"You're Evil!" "No, You're Evil!"

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I think Virginia Postrel has it exactly right in this blog post about how each of the two parties view themselves. (She's quoting from Clinton's speech last night at the beginning.

We think the role of government is to give people the tools and conditions to make the most of their lives. Republicans believe in an America run by the right people, their people, in a world in which we act unilaterally when we can, and cooperate when we have to.

That's an interesting anti-elitist message, one that directly contradicts the Republicans' view of themselves and their opponents. Both parties, in other words, think the other guys "believe in an America run by the right people." Technocracy is certainly dead as a governing ideal, though not as a practice.

Clinton's statement can be read many different ways, depending on your point of view. "The role of government is to give people the tools and conditions to make the most of their lives" can describe anything from a classical liberalism that emphasizes the importance of underlying institutions–if I didn't know the source, I might endorse it myself–to a Swedish-style welfare state.

The biggest mistake one can make in understanding American politics is to think that people in one party or the other are primarily motivated by greed, power, or a desire to screw over other people. As someone who has switched within the past 10 years from being a Democrat (okay, I wasn't old enough to vote when I was a Democrat) to a Republican-leaning libertarian, I can say with certainty that most people in both parties truly believe their policies are the best ones for America and for all Americans.

It really pains me that so many Democrats are so willing to say and believe that Republicans are evil, that Bush and Cheney are only out to pad their wallets. And it pains me that so many Republicans believe the same things about Democrats, environmentalists, gun control advocates, abortion rights activists.

Why is it so shockingly easy to get caught up in the belief that "I am good and my opponent is evil"? Is it some kind of mob mentality? Is it the same emotion that gives rise to sports fanaticism? Knowing that I sound incredibly naive, I'm still going to type this sentence: Why can't people just listen to what other people are saying?

NEXT: The European Leap of Faith

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  1. Hanah,

    I believe, in most cases, it’s much easier to disagree with someone if they are “evil” than if they are “good.” It’s not necessarily a logically sound position from which to argue, but it is emotionally satisfying.

  2. I think Hanah is confusing the rank and file
    with the politicians and hangers on who fill
    all the appointed points in DC. The rank and
    file in both cases are often good people
    (though even there the teachers and other union
    members are clearly voting their pocketbooks
    when they support the democrats; in most cases
    they will have also convinced themselves that
    their pocketbooks coincide with the national
    interest to avoid cognitive dissonance).

    In contrast, the politicians and beltway types
    in both parties (even more the latter than the
    former) are pretty much uniformly sleazy and/or
    incompetent and behave just like the public
    choice model (which is just cynicism and common
    sense codified) would suggest that they would.

    Jeff

  3. Why can’t people just listen to what other people are saying?

    I think it’s because we like, both individually and collectively, to hear ourselves talk! Plus, to the extent we initially learn from the pundit class on TV or otherwise, the talking heads have many incentives never to give an inch in any policy debate, perhaps leading us to the belief that the world is one without gray.

  4. Hanah,
    I also think people tend to think that people have the same thought processes as themselves. For example, if I want to help the poor and I think that new welfare handouts are the way to do it, then anyone who opposes it must hate the poor and are therefore evil. Most people don’t think there are other ways to do things, not to mention unintended consequences that may come about.

    A lot of times, people will ask me how I can support something like legalized prostitution. I once went through a big long explaination with my Mormon friend about how in the end, general welfare could be improved (less dead/abused prostitutes, etc) and she said, “You know, you bring up a few interesting points. I never thought of it that way before. I still disagree with you, but I see your point.” Most people never get past the idea and don’t understand the thought process. Since, they disagree with you, the first assumption is that they are a) stupid or b) evil, c) they have a different way of seeing things almost never enters the equation.

    Lucky for us Bush is stupid and evil.

  5. George Washington: “Let me now take a more comprehensive view, & warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally.”

    http://mysite.verizon.net/aahpat/pol/gw.htm

  6. Mo,
    I had a Mormon classmate in law school who advocated legalizing both prostitution and drugs. Maybe you should introduce him to your friend.

  7. Members of each political party essentially say, “I hold my own truths to be self evident… and anyone who doesn’t see how obviously right I am must be dense or dishonest.”

    One of the great intellectual challenges is to wake each morning and say, “Everything I have come to believe over the course of my life may be wrong.” It is far less effort to put on a familiar tired wardrobe of ideas and march into the streets decrying those who don’t share your sartorial tastes. I recall an amusing exchange in the movie, “Men in Black” talking about the difference between “people” and an individual person. (Please note, Tim, this is a movie reference, not a review.)

    As an exercise, every so often I dust off Marx and see if I make him work in the real world… with a little help from Gramsci, of course. This is hard, and sometimes, I give up too quickly. On an earlier thread, I asked Julian Sanchez if he thought eating a fetus was more morally defensible than eating a cow (or some other animal, I don’t recall.) On its face, this is a rather horrifying question, but many of the most interesting questions are.

    Many people do not have the inclination, energy or perhaps stomach to grapple with these questions… it’s easier to simply parrot Michael Moore or Ann Coulter or Ted Rall or Rush Limbaugh. It is perhaps easier to think of our countrymen as “evil” in some vague way than to think of them as having a valid point.

  8. Perhaps I’m exhibiting symptoms of the problem, but there are some issues, take the minimum wage and rent control for instance, that, as far as I?m concerned, reasonable and honorable people just can’t disagree on. In fact, it seems to me that these remedies, specifically, are designed to exacerbate the problems they’re supposed to fix. So when I see black civil rights leaders advocating an increase in the minimum wage, knowing how that will affect uneducated, urban, black males, it trips my sense-of-evil wire. The same can be said for homeless rights advocates stumping for rent control in Santa Monica.

    P.S. Sports Fanaticism as it relates to the Washington Redskins is perfectly rational.

  9. I think Hanah is confusing the rank and file
    with the politicians and hangers on who fill
    all the appointed points in DC.

    I gotta second that one, Hanah. The constituents and supporters have their heartfelt beliefs, and they are likely shared in theory by those they hope to have elected. But is there any omnibenevolence to be found in one who seeks power? That is a dangerous assumption, especially given how special interests have the undivided attention of all three branches of our government. At some point, “they fooled me into voting Aye” doesn’t cut it.

  10. Both parties advocate things that large portions of the electorate view as evil. For example — if, like around one-third of the country, you consider abortion to be infanticide, are you really going to care that the party which wants it to be legal and unrestricted has good intentions? If you think gays are human beings entitled to the same respect and treatment as all other human beings, are you going to care that Republicans have deeply-felt reasons for trying to enshrine discrimination against them into the Constitution?

    For me personally, I don’t care if politicians have their hearts in the right place or not. I just care about the policies they advocate. I don’t care if Bush lowered my taxes because he thought it was the right thing to do, or because he’s a whore to corporate America. Either way, I’m glad. Similarly, regardless of whether he pushed for the new drug entitlement out of crude political calculation or out of kindheartedness, I strong disapprove of it.

  11. Is it some kind of mob mentality? Is it the same emotion that gives rise to sports fanaticism?

    it’s no coincidence that the sports/entertainment megacomplex has arisen at the same time as hardcore political factionalism — nor is it coincidental that the romans saw the simultaneous rise of both at the end of their republic. it’s a result of the slide into a demotic society of emancipated hyperindividualism — the dual ethos of free will and egalitarianism taken to its absurd ideological extreme, to the point where society itself has started to break down under constant assault.

  12. I don’t know, I’d have a really difficult time criticizing Clinton’s speech last night. I think it was intellectually honest and straightforward. The man not only speaks a mean game but walks his talk. As a business person, I look at the results. Clinton delivered results, Republicans deliver ideologies.

  13. Many of you have really good points, which I want to respond to at length. However, I think the comments section is not the best place to put such a response. I’ll work on this, and find a place to write it all down. In the meantime, keep those comments coming, I’m definitely listening.

  14. Jeff & rst,

    You miss the point because, as slimy as political office holders may be, they’re serving the interests of those rank and file folks you agree are really decent but just disagree. Or at least they’ve got to put on the show of doing so. And so when one side accuses the politicians of the other side of doing something for self-serving reasons, they may or may not be onto something, but politically it’s meaningless unless you address the sincerely held beliefs among the voting populace that support said politicians’ actions. One example that always gets me is when opponents of gun control (with whom I generally agree) accuse politicians who advocate gun control of seeking to prop up their own power, utterly (and conveniently) passing over the fact that many many voters simply believe that gun control is right and makes them safer. Now, I think those people (gun control supporters) are likely wrong, but it’s just plain silly to focus entirely on evil politicians trying to disarm us without addressing a very real constituency that veritably demands that they do that! And if all you do is point your fingers at those evil politicians without addressing the concerns and arguments of their supporters (not that no one ever does the latter), you will accomplish nothing.

    As someone who has also seen politics from more than one angle, I strongly echo Hanah’s sentiments. I think it’s something deeply psychological that drives the tailgate mentality of partisan politics.

  15. Jeff & rst,

    You miss the point because, as slimy as political office holders may be, they’re serving the interests of those rank and file folks you agree are really decent but just disagree. Or at least they’ve got to put on the show of doing so. And so when one side accuses the politicians of the other side of doing something for self-serving reasons, they may or may not be onto something, but politically it’s meaningless unless you address the sincerely held beliefs among the voting populace that support said politicians’ actions. One example that always gets me is when opponents of gun control (with whom I generally agree) accuse politicians who advocate gun control of seeking to prop up their own power, utterly (and conveniently) passing over the fact that many many voters simply believe that gun control is right and makes them safer. Now, I think those people (gun control supporters) are likely wrong, but it’s just plain silly to focus entirely on evil politicians trying to disarm us without addressing a very real constituency that veritably demands that they do that! And if all you do is point your fingers at those evil politicians without addressing the concerns and arguments of their supporters (not that no one ever does the latter), you will accomplish nothing.

    As someone who has also seen politics from more than one angle, I strongly echo Hanah’s sentiments. I think it’s something deeply psychological that drives the tailgate party mentality of partisan politics.

  16. Whoops, sorry for the double post! Tried stopping it so I could insert “party” to make it read “tailgate party mentality” but I guess the first one went through…

  17. As others have mentioned, people seem to use labels as a crutch for thinking. Trying to avoid bias is very difficult work, and fairly stressful. (Not that I am unbiased – but I am careful about what I would label as evil).

    Part of it is a complete difference in perspective – there are things that the conservatives think through the consequences in detail that liberals just accept at face value (environmental regulations, for example), while there are things that liberals think through in detail that conservatives accept at face value (ours is a land of equal opportunity).

    Part of it is repetition – it is a canard of the right that increasing the minimum wage causes inflation. It causes pain. Everyone should know that, so therefore those who support it anyways are just doing it for the sheer benefit of vote getting, stabbing their supporters in the back.

    That would be true, except that right leaning economists (Tyler Cowen, for example) even seem to agree that, after careful analysis, the inflationary impact of minimum wage laws just isn’t there.

    Both parties talk about how they are the responsible, grown up party, the party that believes in liberty. But of course, everyone’s definition of liberty is different – Your rights stop at the end of my nose on one hand, but you wouldn’t have earned even 25% of the money that you earn if people hadn’t invested in the infrastructure of America – how can you be so stingy as to not recognize that you “owe” a portion of that money to the country for the sacrifices and efforts of your forebearers?

    Lastly, it is hard to get people to sacrifice their hard earned money and their precious time without passion. And few things are as likely to stoke passion in an American’s heart than the fight against evil. Also, people generally admire someone who is passionate about something that they also believe in, but not as strongly. It’s hard not to get excited and moonstruck in environments like that. And those passions, in order to maintain themselves, almost always seem to turn into “Us Vs. Them, Good Vs. Evil” diatribes.

  18. In defense of Democrats (though I have little regard for the party the national level), I recall few Americans demonizing Reagan or Bush Sr., even when they disgreed vehemently with their policies

    Perhaps so many Americans demonize George Jr. becuase he’s an murderous bastard who has desecrated the U.S. Constitution and shown nothing but contempt for freedom, open government and other core principles that most citizens of any party cherish.

  19. Dan you bring up a good point; it may be far too much to ask for our leaders to do the right things for the right reasons. Often, we are forced to be satisfied with one or the other. When Bush lowers taxes to “stimulate the economy” rather than because, dammit, the government is stealing too much of my money, I nod and smile. I can take “yes” for an answer.

    As for the “the other side is evil” discussion, there remains one unexplored possibility: Both sides are right! Maybe this applies only to the Beltway Types, but maybe it also applies to each of us in some ways. Jose’s urge to daily consider the possibility of his own fallibility should be extend to include ones own immorality.

    Am I just a rich guy voting my pocketbook? Why do I feel that my property rights are so sacred, if I had less property, I might not care as much. If not, is my position pricipled or convenient?

  20. The reason each faction has begun to see the other as not merely misguided but evil, is because you can’t get the people really riled up and angry over someone who is “well-intentioned, but misguided.” That used to be the conservative line on liberals before Ann Coulter came along.

  21. Hanah Metchins,

    Are you a Yankee? 🙂

  22. “demotic society of emancipated hyperindividualism”

    holy shit! band name get!

    i mean, i never whacked it while reading tacitus or anything, but i like hyperindividualism. maybe i’m missing the point. 🙂

  23. The quote from the speech is a little misleading, because it is truncated. Clinton described the differences in the parties by parelling them. The first sentence – we believe government should give the people the tools – is meant to contrast with the previous line, Republicans believe in every man for himself. Similarly, the last sentence – Republicans belive in acting unilaterally when we can, with allies if we must – is then contrasted with “We believe in acting with allies if we can, unilaterally if we must.” Putting the two sentences together as Postrel does doesn’t really give a sense of the speech.

  24. I dunno joe, attacking a strawman with a strawman still seems stupid. Republicans don’t believe in every man for himself and Democrats are just as likely to take tools away.

  25. If anyone comes up with the ultimate answer to the ultimate question (it’s not 42), you should give Socrates a quick jingle. He’d appreciate it.

    A co-worker of mine listens to Rush. During a broadcast I walked into his office and he raised his head, look at me plaintively and asked with some anquish, “Why can’t we all get along?”

    I hope everyone catches the irony in that.

  26. I don’t know, Fred, it seems this might be an answerable question – you could probably attack it from an anthropological point of view. Back when we were cavemen the other tribes were evil because they hunted in our backyard which made us hungry. We fought back, and now they leave our hunting grounds alone. Meanwhile, the other tribe thinks we’re evil for killing their hunters. Nowawdays, everyone has enough deer meat, but I still feel its evil when someone encroaches on my resources, or prevents me from getting to them in the first place. Nasty, Brutish and Short, a lot has changed, but a lot is still the same.

  27. Politics got a lot more vicious and pathological when the Democrats’ new deal majority began to breakdown in the 1980s. The party loosing power always demonizes and overreacts to the emerging party. You want to read some vicious rhetoric, read what Republicans had to say about FDR. The reason for their viciousness was largely that they were the establishment party and FDR ended their reign as such. In the last 20 years, the Democrats have lost their status as the majority party. This culminated with the election of Bush II when for the first time since 1952, Democrats controlled none of the branches of government. Just like the Republicans in the 1930s, the Democrats have gone completely over the edge at the gall of the Republicans in taking what Democrats feel is their God given spot as the majority party. The result is the most passionate Democrats I know, although otherwise reasonable people, can’t be reasoned with when it comes to GWB. You get stupid and over the top rhetoric like Louisa’s “murderous bastard” comment. Yeah, what does that make Clinton who started the war in Kosovo which killed in the neighborhood of 10,000 Serbian civilians and did little or no damage to the Serbian military, all on based on what turned out to be overblown claims of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. I still support that war and the Iraq war and would not consider either Clinton or Bush murderous bastards, but this is the kind of discussion most Democrats in 2004 seem incapable of having.

  28. “Is it the same emotion that gives rise to sports fanaticism?”

    Bingo. When you boil down to it, 90% of the theatrics involved in the operation of a democracy are just that, theatrics, with the masses caring more about being entertained by means of taking part in a spectator sport than in “making a difference”. This goal can’t be attained if a spectator (i.e. voter) starts equivocating between the two sides, any more than a Dodgers fan is able to fully savor a victory over the Giants if he just “leans” towards the Dodgers but still sympathizes with the Giants.

    It’s no coincidence that so many actors, athletes, and pro wrestlers have wound up as Election Day victors over the years.

  29. Doesn’t anyone read the classics anymore?

    L Sprague De Camp?

    It is in our nature form rival groups, based on any pre-text, and demonize each other. Any pre-text from race to religion to 10% more of GDP in government spending will serve.

    Like rival baboon clans fighting over a watering hole.

  30. One may find some interesting nuggets in the anthropological realm.

    And really, the shrill parroting of canned political positions isn’t bad compared to say… the Inquisition. To sputter, gripe, curse and rail is much milder than Democrats burning Republicans at the stake. For all the “evil” talk, no one’s really doing much in terms of driving stakes through hearts. For example, while there have been a few abortion clinic attacks, the debate has been amazingly civil given the rallying cry of infanticide.

    It is unfortunate more people don’t listen, but let us count our blessings. Heaven help us if people moved beyond just bitching about “evil.”

  31. If you think politics are vicious today you’ve never studied 19th century American history.

  32. From my point of view, some far-left groups advocate an anti-American agenda. Some libertarians advocate what I consider an anti-American agenda as well. I don’t consider them just misguided or misinformed. I consider them somewhat approaching the enemy. Not as much an enemy as, say, AQ, but getting close. And, I don’t think that’s my lizard brain doing the talking.

    If some groups are pro-baby-killing, and some are anti-baby-killing, there might be a possibility of compromise. But, some of the aforementioned near-enemies are hell bent on doing irreperable damage to the U.S., so if not “evil,” let’s call them “near-enemies.”

  33. “And, I don’t think that’s my lizard brain doing the talking.”

    Yes, it’s just the Lone Wacko in you.

  34. The Lonewacko Blog,

    Was opposition to Gulf War II anti-American?

  35. I think the Lonwacko’s post is exactly why there is such a divide right now. It pains me to see people assuming that Bush’s policies are “American” and dissent is anti-American. It assumes that military might was/is the right way to respond to terrorism. We played right into AQ’s hands and it’s possible they would like nothing better for four more years of Bush. However, you will hear all sorts of Bush people saying AQ would prefer Kerry because he will be soft on terrorism. I’m not sure AQ has a preference but it seems that the prevailing wisdom is might makes right and frankly, that drives a lot of people crazy. To me, that sentiment is much more dangerous than any Michael Moore documentaries or Sean Penn trips to Iraq.

  36. I think the Lonwacko’s post is exactly why there is such a divide right now. It pains me to see people assuming that Bush’s policies are “American” and dissent is anti-American. It assumes that military might was/is the right way to respond to terrorism. We played right into AQ’s hands and it’s possible they would like nothing better for four more years of Bush. However, you will hear all sorts of Bush people saying AQ would prefer Kerry because he will be soft on terrorism. I’m not sure AQ has a preference but it seems that the prevailing wisdom is might makes right and frankly, that drives a lot of people crazy. To me, that sentiment is much more dangerous than any Michael Moore documentaries or Sean Penn trips to Iraq.

  37. I think the Lonwacko’s post is exactly why there is such a divide right now. It pains me to see people assuming that Bush’s policies are “American” and dissent is anti-American. It assumes that military might was/is the right way to respond to terrorism. We played right into AQ’s hands and it’s possible they would like nothing better for four more years of Bush. However, you will hear all sorts of Bush people saying AQ would prefer Kerry because he will be soft on terrorism. I’m not sure AQ has a preference but it seems that the prevailing wisdom is might makes right and frankly, that drives a lot of people crazy. To me, that sentiment is much more dangerous than any Michael Moore documentaries or Sean Penn trips to Iraq.

  38. I think the Lonwacko’s post is exactly why there is such a divide right now. It pains me to see people assuming that Bush’s policies are “American” and dissent is anti-American. It assumes that military might was/is the right way to respond to terrorism. We played right into AQ’s hands and it’s possible they would like nothing better for four more years of Bush. However, you will hear all sorts of Bush people saying AQ would prefer Kerry because he will be soft on terrorism. I’m not sure AQ has a preference but it seems that the prevailing wisdom is might makes right and frankly, that drives a lot of people crazy. To me, that sentiment is much more dangerous than any Michael Moore documentaries or Sean Penn trips to Iraq.

  39. Gary Gunnels inquires: “Was opposition to Gulf War II anti-American?”

    Some was, some wasn’t. I would consider ANSWER – or at least its founders – to be an anti-American group, as they’re Stalinists or some such. I believe we can say that Stalinists are objectively anti-American.

    People who said stupid things that could be used against us by our enemies were saying anti-American things, even if generally speaking they aren’t for the most part anti-American themselves. Jim McDermott, Patty Murray, Cyndi McKinney, etc.

    I’m sure some opposition to GWII was based on convication rather than America bashing or political or financial advantage.

    I don’t want to get into a discussion of borders and such, but I was specifically referring to the NWO/Open Borders crowd in the above comments. Those who want to turn the U.S. into the EU or increase the power of the U.N. over the U.S. or invite millions of third-worlders to the U.S. would cause irreperable harm to America, and they are clearly anti-American.

  40. Gary Gunnels inquires: “Was opposition to Gulf War II anti-American?”

    Some was, some wasn’t. I would consider ANSWER – or at least its founders – to be an anti-American group, as they’re Stalinists or some such. I believe we can say that Stalinists are objectively anti-American.

    People who said stupid things that could be used against us by our enemies were saying anti-American things, even if generally speaking they aren’t for the most part anti-American themselves. Jim McDermott, Patty Murray, Cyndi McKinney, etc.

    I’m sure some opposition to GWII was based on convication rather than America bashing or political or financial advantage.

    I don’t want to get into a discussion of borders and such, but I was specifically referring to the NWO/Open Borders crowd in the above comments. Those who want to turn the U.S. into the EU or increase the power of the U.N. over the U.S. or invite millions of third-worlders to the U.S. would cause irreperable harm to America, and they are clearly anti-American.

    [What the fuck is wrong with this site? How many times do I have to try to post this? Also, fix the blogads thing. On the lastest Firefox (as with older NNs) sometimes it covers the whole page.)

  41. Gary Gunnels inquires: “Was opposition to Gulf War II anti-American?”

    Some was, some wasn’t. I would consider ANSWER – or at least its founders – to be an anti-American group, as they’re Stalinists or some such. I believe we can say that Stalinists are objectively anti-American.

    People who said stupid things that could be used against us by our enemies were saying anti-American things, even if generally speaking they aren’t for the most part anti-American themselves. Jim McDermott, Patty Murray, Cyndi McKinney, etc.

    I’m sure some opposition to GWII was based on convication rather than America bashing or political or financial advantage.

    I don’t want to get into a discussion of borders and such, but I was specifically referring to the NWO/Open Borders crowd in the above comments. Those who want to turn the U.S. into the EU or increase the power of the U.N. over the U.S. or invite millions of third-worlders to the U.S. would cause irreperable harm to America, and they are clearly anti-American.

    [What the fuck is wrong with this site? How many times do I have to try to post this? Also, fix the blogads thing. On the lastest Firefox (as with older NNs) sometimes it covers the whole page.)

  42. Gary Gunnels inquires: “Was opposition to Gulf War II anti-American?”

    Some was, some wasn’t. I would consider ANSWER – or at least its founders – to be an anti-American group, as they’re Stalinists or some such. I believe we can say that Stalinists are objectively anti-American.

    People who said stupid things that could be used against us by our enemies were saying anti-American things, even if generally speaking they aren’t for the most part anti-American themselves. Jim McDermott, Patty Murray, Cyndi McKinney, etc.

    I’m sure some opposition to GWII was based on convication rather than America bashing or political or financial advantage.

    I don’t want to get into a discussion of borders and such, but I was specifically referring to the NWO/Open Borders crowd in the above comments. Those who want to turn the U.S. into the EU or increase the power of the U.N. over the U.S. or invite millions of third-worlders to the U.S. would cause irreperable harm to America, and they are clearly anti-American.

    [What the fuck is wrong with this site? How many times do I have to try to post this? Also, fix the blogads thing. On the lastest Firefox (as with older NNs) sometimes it covers the whole page.)

  43. I apologize for having to make this apology.

  44. One may find some interesting nuggets in the anthropological realm.

    Here’s one nugget that may or may not answer Hanah’s original
    question. ?An anthropologist at UC Santa Barbara compiled a list of
    Human Universals.
    These are traits exhibited by all known human cultures.

    Among the universals in the list:
    overestimating objectivity of thought

    The list can be found here:
    http://condor.depaul.edu/~mfiddler/hyphen/humunivers.htm

  45. Since giving women the right to vote likely has moved the U.S. towards the policies Lonewacko has no doubt would cause the U.S. irreperable harm, then people who back voting rights for women are clearly anti-American.

  46. Lonewacko,

    “Some was, some wasn’t. I would consider ANSWER – or at least its founders – to be an anti-American group, as they’re Stalinists or some such. I believe we can say that Stalinists are objectively anti-American.”

    I don’t consider any ideology to be anti-American; indeed, I believe its rather “American” to accept any ideology as legitimate – keep in mind I am discussing ideas here, not actions. In fact, the freedom of open ideological markets in America is part of what makes America strong.

    “People who said stupid things that could be used against us by our enemies were saying anti-American things, even if generally speaking they aren’t for the most part anti-American themselves. Jim McDermott, Patty Murray, Cyndi McKinney, etc.”

    I don’t consider the utterance of stupid things to be anti-American either; indeed, to be blunt, I find your attitude to be anti-American and invitation for government censorship.

    “…or invite millions of third-worlders to the U.S.”

    Clearly I’m anti-American then in your eyes; I have no issue with open borders, and you have no issue with being a xenophobe.

    “Those who want to turn the U.S. into the EU…”

    Actually, it is the EU which wants to be like the US, not the other way around.

  47. fyodor,

    Women earned the right to vote; some even went to prison to get it.

  48. John said that the Democrats started getting nasty when they lost their New Deal grip in the eighties, but he seems to be off by one decade and one political party. It seems the current vitriol entered the political landscape with the advent of severe Clinton-bashing in the nineties. Sure, lots of left-wingers criticized Reagan, but I don’t recall any of them hawking videos claiming that Reagan murdered dozens of Americans and then covered it up. People criticized Nancy for having too much influence on her husband, but no members of the left-wing media accused her of murdering her friends and making it look like suicide. Meanwhile, I don’t recall any ‘mainstream’ left-wingers claiming that anyone who opposed Clinton was a traitor.

    A few days ago I read an interesting op-ed in the LA Daily News, titled “Confessions of an ex-Clinton Hater,” in which the writer confessed that he had participated in wholesale Clinton-bashing during the 90s, but now that that same vitriol was being directed toward HIS president he finally realizes how corrosive such attitudes are to democracy.

  49. Continuing our dialog, Gary Gunnels intones: I don’t consider any ideology to be anti-American; indeed, I believe its rather “American” to accept any ideology as legitimate

    I accept AQ’s ideology as legitimate within their context. However, their ideology is anti-American by its very definition. They would like to establish a world-wide caliphate that would destroy America. That is objectively anti-American.

    There might be a line where advocating their position is OK but doing something about it isn’t. One could certainly make a slippery slope argument.

    I don’t consider the utterance of stupid things to be anti-American either; indeed, to be blunt, I find your attitude to be anti-American and invitation for government censorship.

    When your country is in the middle of a war and you utter statements that give aid and comfort to your country’s enemies, you have committed an anti-American act. There are ways to say the same things without being anti-American. Jim McDermott et al. don’t have that filter.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean they should be tried for treason, just that they should be denounced as having said anti-American things.

    Clearly I’m anti-American then in your eyes; I have no issue with open borders, and you have no issue with being a xenophobe.

    “Those who want to turn the U.S. into the EU…”

    Actually, it is the EU which wants to be like the US, not the other way around.

    Clearly Gary you’re talking out of your ass. Vicente Fox has already stated he’d like to eliminate the border between the U.S. and Mexico, and his good buddy George Bush probably agrees. There are many people in the U.S. who envision North America becoming a superstate in the style of the EU.

    Like I said, I don’t want to turn this into a borders discussion, but I’d imagine you know as little about that as you do about globalists.

  50. The recent ugliness has more to do with the power of Baby Boomers in American politics. Nobody demonized Reagan or Bush Sr. because at that point the Silent generation was in power, who were, by and large, much more interested in compromise. Many Baby Boomers just don’t seem to have the patience for that sort of thing, which is we’re seeing the growing use of rhetoric in our politics. Just as every problem in the 70s was a struggle between good and evil, every problem today is a matter of absolute life or death.

  51. I don’t consider any ideology to be anti-American indeed, I believe its rather “American” to accept any ideology as legitimate

    Other people have already dealt with the highly-dubious assertion that being “American” has ever meant displaying a complete lack of ideological judgement.

    I just want to point out that there is more than one meaning to the term “anti-American”, and you’ve only addressed one. You’re arguing that it is impossible to be opposed to American *values*. I think you’re completely wrong, but that’s a moot point, because it is definitely possible to be opposed to America itself.

    ANSWER is allied with the other side in a war that America is fighting; it is “anti-America”, which means that (as per standard English language usage) its agents can be accurately called “anti-American”.

  52. “That’s an interesting anti-elitist message, one that directly contradicts the Republicans’ view of themselves and their opponents.”

    It also shows the dangers of judging the agenda of a group merely from their rhetoric, especially when said rhetoric comes from a leader of the group whose most famous trait is his mendaciousness. Democrats may actually believe that of themselves, but when it comes to actually putting those words into concrete actions the Democrat come up with terribly expensive, one size fits all solutions which harm the individual citizens right to make decisions for himself (Social Security, MediCare, public schools). In fact, I think that this is the one defining trait of Democrats: they ultimately cannot bring themselves to trust in their neighbor’s ability to take care of himself. Plus, they also seem to believe that for one person to gain, another must suffer. Hence their love of taxes on people they describe as “rich” and unthinking support of racial preferences. After all, the people they are taking from don’t actuall need what they are losing, do they?

  53. This really isn’t as complex as some people like to make it. Instead of getting all wrapped up in the micro nuances of what “we think the role of government is …,” it’s worth taking a macro view, and remembering what the real deal is.

    Here’s the real deal.

    By the 18th century, we’d progressed enough, and learned enough, to realize that freedom — specifically, individual liberty — was not only the proper moral choice for civilization, but was the best pragmatic course as well. It took a few thousand years of societal evolution to get there, but we did.

    The cool thing is that we’d also just discovered this huge hunk of unused land sitting on what was then the other side of the world. Quite a fortunate coincidence: a big open place where this new enlightenment stuff could be put into action from scratch.

    But a monkey wrench was thrown into the whole deal. While all this stuff came together — the recognition that individual liberty was the way to go, and America was a good place to start it — we also decided that democracy should come along for the ride. Democracy would be the machine that ran the freedom thing. That made sense. After all, everybody was cool with the whole “individual liberty” notion, and giving individuals a voice, via voting, seemed a natural way to go.

    Of course, it didn’t take long to discover that democracy was a real bitch. Less than a century, really. Rather than acting as a mechanism for preserving freedom, democracy became freedom’s biggest threat. It became clear there was a real incompatibility between democracy and freedom. The inalienable rights of an individual were at the mercy of other individuals’ rights to vote them away.

    And vote they did, steadily eroding the very freedom that democracy had been set up to protect. Bit by bit, pieces of liberty were taken away. Democracy allowed us to steal money from each other. It allowed us to take property rights from each other. It allowed us to give liberty-raping powers to our presidents and other representatives.

    When you keep putting “lawmakers” into office every two, four and six years, they’re going to keep, like, making laws. Precedent builds upon precedent, and eventually we just take for granted that government has a “role,” that it exists to “fix” things — fixes that involve taking away pieces of freedom. Two hundred years of that makes you wind up with a whole bunch of freedom taken away.

    THAT is the reason we sit here in 2004 quibbling over “politics” and “parties” and “policies” and who’s best at “running the country.” It’s the result of two centuries of democracy. Our devotion to democracy has made us forget what America was supposed to be about in the first place: freedom.

    The bottom line: “Politics” and “policies” and “parties” and “running America” are completely compatible with democracy. But they’re utterly incompatible with liberty.

    Neither the Republicans or Democrats are “evil.” They’re simply the inevitable product of a flawed system that has elevated democracy/equality over freedom/individualism.

  54. And do you suppose that the millions of slaves in this country would agree with your thesis, Sam?

  55. Of course that was supposed to have been past-tense. Accidentially hit post instead of preview.

  56. Shem, I don’t grasp how slavery would undermine Sam I Was’ point about the problematic aspects of democracy. I have not the first clue what system could replace democracy without also eroding freedom, but he is right; when 51% can vote to take money from others, they likely will. When 51% of moralists think All Who Commit Sin X must be stopped, they will likely vote to stop them by law. No Constitution can be written tightly enough to prevent a sympathetic judiciary from allowing an errant majority to prevail.

    I’d be interested to know, from Sam, what alternative to democracy he thinks is workable. Myself, I’m inclined to go with Churchill’s (by now cliche) that democracy is the worst form of govt, except for all the others.

    –Mona–

  57. Ahh, the old “liberty wasn’t a valid concept because some people kept slaves” fallacy.

    Enslaving another human being sits behind only murder and physical torture on the hierarchy of Really Shitty Things People Do To Each Other. But the fact that some people in the 18th century mistakenly failed to view Africans as real humans doesn’t invalidate the concept of individual freedom.

    Honestly — what part of my “thesis” regarding freedom-versus-democracy would have been viewed as invalid by “millions of slaves”?

  58. If you think politics are vicious today you’ve never studied 19th century American history.

    i don’t think anyone can say human nature has changed since then; ambition is always capable of viciousness. but i DO think you can make an incontrovertible argument that the concept of self-limitation, both private and public, HAS changed — that is, it’s gone, sacrificed to the temporary ascendancy of free will. the institutional controls that worked for a while after the constitution were put in place are essentially gone.

    moreover, the conception in the main that history is more important than ideology, that history clearly illustrates that those who *know* they are Right are often dreadfully wrong, and that limitation is therefore in one’s self-interest even if one knows one is Right — all that is gone as well. and that’s the difference between much of 18th/19th c politics and 19th/20th/21st c politics, imo.

    When your country is in the middle of a war

    i find this assertion as relates to al qaeda, repeated ad nauseum daily in every mainstream media outlet, to be very amusing. another clear illustration of how terribly trusting americans are in what they’re told, in spite of everything they can see around them with their own eyes.

    one day, three years ago, as many dead as we kill in a holiday weekend on the freeways — and that’s War and no one can question it without being Un-American. how sad for us all.

    This really isn’t as complex as some people like to make it.

    sia, the reason your explanation is simple is because it’s an abstracted falsehood, which misapplies contemporary reductivism and current ideology to a past that saw things very differently than you imagine.

    imo, western individualism is not the cumulation of all human history, but only one of many periodic bouts of the stuff which all recycle into collectivism with time; and the march of emanicpation and individualism against medieval collectivism are *responsible for* — not repressing, but causing — rousseau’s dregding up of that lowest of all forms of government, the plebiscitarian democracy, which has so thoroughly infected the west.

  59. What Jeff Smith said.

    I think a lot of the rank and file in both parties is motivated by populist values, and the people at the top manipulate that.

    Democrats appeal to populist resentment of crony capitalism, but in practice their “populism” is a technocratic elitism that requires the managerial state to carry out. Not to mention they use populist rhetoric to sell economic policies drafted by an army of corporate lawyers and investment bankers.

    Republicans, likewise, appeal to populist resentment of cultural elites. But it’s a phony populism in which the chief villains are unions, welfare moms, bureaucrats and “trial lawyers.” Opposed to these villains are the ordinary workers and small businesspeople of Norman Rockwell’s America. Listening to the Republicans, you’d never get the idea that a plutocracy even exists.

    I’m really irritated by the David Brooks kind of populism that confuses class with culture. Class is all about wealth and power. I don’t give a rat’s ass whether somebody reads the New Yorker or knows which fork to use. A member of the upper class who drinks longnecks and picks up brush on his “ranch” is still a member of the upper class.

  60. John,

    By your logic, anyone who opposed GW II after it commenced was indeed anti-American, no matter what their rationale. This means, according to your logic, that once the U.S. is committed to *any* military action, opposition to such is anti-American. This appears to blow apart the notions of “individualism” that you and others appear to be preaching and is indeed a rather nasty form of collectivism.

  61. John,

    In the view of a Stalinist, sure Stalinism would have been good for America and therefore is not inherently anti-American, if anti-American is wanting what is bad for America. Of course, everyone believes they want what is best, so wanting what is best (or not) is meaningless. I concur with gaius that “anti-American” is a pretty shallow charge. Stalinism was bad (and terrible and awful and horrible) because of the nature its vision of government and because of the way its figurehead treated his citizens, not because it Americans per se opposed that vision and treatment (notice that it was pretty much Americans’ choice to oppose Stalin and therefore make Stalinism “anti-American.”)

    I will backtrack a tad here and say there is a certain degree of anti-Americanism in the reflexive nature of some on the left and around the world oppose what America does because America does it. I attribute this to America being a big fat target because of its success in terms of economic and military strength. While I have little doubt this sentiment exists, and I consider it a subversive agent to healthy thinking about the world, I would hesitate to use to denigrate someone’s argument in any particular case because it is analogous to an ad-hominen argument. That is, if someone’s argument is bad, one should be able to show that with a better argument and without needing to resort to impugning that person’s motives. And it’s essentially impossible to say for sure if someone has such motives in any particular case, even if one has reason to suspect it.

  62. To follow up with an example, I suspect Noam Chomsky of having an anti-American bias in his analysis of world events. Yet, I would never use this to argue against his position. Quite to the contrary, I would expect such invective to only weaken my case. Better to simply explain why he’s wrong.

  63. I think a lot of these comments are a clear example of how many people like to paste their ideology onto to past periods and assume that those people in the past thought like them. But one has to wonder if the current ideology was some similar to that in the past why when the two are actually compared the past looks so different. Its a bit trite to say, but the past is a foreign country and trying to find support in it for current positions is fraught with danger.

    I do have to say that Lonewacko’s comments do remind me of a group in America’s past – the Know Nothings, with their anti-Catholic and anti-immigration stances.

  64. fyodor,

    I think we are generally in agreement.

  65. You can disagree with military action and still hope that it turns out for the best. To hope that it turns out otherwise, is despicable. I happen to be one of those people who risked their lives for the liberation of Iraq. I have seen the mass graves, the Shias in the south of Iraq living in dirt, the prisons, the lists of the disapeared, the whole nine yards. It is one thing to think that the war should not have been launched for purely legal or practical reasons or to think that the war was not handled properly or to believe that containment of Saddam was a better option or that the benifits to the Iraqi people and the world outweighed the cost. These are all reasonable arguments, which although I don’t agree with them, I would never say they are anti-American or obscene. If you, however, hope that the Bathists win and want to see American soldiers and marines dead, you are not a patriot by any stretch of the imagination. You have ceased to have the best interests of this country at heart. More importantly, in siding with Saddam and the Islamists, you have allowed yourself to be allied with a true evil. Any of you who thinks otherwise are just deluding yourselves.

  66. You can disagree with military action and still hope that it turns out for the best. To hope that it turns out otherwise, is despicable.

    what if you think that “turning out for the best” in the long run is, in fact, losing now?

    history is replete with examples of groups and nations who would have been better off getting their first finger burned than not and subsequently sticking their whole arm in the fire. the reality of preserving our collective well-being is more complex than ideological my-country-right-or-wrong nationalism, imo.

  67. So,

    Gauis you basically are of the opinion that the world would be better off if Saddam were in power still killing in the neighborhood of 10,000 people a month. How does that make you at best someone who is completely indifferent to the fate of anyone who does not happen to be an American or at worst a Bathist who apparently thinks that the people Saddam would be murduring today deserve what they are getting.

  68. Gauis you basically are of the opinion that the world would be better off if Saddam were in power still killing in the neighborhood of 10,000 people a month. How does that make you at best someone who is completely indifferent to the fate of anyone who does not happen to be an American or at worst a Bathist who apparently thinks that the people Saddam would be murduring today deserve what they are getting.

    john, i have little care to police the world — not because i do not see whaat i consider injustice in it, but because i do not think we are capable of offering better.

    *regardless* of the ideology that decides today’s right/wrong/good/evil/moral/amoral, my reading of history is that the entity that attempts to do so supplants the murderous dictators it does only by becoming what it once beheld. and so does it seem to me now.

    saddam was not my idea, nor my preference. but i firmly believe, with history as my guide, that being the global arbiter of justice and morality means *fundamentally* being the global dispenser of injustice and amorality. the effect is *inseparable* from the cause — and ideology that dreamily proposes otherwise has been seen and disproved many, many times. need anyone be reminded that the promise of marxism was once widely held by the masses to be — throughout the west, including the united states — the salvation of all the world, the only moral form of government, the endgame of social development?

  69. John,

    “You can disagree with military action and still hope that it turns out for the best.”

    Your argument is once the government does something, its anti-American to oppose what its doing – especially in the theatre of warfare.

    “I happen to be one of those people who risked their lives for the liberation of Iraq. I have seen the mass graves, the Shias in the south of Iraq living in dirt, the prisons, the lists of the disapeared, the whole nine yards.”

    And this changes the nature of the debate how?

    “If you, however, hope that the Bathists win and want to see American soldiers and marines dead, you are not a patriot by any stretch of the imagination.”

    Well, you see, now you’ve changed the locus of debate; it was anti-Americanism before, now its patriotism. Stick to one topic.

    “You have ceased to have the best interests of this country at heart.”

    That’s merely your opinion; indeed someone could clearly think that its in the best interest of America to lose this war, or otherwise unilaterally withdrawl. What one has ceased to do here is ceased to hold views that you think are in the best interests of the country.

    “More importantly, in siding with Saddam and the Islamists, you have allowed yourself to be allied with a true evil. Any of you who thinks otherwise are just deluding yourselves.”

    Thanks, I really enjoy such finely worded hyperbole. 🙂

    John,

    “…the world…”

    I thought we were talking about America here? Now its the “world?”

  70. “Anyway, I don’t think libertarianism is distinguished by a desire to give minorities a greater voice. True, libertarians believe in freedom of speech, but we are hardly alone in that regard. What distinguishes libertarianism is antipathy to the initiation of coercion.”

    Fyodor: Thanks for taking the time to respond to my fumbling attempt to lay a predicate for a discussion of the practical constraints on libertarianism. The issue I am trying to raise is this: What is the best mechanism for restraining coercion in a democracy? The only answer I have been able to come up with is to pursue political strategies which prevent the creation of the necessary consensus to get a coercive law passed (i.e., divided government). I confess that I am not very satisfied with this answer. I’ve been reading Reason Online for 6 months now, and I haven’t seen any helpful suggestions. Even Reason writers seem to agree that the Libertarian Party is a joke. The idea of persuasion sounds good to me, until I contemplate specific examples of whom we are trying to persuade, then it seems hopeless.

    At the risk of a major digression, I also have some questions about the foregoing quote: If this accurately summarizes what libertarianism is, what distinguishes it from classical anarchism? Or do you disagree with the proposition that all governments are inherently coercive? What would a “libertarian government” look like? If there is such a thing, don’t its tenets become compromised immediately by the implied concession that at least some coercion is appropriate? And what the heck does “initiation” of coercion mean? If that opens the door to some exception for “defensive coercion” I think you can say goodbye to ideological purity as far as libertarianism is concerned. Or maybe I’m still not getting it. If I should be reading a book to answer these questions instead of asking you, let me know.

  71. “Your argument is once the government does something, its anti-American to oppose what its doing – especially in the theatre of warfare.”

    Jean-Gary, his simple point is that there’s a difference between opposing a war, even after it’s started, and actively rooting for the enemy to win. In other words, there’s a difference between denouncing the conflict and calling for the troops to come home, and hoping that they’re killed and defeated in battle.

    The first position is by no means anti-American, or anti- whatever nationality whose troops are in a conflict. The second one clearly is, at least unless you make a “long-term benefit” argument similar to the one that Gaius Marius is making.

  72. Eric II,

    If you oppose a war after a war has started, then you neccessarily desire that the war be lost – one way or another. According to John, etc.’s line of thinking (at least from my reading of it), that makes one an anti-American.

    And my name ain’t Jean.

    “The second one clearly is, at least unless you make a ‘long-term benefit’ argument similar to the one that Gaius Marius is making.”

    Clearly its not, which you even appear to admit.

  73. one day, three years ago, as many dead as we kill in a holiday weekend on the freeways — and that’s War

    Our average yearly highway fatalities are also substantially higher than our average yearly combat fatalities during the Vietnam War. Are you going to argue that THAT wasn’t a war either?

    and no one can question it without being Un-American. how sad for us all

    You can question it without being un-American. You just can’t question it without being un-Intelligent.

  74. fyodor,

    I think by “greater voice” Ron means veto power. While libertarianism is essentially about liberty, to define “consensus” as something more than “majority rule” and more like “extreme majority (90%) rule” gives a minority more veto power; in juries it’s either 100% consensus or it’s not consensus.

  75. There are sure a lot of smart people here whith a lot of comments (also very long).

    As unsophisticated chump who happens to own a business I have to say my years under Republicans seem to be a lot less threatened then by my time under Democrats.

    I love porn and pot – but that seems more lip service by the Republicans then the tax increases, environmental regulations, labor laws, ect… that seem to actually happen under Democrats.

    I guess that is why I hold my nose everytime I vote Republican – I wish the Libertarians would come up with a more “realistic” platform, but hairshirts seem to be what they prefer

  76. Russ D,

    Actually, with regard to juries, that’s not true – at least in civil cases. Indeed, as I recall from Civil Procedure, there are even cases concerning criminal law where a “hung jury” can bring a conviction. This variety is largely due to the differences in state law on this issue.

  77. Are you going to argue that THAT wasn’t a war either?

    the casualties surely weren’t a valid cassus belli, as mcnamara can tell you now — nor was the cassus belli that got sold to us. in fact, the gulf of tonkin incident was completely fabricated for a hysterical anti-red public, was it not?

    it has little or nothing to do with the casualty count — i would assert pearl harbor, in its context, was a valid opening shot to a war.

    but what happened on 9/11 begs for competent international police work, not invasions and empires and hopelessly utopian global democratic revolutions. nonetheless, in america unbound, it seems there are no small responses — even if rational ones are hard to come by.

    You just can’t question it without being un-Intelligent.

    lol — that’s certainly the jacobin opinion.

  78. “If you oppose a war after a war has started, then you neccessarily desire that the war be lost – one way or another. According to John, etc.’s line of thinking (at least from my reading of it), that makes one an anti-American.”

    The point, again, is that there are different ways to hope a war is “lost”. To repeat, there is nothing inherently anti-(insert nationality) about advocating defeat through withdrawal, but there usually is about rooting for defeat on the battlefield, and thus for the country’s soldiers to be killed by the enemy.

    You might root for battlefield defeat on ethical/moral grounds, but that doesn’t change the broader point. Only an argument based on long-term interests, which are normally difficult to make and always clouded by realpolitik, would change it.

    “And my name ain’t Jean.”

    Yes, it’s probably not – more likely an alter ego.

  79. Regarding dogmatism in politics, I just saw a speech given by David Brooks on C-SPAN recorded at the L.A. Public Library recently, and he opined the reason why people believe the worst of the opposition is that they spend all of their time talking to like-minded individuals who reinforce and strengthen their convictions. According to him over half of all Democrats surveyed after Reagan left office believed that inflation had risen during his eight years in office despite the fact it had dropped almost two-thirds.

  80. Eric II,

    It ain’t an alter-ego either.

    “Only an argument based on long-term interests, which are normally difficult to make and always clouded by realpolitik, would change it.”

    Which means there is nothing “inherently” “anti” about rooting for a battle field loss either. BTW, how can something “ussually” be “inherent” – either it is inherent or it isn’t, correct?

  81. “Which means there is nothing “inherently” “anti” about rooting for a battle field loss either.”

    True, even if I think the instances where the exception holds are relatively rare. But none of this changes the fallacy of your initial claim about people like John believing that anyone who advocates withdrawal is taking an “anti” position.

  82. Eric II,

    Its not a fallacy; that was indeed John’s position, and you’ve done nothing to undermine that reading of his statements. Indeed, all you’ve done is merely try to create your own alternate definition of anti-American.

  83. Russ D,

    I’m not sure if I understand. I would say that while the argument for requiring supermajorities for passing new laws is intriguing and may appeal to many libertarians, the concept is not intrinsic to libertarianism per se.

    Ron,

    Oy, libertarianism versus anarchy!! 🙂 Well first of all, if by defensive coercion you mean self-defense, it is definitely not off limits to libertarians and probably not to most anarchists. In short, libertarianism holds that the one thing that justifies the use of force against someone is that person’s violation of someone else’s rights to self or property, which is intrinsically a form of force. The primary thing that distinguishes libertarianism from anarchism is the acceptance of a state to be arbiter for determining who violated someone’s rights and deserves to be subjected to punishment or force. Presumably a “libertarian government” wouldn’t “look” any different from any other except that it would likely be much smaller, take on only those responsibilities a libertarian considers to be proper for government and only take action against people who have violated someone else’s rights to self and property.

    I recommend Libertarianism In One Lesson, a short book that sums things up quite nicely. I forget the author, but you could probably look him up as easily as I! 🙂

    Gary,

    Yes, we agree on this!

  84. Marius sounds like he’s channelling mak_nas.

    Folks, let us not forget “Hanlon’s Razor.”

    “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

    http://www.jargon.net/jargonfile/h/HanlonsRazor.html

    …or to ignorance, or bad data, or self-interest or youthful indoctrination. The percentage of those who are truly evil is probably small, while the number of dupes is high.

    Kevin

  85. Jean-Gary, here were John’s original words:

    “You are not anti-American just because you think that the war was a bad idea or badly executed or both. You are anti-American if you are sorry the US won and were hoping for a 1000 Mogadishu’s in Iraq or call the terrorists there freedom fighters.”

    Later, he added:

    “You can disagree with military action and still hope that it turns out for the best. To hope that it turns out otherwise, is despicable.”

    Only someone with a deep-rooted love for playing semantical games would take those statements in tandem to represent a belief that someone who merely wants US troops to withdraw from Iraq, rather than be defeated in battle, is anti-American.

  86. As to the awfulness of modern political discourse, anyone who thought that Ronald Reagan wasn’t demonized either didn’t live through the 80’s as an adult, or wasn’t paying attention. Whether it was Jello Biafra accusing him – and Jerry Browne before him – of being a West Coast Nazi, or those who didn’t want him elected charging him with wanting to inflict nuclear war on the Communist countries, or those who claimed that cutting the rate of growth in school lunch programs would be “starving children to death,” RR was demonized plenty. Nixon and Johnson were both slammed as genocides for prosecuting the Viet Nam war. Perhaps what is different is that from the 50’s through the late 80’s, when the broadcast fairness doctrine was ditched, and television channels proliferated, media gatekeepers swept the more rabid criticisms into the fringe. In today’s media environment there is such a need by TV and radio yakkers to fill time and capture ears and eyeballs that the shriller representatives of a position “make better TV.”

    Kevin
    (in old coot mode)

  87. Who’s calling for 1000 Mogadishu’s in Iraq anyway?

  88. Kevrob,
    You are absolutely right. The Democrats said nastier things about Reagan and many of his cabinet members than even said about Nixon. The pathological Clinton hatred in the 90s was at worst just a mirror image of the pathological Reagan hatred in the 1980s. Democrats don’t like to talk much about that because history has proven them wrong about nearly everything in the 1980s from the Sandinistas to the alleged dangers associated with the budget deficit to the way to deal with the Soviet Union. To hear them talk now, they were all cold warriors then. They weren’t.

    Gary Gunnels,
    You are not anti-American just because you think that the war was a bad idea or badly executed or both. You are anti-American if you are sorry the US won and were hoping for a 1000 Mogadishu’s in Iraq or call the terrorists there freedom fighters. You are anti-American if you want GWB to loose so badly that you are sad every time there is good news out of Iraq or Afghanistan and secretly rejoice at every US casualty. The fact is I think a lot of the Democratic base do just that and are anti-American whether they admit it or not.

  89. I’ve always thought the party love shown in public discourse arose from a base of self interest.

    Some Propositions:

    1) People are politically motivated by single issues, not a complete philosophy.

    2) We live in a winner takes all system that creates two parties.

    3) Parties form coalitions around single issues. If guns are important, you know where your home is, likewise if civil equality for homosexuals is your hot button.

    4) The issues selected by coalitions are not necessarily connected by a philosophy at all, they are connected by a narrative that is pretty thin, but convenient and easy to repeat.

    5) Unless you want there to be no abortions, you’d better incorporate evil into your narrative describing the other party.

    We can’t all be reasonable at the end of the day, because it is all about protecting our One Issue, which the other guys are completely wrong on. Hence, Bill Clinton gets love from NOW.

  90. how much Barzun

    not much lately, but that which i’ve read carries a lot of weight. 🙂 a number of other lesser historians have dovetailed with barzun as well, notably claes ryn.

  91. Quoting: “Sam, it invalidates the point because it demonstrates just how wrong the idea that freedom drove the colonization of this continent is.”

    This thread among a lot of very perceptive comments prompts me to post for the first time. It seems to me that the central question for libertarianism is what “freedom” means in a societal context.

    I am struck by the fundamental truth in Hobbes’ observation that human beings “living in the state of nature” (theoretically, anyway) essentially agree to cooperate with each other in order to obtain security and prosperity. The key element of that compact is an agreed set of rules for behavior (and who gets to make those rules). Societies break down when consensus evaporates. The problem, of course, is that people disagree on what behaviors should be regulated (and how to go about it). To the extent there is agreement on the rules, the issue of “freedom” never comes up. Libertarians, I think, acknowledge this truth, but want the minority to have a greater voice when the majority wants to impose a new set of rules restricting behavior (usually the minority’s). THIS IS INHERENTLY A LOSING PROPOSITION IN A DEMOCRACY, where the majority prevails, and this is also why there will never be a consistent majority to support libertarian principals.

    Democracy helps preserve societies, in a crude way, by improving the odds of reaching a consensus. There are limits, however. If the same “49%” group loses every debate (or refuses to accept defeat on a particular issue), you will have social unrest and eventually a civil war. One way to mitigate this problem is to encourage an economically and socially diverse society in which the winners and losers are likely to be different from issue to issue (what a bright guy Alexander Hamilton was!).

    As noted above, for libertarians, the fundamental problem with democracy is that a majority can almost always be found at any given time to approve restricting someone’s behavior, taking their property, etc. Unfortunately, the Bill of Rights is often an insufficient impediment to this. The bottom line is that it is too easy to pass laws. Some people have figured this out, at least in the context of trying to limit tax increases, by proposing that a 2/3 supermajority be required to approve them. The disadvantage of requiring supermajorities is that an irrational or self-interested minority could block a vitally needed change (then you’re back to civil war, societal collapse, etc).

    Political discourse has always been nasty (in varying degrees) because as many (perhaps more) people are motivated by emotion as they are by rational argument. This has been true throughout history, and seems to me to be a fundamental aspect of the human condition. Unless we can put Plato’s “philosopher kings” in charge, I think we’re stuck with it.

    My advice to libertarians–vote for divided government every time; the fewer laws we have, the better.

  92. Sam, it invalidates the point because it demonstrates just how wrong the idea that freedom drove the colonization of this continent is. The Puritans were less concerned with freedom and more concerned with creating a place that was properly devoted to God, in short, a theocracy, almost certainly the least free type of government in existance. The Mid-Atlantic was colonized to make money, and the South started as a series of penal colonies. Freedom doesn’t significantly enter the equation until some justification is needed to avoid paying taxes to the governing authority, at which point freedom suddenly becomes the most important thing in the New World. Meanwhile, after the Revolution is won, freedom gets thrown right back out the window, and the slaves, and the women, and the men who don’t own property have to go back to waiting for anything resembling enfranchisment, which one can argue, is one of the most important ingredients for freedom. After all, just how free can you be if you have no recourse when somebody makes a law you disagree with?

  93. “Gaius Marius”, just how much Barzun have you been reading lately?

  94. You are anti-American if you are sorry the US won and were hoping for a 1000 Mogadishu’s in Iraq or call the terrorists there freedom fighters

    and now, to demonstrate the nonsensical nature of so simplistic a concept as “anti-american” — what if you hoped that the usa would get their asses soundly, profoundly kicked in iraq, iran and anywhere else they may venture for the sake of empire IN THE BELIEF that the united states’ future is best served by learning the negative lessons of empire early in the count and foregoing such adventurism in the future, when the costs may be vastly higher?

    then, it could very solidly be stated that one is “anti-american” in the short term BECAUSE they are pro-american in the longer view — right?

    thus you understand my contempt for people who simplemindedly tag others with negatively connoted abstracted terms like “anti-american” while having no meaningful insight into their thought process.

  95. Ron,

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say that Libertarians “want the minority to have a greater voice when the majority wants to impose a new set of rules restricting behavior,” unless maybe you’re refering to the freedom/democracy differential expressed above and believe, wrongly, that antipathy to democracy is inherent to libertarianism. But no, while we may all recognize that democracy and freedom are not one and the same thing, many of us still believe that democracy is clearly the best political arrangement for securing liberal values, and those who express criticsim of democracy rarely if ever offer alternatives, which leads me to believe they essentially think the same thing, even if they derive some aesthetic value out of grousing about the failures of democracy.

    Anyway, I don’t think libertarianism is distinguished by a desire to give minorities a greater voice. True, libertarians believe in freedom of speech, but we are hardly alone in that regard. What distinguishes libertarianism is antipathy to the initiation of coercion. This somewhat falls under the “rules” governing behavior that you speak of, except that libertarianism limits its discussion to the rules that are enforced by force, as opposed to ye olde folkways and mores.

    Anyway again, regarding whether libertarianism in inherently a losing proposition in a democracy, you essentially join a slew of others in pointing out the obvious obstacle to libertarianism in a democracy, which simply stated is that if a majority wants to restrict a noncoercive behavior and the constitution doesn’t prevent them from doing so, they get their way. Hardly rocket science there. Others have pointed out certain dynamics that further lend themselves to this result, and they make some good points. OTOH, not all possibly restricted behaviors are restricted, obviously, and some, such as sodomy, enjoy more freedom than ever before. Experience shows that it is not impossible to convince a majority to change its mind about restricting a noncoercive behavior. This by itself shows that libertarian philosophy is not somehow dead ended by democracy. The fact that no modern nation (with any form of government) has ever adopted a libertarian program across the board is irrelevant unless one attributes no value to any level of freedom short of absolute.

    Well that’s enough for now. Thanks, BTW, for your description of the advantages of our semi-democratic and faction based system. Well stated!

  96. Lonewacko Blog,

    “There are many people in the U.S. who envision North America becoming a superstate in the style of the EU.”

    Well, the EU has yet to become a superstate; the U.S. already is a superstate – indeed, that happened in the 19th century. You’ll note that EU boosters would like the EU to become the United States of Europe; this demonstrates their desire to become a geo-political unit like the U.S.

  97. This guy:

    “The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military,” Nicholas De Genova, an assistant professor of anthropology and Latino studies at Columbia University, told the audience at Low Library Wednesday night. “I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus.”

    From Newsday, 28 March, 2003

    Defeat Troops, Professor Says Wants ‘a million Mogadishus’

    By Ron Howell STAFF WRITER

    http://www.mail-archive.com/pen-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu/msg78592.html

    Regarding libertarianism and democracy, I would emphasize that our governments’ policies should be arrived at by democratic means, but that a libertarian view circumscribes the set of decisions appropriate to that process. Much more is left to the individual or to private groups than other types of democrats would be satisfied with. Our constitutions already allow for supermajorities for some decisions, especially those impinging on those constitutions themselves. Setting certain areas off as immune to the majority’s will, as in the Bill of Rights, is seen, even by many hyperdemocrats, as a necessary structure that makes democracy possible. Before the Supreme Court’s fold on campaign finance law, I would have said that committment to freedom of expression was one of these untouchable ground rules.

    Kevin

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