Monday, April 18, 2011

The left simply doesn't engage our actual arguments

I was reading an article on why the left indulges in horrible behavior such as happened during Sarah Palin's speech in Madison, WI, and found an excellent comment by Thomas D:
The left simply doesn’t engage our actual arguments..

This is exactly what's been frustrating me with what I've been reading of the dialog between partisans.

There was an Ithaca Tea Party event today in downtown Ithaca, in front of Hinchey's office across from the library. There was a "counter" event across the street in front of the library. At least part of the crowd seems to have filed down after demonstrating against Bank of America for not paying enough taxes. There were lots of signs saying "Pay Your Fair Share".  Lots of "Tax the Rich" signs. One saying "Tax the Rich, Feed the Poor".

The thing about Bank of America I find just plain silly. If Bank of America isn't paying enough taxes--and it does seem pretty hard to swallow that they are paying zero--then the fault is almost certainly *not* with the Bank of America. Their fiduciary duty to their shareholders requires them to get the best tax treatment they can. If the rules allowed them to legally arrange things so they didn't have to pay taxes, then the rules are bad. The Congress that passed the laws or the bureaucrats that wrote the regulations are wrong. People should be demonstrating against the source of the wrong.

But leftists seem addicted to casting corporations as the evil super-villains that they're struggling against. There has to be a villain. When the source of the "evil" is poorly constructed rules, laws, regulations, systems that allow people to game the system. I guess it's not nearly so much fun to struggle against things like that. It reminds me of really bad fiction, where people have cookie-cutter villains who do evil things because they are Evil. Mustachio-twirling evil-doers. Real villains almost always think that what they are doing is right, unless they are broken in some fundamental way, like sociopaths.

The "Pay Your Fair Share" signs seemed really bizarre when applied to the Tea Party, because the people in the Tea Party are usually hardworking taxpayers. So maybe they were just left over from the Bank of America idiocy.

The "Tax the Rich" signs....Sigh. Such knee-jerk leftist silliness. Even if the government confiscated 100% of the money of the "rich", it would barely make a dent in the deficit. Can these people do math? Do they know even basic economics? It certainly doesn't seem so. I guess it's more of the "underdog" story they love so much. Also known as class warfare. And Envy. Wasn't Envy one of the seven deadly sins? I guess to some big section of the country envy has now become a virtue. That's sad.

So the left has constructed these "straw dog", false characterizations of the people who oppose them, and they demonstrate against that. Which pretty much guarantees that no actual learning will take place. Where are the left's ideas about how to deal with the crushing deficit we're driving into? They seem to just avoid that one, like they think their opponents are just making it up. Or maybe they think it will just go away. Countries all over the world are dialing back spending on the social safety net, because without some brakes on the system it could easily absorb every single dollar produced. It's really hard to find the left involved in discussions about that. Instead they focus on the "evilness" of anybody who disagrees with them.

It's odd that the left likes to think of themselves as the open-minded, tolerant segment of society. From where I'm sitting, they look pretty narrow-minded and bigoted. Not to say that there aren't narrow-minded and bigoted people among those who oppose the left, of course. My guess would be that in any large segment of society the number of narrow-minded, bigoted people probably stays about constant.

Dave Nulle took his sign "Honk if you pay too many taxes" and stood on the corner over next to the leftists on the library side of the street. It was pretty funny, because people driving up Green Street probably saw him first, and if they didn't have time to read the other signs may have gotten the mistaken impression that those people were anti-tax protesters. Hehe.

A bunch of sixteen wheelers driving by honked. I guess truck drivers think they pay too many taxes :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Happy tax day

Great post from Larry Correia: HAPPY TAX DAY!

It's possible that some of the alarmism is over the top...but I think it might be necessary to get people worked up to the point that they're actually willing to do something about it. If we limp along spending as much as we have been doing, the economy may crash, and then there will be nothing left to pay for a safety net.

Maybe I should think about making a bigger garden...

One thing that I've often noticed is that people from different political viewpoints are attracted to different stories. Leftists like the story where they're the underdog fighting against powerful evil forces. They like that one so much that they actually *invent* the evil forces. The Koch brothers idiocy is part of that. The typical knee-jerk leftist loves having evil corporations and right-wing conspiracies. Certainly there are rational people on the left. (Somewhere. Though they're hard to find on the internet...) I'm talking here about people who read lists of DailyKos/MediaMatters/NYTimes talking points and just swallow them whole, with no critical thinking at all. (I have many friends and relatives who fall in this group...)

I'm not totally sure what the equivalent prototypical story is for classic liberals (sometimes called 'conservatives', though in the current system it's actually those called 'liberals' who are the conservatives, since they're trying to maintain "the advances of the last fifty years"). Those old-fashioned stories about young boys who work hard and become successful certainly fall in that category. But you just don't see many of them these days. Need to give some more thought to this one...

What *are* the 'conservative' plots?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Who are the nice guys? .. with a tie to public sector unions

For decades I voted a Democrat ticket and considered myself liberal, but even during that period I knew that it wasn't because I understood the issues. It was because I looked around and it seemed that "people like me" and "nice people" were liberal/Democrat. I think it's important to change that dynamic, and I have hopes that now that the mainstream media has lost control of the message, we may get to see a real preference cascade in some places, where people will look around and see that there's a *choice* for "people like me" and "nice people".

There's an old saw that I've seen repeated from time to time: "Liberals think that conservatives are evil, and conservatives think that liberals are stupid." Like all old saws it's only partially true, but there is a nugget of truth. The liberal outrage at "conservative" positions tends to be of the kind: how mean! how unfair! that's not nice! that's not compassionate!  Conservative outrage at "liberal" positions tends to be of the kind: and how do you think you're going to pay for that? have you even *thought* about the unintended consequences? what happens when the productive people stop producing?

So the two sides are not even having the same arguments most of the time. Out of a sort of morbid fascination, I actually read the comments on some of the political articles, hundreds and hundreds of them in some cases. And I never ever see liberals presenting arguments having to do with how something will be paid for or whether the cost is worth it. They just skip those issues, even when other commenters try over and over again to get them to respond.

But the right doesn't do a very good job of opposing the leftist attacks on their "niceness" and "compassion". Partly it's because those attacks just feel plain silly. If you are somebody who would be labeled "right" by the left (I've heard claims that the definition of "right" is just non-left, since there's a pretty far-ranging grab bag of positions lumped into "right") then you know that you *do* care whether people have a comfortable old age or are able to get health care when they need. So the leftist nastiness just seems like so much screechy background noise. The problem is that those in the leftist echo chamber *do* believe those characterizations, and really *do* think of non-leftists as evil, nasty, selfish people.

So non-leftists needs to oppose those attacks, in order to enable those people who might listen to non-leftist arguments to have the emotional room to change their positions. Because even if someone starts to think that some of the arguments are reasonable and sane, it's very difficult for people to change their identity to a group that they've accepted as evil. It makes for a wrenching change in self-identity, and many people are just not capable of doing it.

Legal Insurrection has a great article on how to frame the arguments about reducing the power of public-sector unions: It brings up how important it is to make it clear that the motivation for the changes in the way we deal with public sector unions is not to "make the rich richer" or "attack middle class families". The motivation is to preserve our society and our country in a way that make it *more* possible for people to live comfortable, fulfilling lives.

It's important to keep reminding people that both sides in most of these arguments have very similar goals. They just disagree on the best way to reach those goals. It's built into human (primate) psychology to naturally think the best of your "team" (us) and think the worst of the other "team" (them). The compulsion is so strong that it's difficult to look at these positions without the filter of partisanship. But we all should try.

I've seen so much prejudice and discrimination from liberals, the exact behavior that they condemn in others. It's just the target groups that change.  As far as I can tell, there is very little difference in this behavior between any one group and another. Some groups are just more delusional than others. And there's a social exchange that goes on, in which people trade back and forth talking points and platitudes, that feels very soothing when done with people of the "same" kind.

But when it comes to things like the deep, dark hole that we're driving into with the economy and the deficit, we have to be adults and try to save what's best in our society. That's going to require effort and personal attempts to reach across the red vs blue divide. Even though it may make you uncomfortable, talk to people who don't agree with you; talk without the barriers that filter out all the information. We all might learn something.