Good questions. My 2005 answer was that the most persuasive arguments are sourced, sound and supported. Surely everyone from progressive to paleo-con agrees.
Er. . .perhaps not. It's difficult to debate those who presume their opponents are dumb--another academic study "proving" conservatives are stupid was published last month. And it's impossible to argue with those whose ideological bias so distorts the facts that they refuse to acknowledge accurate sources.
Which brings me to the debate sparked by AVI's June 1st post. In multiple disparate and lengthy comments--none of which had hyperlinks--"copithorne" took the opposite view. He asserted that "contemporary conservatism has ceased to be a philosophy of public policy and has become entirely about a sense of tribal victimization." "copithorne" continued:
For me the main currency of a constructive political conversation is: government policy is X. Government policy should be Y. . .I demonstrated in comments on AVI that copithorne made at least two errors:
Once again, I invited you to present policy arguments. And it just doesn't seem to be a subject that you or your friends here can marshal a response to. So, that will be a yawning gap between our understanding of what constitutes politics and what constitutes a meaningful conversation about politics.
It doesn't have to complex arguments.
The policy of the government was to torture people. We should not torture.
The policy of the government was to start wars. We should not start wars.
The policy of the government was to give tax cuts to the wealthy. We should not give tax cuts to the wealthy.
I could and did expand on any of those if they were unclear. But I was always interested in policies and outcomes.
1) The policy of the previous Administration was not to torture. Rather, they had a half-dozen lawyers carefully analyze the relevant definitions and reach logic-supported conclusions as to the scope of the prohibition. You may disagree with the outcome. You may dispute the reasoning. But you can't miss-characterize the facts, then accuse your opponents of wallowing in tribal victimization.copithorne's response:
2) The policy of the previous Administration was to cut taxes for all income levels. And they did--although the share of taxes paid by the rich went up, especially when comparing the top and bottom income deciles. So don't over-simplify the other side to conform to your pre-conceived image of conservatives.
Yeah, Carl, I go by the definition of torture used by the Red Cross, the FBI, General Petraeus and the one used throughout American history. I understand your tribe has your own private definition that works for you. From the outside that definition appears to be a rationalization.copithorne is debating blindfolded:
I don't understand how your remarks qualify my own policy views that it was a mistake to cut taxes for the wealthy which was a prime factor in moving the country from a surplus of 250 billion to a deficit of 1.3 trillion.
1) Please cite a legally-applicable definition "used throughout American history" that was violated. If the previous Administration's policy was pro-torture, why did Bush direct his lawyers repeatedly and agonizingly to research the law? If the intent was torture, the analysis would have been unnecessary. Contrary to your unsupported assumption, those memos tried to interpret the scope of the relevant legal limits. Please provide specifics of where such memos departed from settled law. Even lawyers who opposed waterboarding conceded it was lawful.I doubt copithorne can be persuaded. But that's not the point. The question is: can anyone? Or has debate died?
2) Please cite a source for asserting cutting taxes for the wealthy was "a prime factor" in moving from a $250 B surplus to a $1.3 T deficit. The Federal budget balance was dropping as Bush took office--a product of the recession Clinton bequeathed--and two years before his tax cuts were fully effective. Historically, tax cuts stimulate the economy and increase tax receipts, which is why even liberal Presidents have cut taxes. The Bush tax cuts were no different, and dramatically upped revenues and reduced the Federal budget deficit about 65 percent between fiscal years 2003 and 2007. Further, between 2003 and 2006, income tax receipts were up from both individuals ($250 billion) and corporations ($230 billion). The Federal budget deficit started increasing again in 2008. But that was the result of the current recession and credit crunch--tax rates remained essentially the same after FY07. And, of course, we're spending ever faster, so the deficit's now rising more swiftly--though most lefties still blame Bush. They ignore the fact that tax cuts were a more effective stimulus than spending hikes. By the way, Bush cut taxes for everyone--but the wealthy actually paid proportionately more. Between 2003-06, the share of income taxes paid by the top 5 percent of earners rose, while the share paid by taxpayers below the top 25 percent of earners fell (see Table 6). But copithorne still calls it a tax cut for the wealthy.
In comments on a previous post, AVI suggested that:
[L]iberalism has an enormous social component, the idea behind the study could be at least partly true. It takes skill and intelligence to read and adjust to social cues. People who have lots of brain material might indeed devote considerable resources to fitting in, not only to their immediate surroundings, but what they understand to be the culture as a whole and projected trends.New Yorker essayist Adam Gopnik chronicled a related insight about French leftists in his book Paris to the Moon (pages 96-97):
Isn't that how liberalism always sells itself, after all? This is where history is going. This is where coolness is going. This is where fashion and evolution and dominance and status are all going. Get on board, get on board.
[I]t's apparent (to us Americans) . . . that the theories they employ change, flexibly, and of necessity, from moment to moment in conversation, that the notion of limiting conversation to a rigid rule of theoretical consistency is an absurd denial of what conversation is.Interviewed by Robert Birnbaum, Gopnik's analysis of the French applies equally to copithorne:
Well replace fact (and factual for theory) in that last sentence and you have the common French view of fact checking. People don't speak in straight facts: the facts change, flexibly and with varying emphasis, as the conversation changes, and the notion of limiting conversation to a rigid rule of pure factual consistency is an absurd denial of what conversation is. Not, of course, that the French intellectual doesn't use and respect facts, up to a useful point. . . Conversation is an organic, improvised web of fact and theory, and to pick out one bit of it for microscopic overexamination is typically American overearnest comedy.
It's a society that values philosophers over lawyers. I like that about it very much. It also means that people can live in absolute isolation from reality. It's very hard to produce counter-evidence for an argument in France. You just make up another argument. I give the example in the book of fact-checking. No one I ever spoke to in Paris could understand what the point was of having a fact checker call to check the facts. The lovely thing about it is the tendency to always look for a way around it all.Conclusion: Debate demands supported and sourced syllogism. copithorne provides neither source nor support. Absent that, even sound logic can yield wrong results.
copithorne says debate has become impossible because "Democrats will lead. Republicans will complain." Maybe they're complaining about his failure to fact-check. And didn't the Dems spend the last 8 years saying "no"?
The left denies the existence of certainty. It's all relative; objectivity is a myth; science slipped to "the publication of untested (and often untestable) hypotheses." No wonder copithorne both insists he didn't "ma[ke] many comments at all speculating about motivations" yet looks into Bush's soul to discover the intent to torture and enrich the wealthy uniquely. Because that's his opening assumption. Put differently, copithorne's argument would prove that if you think Bush is evil, then Bush is evil. The valid and sound syllogism would conclude only that there exists some people who think Bush is evil--or who think Republicans can't debate.
If debate is dead, the murderer was post-modernism. Yet the table's still there and still square; as Samuel Johnson said in an analogous context, "I refute it thus."
(via Don Surber, Maggie's Farm)