake, as those of us on the liberal side of the argument had been arguing. I don’t actually hope to convince any of you guys here to change sides, but I do think it’s worth making the attempt to at least understand each other, why we think what we think.

    kolnai, I apologize if I’ve mischaracterized your views in any of my posts, but please keep in mind that I’m putting out my understanding of your views primarily so I can see if you agree or disagree with the characterization, so I can learn what it is you actually think. As you may have guessed nearly all my friends are liberals or leftists (and I must say, leftists and leftists can get into fights nearly as intense as liberals and conservatives, or more so).

    What I’m trying to outline here is how much we actually do agree on, however. We agree that the free market is a good optimizer of allocation of goods and services. I think the vast majority of goods and services should be provided by the private sector. I think Hayek’s argument against central planning is transparently obviously correct, and so on. I made this very argument myself when I first encountered leftist thinking in college, and I rejected statism and command economies, even though some of my classmates (not many) actually argued in favor of it. I was a physics major; math and physics and numerical modeling are my thing, and it’s obvious that decentralized systems have a tremendous advantage: they parallel process information.

    Regarding “studies”, I think you’re a bit overly pessimistic about the possibility of learning anything from these things. You sound almost like a postmodernist — anyone can convince themselves of anything if they look in a biased enough way at the evidence! I think that may be true, but I think you can cut through the noise. For instance, in this election I thought that was probably the most accurate poll aggregator out there. He gave an extremely accurate projection of the race. So did Nate Silver and a number of others. This was an empirical prediction that was validated by observation, as we all know by now.

    When it comes to Obamacare, my prediction is that it is going to perform pretty much as Romneycare has in Massachusetts. We already know what that looks like. Costs will continue to rise, but at a lower rate, because Obamacare has some incentives to reduce costs through innovation (i.e., experiments with alternate forms of Medicare reimbursement, for instance, which incentivize preventive care, etc., paying for outcomes rather than paying for procedures, the latter of which is clearly an incentive for doctors to overprescribe treatments.) The number of uninsured will drop by about half to 2/3rds. The overall effect of the program will be deficit neutral. Those are my empirical predictions. And yes, if it varies significantly from those predictions, I will admit I was wrong.

    >I didn’t ask for a litany

    The point I’m making is that many of the things I think you’re afraid of are solved by at least having those basic Constitutional protections carefully agreed upon by everyone. For instance, even if it were Constitutional (which the Supreme Court has ruled it would not be) for Congress to pass a law mandating that everyone buy and eat spinach, there’s obviously no way in hell people would reelect a politician who voted for such an insane law. Democracy, in other words, is a very strong principle, it isn’t enough to prevent all abuses of power but it certainly prevents the most egregious, in stable democracies, that is, such as ours. I mean the last election was close enough that if “liberals” push things too far it’s easy for a libertarian to push back and win the election and change the policy. Free speech, democracy, elections, rule of law, independent judiciary, etc… those are bedrock procedures, if you will, which act to limit abuses of power.

    We are, as a country, enamored of written rules; it’s interesting that countries like the UK are based more on unwritten “traditions”. There aren’t rules for everything. Parliament can pretty much pass any law it likes, within the limitations of “tradition”. There aren’t separation of powers as we have. I think our system is superior, but theirs seems to work somewhat adequately. They are constrained by both tradition and precedent, and by democratic pressures, as well.

    I think this passage is interesting:

    “I didn’t like their apologies for communism, yes. I didn’t like their hostility to Israel. I didn’t like their philosophical statism. I didn’t like their incessant knocking down of America. I didn’t like their affinity for ascription and breaking people up into groups and classes. All of that was evident to me, and I didn’t need studies to show me that I was wrong about my previous views.”

    What you’re talking about sounds like college leftist politics, not liberal politics. Liberals and leftists have different views. I’ve always considered myself a progressive, and I’m sympathetic to the aims of my leftist friends, but I disagree with many of their ideas. I don’t hate Israel, but I do sympathize with the plight of Palestinians. I don’t think America is always wrong in foreign policy. Sometimes it is wrong, sometimes right (I was pro Gulf War and pro Kosovo and pro Libyan intervention and pro Afghanistan war in the beginning. I was anti Iraq War, anti Grenada, anti our many CIA operations to overthrow democratically elected governments abroad and replace them with pro-US dictators, etc.)

    Pragmatic liberalism is not the same as politically correct leftist politics.

  82. Oblio Says:

    Excellent stuff, kolnai. As I recall, Mitsu is a Harvard man and a living example of the saying “you can always tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much.” He is self-evidently smart enough to do better, but too arrogant (by which I mean proud without justification) and too complacent to try. Talk about epistemic closure!

    But Mitsu could still perform a service and reach across the gap, if that is his intent, by leaving off the intellectual and disinterested posturing and by sharing his narrative. What have been the life experiences that cause him to believe what he believes? On the face of it, floating around Palo Alto and Cambridge, San Francisco and New York and living in the tech world is almost the definition of living in a bubble, and an elitist bubble at that.

    Everyone has a story, and where you have been determines a lot of what you see.

  83. kolnai Says:

    mitsu –

    1) Well, I’ll give you this, my friend – you’ve convinced me that you’re sincere. For some strange reason you actually are interested in this quixotic “across the aisle” discussion. I think it’s a waste of time – note that I said in my first response that you’d be better off reading books about and by conservatives than doing this back-and-forth here – and the result has been pretty much what I said it would be: Neither of us has budged an inch and we (I gather) don’t want to kill each other.

    Reflect on that when you depart neoneocon city this time ’round. It has implications.

    2) I realize you think I’m overly pessimistic about social science, but remember I do this for a living, and you didn’t provide me with the studies I asked for because, obviously, they don’t exist. And they never will.

    It’s not postmodernism to note that human beings can’t flap their arms and fly. It’s also not postmodernism to note that human beings can’t – by the nature of their being free, conscious, limited beings – discover laws of behavior and response exact enough to provide a scientific etiology of policy or a social statics.

    I think it is the social sciences that are postmodernist (though unaware of it). When you read political psychology, particularly the work of Kahneman and Tversky, the picture of human reason is naturalistic, and thus as incoherent as one would expect (one who knows, that is, that philosophical naturalism is incoherent).

    3) “Anyone can convince themselves of anything…”

    No, that is exactly the opposite of what I’m saying. I’m saying that we are by and large fixed in our beliefs, and no “study” is going to – or should – change that. At best, a study or studies should be one relatively small component of a change of mind, and in practice that proves to be true. In other words, in actual fact we all give studies the exact weight they deserve, because in actual fact – behavior as opposed to mere avowal – we all know how well nigh worthless they are.

    And this is not the same thing as saying “empirical evidence” is worthless, or “evidence” is worthless, or all of our views are and should be “unfalsifiable.” That would only be true if a “social science study” was equivalent to a revelation of reason itself. It’s not. It is no accident that nothing about politics, economics, rationality, statesmanship, or scientific inquiry has been made better by the advent of social science studies on the causality of policy. No accident at all.

    4) You continue to confuse descriptive statistics about people’s expressed opinions – the accuracy of which only depends on the reliability of the sample – with normative statistics meant to explicate causal relationships. I’m not sure you understand the difference. I never denied that polls, poll analysis, or predictions from polls could be accurate; I explicitly said otherwise (and I would be insane to deny it – you have a disarming way of reducing those you disagree with to insanity – I wish you could see how typical this is of liberal thought in general).

    Anyway, at least do me the courtesy of reading what I write before you reply. The principle of charity – Learn it. Follow it. No real debate is possible without it.

    5) “Liberals and leftists have different views.”

    Right. How about some examples of “pragmatic liberals” who have different views from leftists?

    6) Obamacare… “I will admit I was wrong.”

    I look forward to it. (But it won’t happen, because the studies you rely on will tell you you’re right, and you won’t credit the ones that tell you you’re wrong – pro tip).

  84. kolnai Says:

    Oblio –

    Thanks for that, and I agree.

    I have no idea why I’ve taken so much time to engage in this back-and-forth. Must be getting loopy.

  85. kolnai Says:

    Oh, and Parker –

    Sorry I forgot to acknowledge your remarks. It is much appreciated, but know this –

    I read your comments every day, and I don’t think I have a greater intellect than you (or anyone here for that matter). All I’ve done is read books and articles and engage in this kind of discussion for going on fourteen years now. I’m not a falsely modest man, but I’m pretty dim about a lot of things, rather slow. I just happened to have that spark for reading and ideas, and once anyone, basically, reads a thousand books, he or she can talk or write in such a way as to appear really smart. “Learned,” is how I would describe it.

    Curtis pointed out in a comment on an earlier post that people like me should be used as very particular weapons by the conservative brigade. We’re not fit to be the tip of the spear – that requires media savvy and a certain knack for dealing with image (like Breitbart). But we can be the body of the spear, or at least an important part of it.

    People like me are marooned in academia, and instead of things getting better for us in the universities, they are getting worse. Jonathan Haidt, bless his soul, is basically trying to change that single-handedly, and he’s not even a conservative. But, I am sorry to say, we have no place in academia today, despite the efforts of people like Haidt. The good we can do is minimal, the strain and stress of having to be a living lie (never, ever openly professing one’s beliefs until one gets tenure, if then) is, to quote Jerry Maguire, an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege.

    If the academics had their way, we’d all be lined up and shot. I mean that quite literally. They despise us, with a fury I can barely process.

    But there are quite a few of us, and maybe we could be put to better use than languishing in pot-bellied equanimity in think tanks. I don’t have any good ideas on the subject. Perhaps it’s just a tragedy and waste of resources we will have to accept as the price of our current culture.

  86. DNW Says:

    neo-neocon Says:
    November 13th, 2012 at 9:51 pm
    re Mitsu: those of you who don’t remember Mitsu should know that he tends to come here at these post-Democratic-electoral victory moments. Mitsu used to be more of a regular commenter on the blog, and his style has always been exactly as you see here: the seemingly reasonable man who is interminable and indefatigable in his postings and has a “yes, but” and a goalpost to move for everything a person might say to him. It is a time-consuming, pretty much thankless and pointless energy drain to respond, I have found—…”

    I see what you mean.

  87. parker Says:

    “but know this..”

    kolnai you do not have to be either modest or a braggart. You are one of the most informed posters on neo’s blog. I applaud the depth of your posts. Be of good cheer.

  88. Mitsu Says:

    Hi, this comment comes quite late because I got incredibly busy and didn’t have time to respond before. I will just briefly say, kolnai, that I agree that of course, there’s no “study” that can definitively answer broad systemic theoretical questions. That much is evident. And I of course agree that it’s quite likely that 4 years from now, regardless of what the empirical evidence shows, we will both continue to believe the general outlines of whatever theoretical perspective we have right now. I’ve never been arguing that “studies” or empirical evidence can “prove” one or the other entire world view is correct or not.

    However, I do think we can provide certain empirical predictions. My general prediction regarding Obamacare, for instance, I think is very likely to occur… although it might take beyond 2016 to happen, because the law will only be in effect for about a year by the time the next election season begins. However, given the effect of Romneycare which is nearly identical, it seems reasonable to expect a similar effect, at least in states where the law will be fully implemented. The variables there are — if certain states do not enact the Medicare expansion, that will clearly negatively impact the number of insured, and moreover any states which drag their feet on implementing the exchanges will also be similarly affected. However, with those caveats (stated prior to the numbers coming in), I’d say that the likely effect in states that enact the Medicare expansion and the exchanges on a timely basis, within 3-4 years or perhaps less, will see a drop in uninsured of approximately 50% to 2/3rds. Cost increases will continue, but I would predict at a slightly lower rate — as you may or may not know, in our existing system, costs have historically gone up twice the rate of inflation, which is obviously unsustainable.

    As for the economy, it’s pretty obvious that unless the government fails in some major way (hitting the fiscal cliff for instance), there will be a steady continued recovery, and pretty strong job growth by the end of Obama’s term. Again, as I say, the same thing would have happened under Romney. My belief is the economic effects of Republican vs Democratic policies are more long-term. I.e., I think Republican policies tend towards larger bubbles and crashes… i.e., the S&L crisis, the 2008 crash, etc., I believe were caused primarily by excessive deregulation of markets which initially caused a boom and then a crash. (Again: I’m not saying I’ve “proved” this, this is merely my take on the evidence I have evaluated). I think it is more prudent to have somewhat lower growth but more stability (as Canada does).

    I wanted to make a brief comment about free speech. I am well aware that Canada and the UK and most countries other than ours lack the First Amendment sort of protections on free speech. However, when I say liberals are steadfast on those principles, I mean American liberals. I think our system with respect to that is clearly superior. I don’t think the reason Canada and the UK lack this is because “liberals” don’t believe in free speech, however, I think it’s just a historical accident: their Westminster system doesn’t have a tradition of difficult-to-change constitutional law. That just isn’t part of how their older systems are architected.

    Finally, examples of things pragmatic liberals believe but leftists do not: they abound, I already listed them. I have leftist friends and acquaintances who are hard core Marxists. Most of them subscribe not to Stalinist Marxism, however, but something like “libertarian socialism” (I know that sounds like an oxymoron to you), decentralized government, etc., but still, not what I as a pragmatist believe in. There are many on the left who believe that free markets should be either eliminated or much more tightly regulated than most liberals believe. Almost all my leftist friends are against ANY foreign policy intervention the United States has engaged in, and always look for some reason (i.e., that we are trying to support some corporate interests). They have reasons for thinking this: the CIA has done lots of terrible things in the past. I don’t think that drives our foreign policy as much as it did during the Cold War. Many of my leftist friends think the Palestinians are the clear victims and Israel is entirely to blame; most liberals have a more nuanced view, or actively support Israel as the more sympathetic side. Pragmatic liberals are in favor of a largely free market system with some regulation, but less than exists in European social democracies, for the most part. And so on.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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