Friday, September 18, 2009

I Like Our List Better

Liberal and conservative bloggers were asked to name the "columnists, bloggers and television or radio commentators [who] most helped to shape their opinion or worldview."

The liberals answered (in order) Paul Krugman, Rachel Maddow, Frank Rich, Bill Moyers, and Digby. A Nobel Prize winner, a Rhodes Scholar, a former top government official, a New York Times columnist, and a blogger who I admit I don't read and know little about.

The conservative list was (again, in order) Charles Krauthammer, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Steyn, Jonah Goldberg, and Eugene Volokh. A Washington Post columnist, a UCLA law professor, and three utter morons.

UPDATE: Geez, I leave to pick up a prescription for Grandma, and the entire house comes down! Alas, while Krauthammer is fine enough for a conservative pundit, and Prof. Volokh is without a doubt extraordinarily intelligent (and someone I have plenty of respect for), any movement which lets their opinions be "shaped" by Rush Limbaugh or Jonah "I don't need to read Herbert Spencer if I can just ask experts to tell me about him and then ignore what they say" Goldberg (or Jonah "Black political movements are just one big blur to me" Goldberg) is in truly sorry shape. It might be slightly unfair to group in Steyn with these anti-luminaries -- but only slightly, as Steyn is pretty far from what you would call a distinguished intellect. The point being, I'm tired of the soft bigotry of low expectations that surrounds the American right. It's not like there have never been high caliber conservative public intellectuals before. Is this really all you want out of your movement? Raise your game!

Look -- I recognize my elitist fantasies wherein liberals are primarily influenced by Martha Nussbaum, Iris Marion Young, John Dewey, Richard Rorty, and (sure, why not) Paul Krugman, and conservatives take their cues from Friedrich Hayak, Robert Nozick, Richard Posner, Michael Oakeshott, and Leo Strauss, are never going to come true. But we could elevate the discourse a little bit, no? Judge Posner is a whip-smart conservative public intellectual. Antonin Scalia certainly is never far from the public eye. I have (liberal that I am) objections to the vast majority of the conservative commentariat, but that doesn't mean I can't draw a qualitative distinction between a George Will or Reihan Salam and a Rush Limbaugh or Jonah Goldberg.

This, of course, doesn't address the point made by some that intelligence isn't what we should be looking for from our influences, but something else (apparently raw demagogic popularity). To the extent that is the real objection -- conceding that a Limbaugh doesn't have the book larnin' that a Krugman does but possesses that ever-nebulous quality of "common sense" -- then I default back to my original conclusion, that I like our list better. I'm perfectly willing to stake my claim upon the terrain of ideas, and leave conservatives to the field of snickering bon mots and rabble-rousing. It may be unsporting to engage in intellectual combat with an opponent so clearly unarmed, but such is the world we apparently live in. I'd rather it weren't, but it is.

99 comments:

PG said...

If people are made respectable by being columnists for major daily newspapers, it should be noted that Goldberg is a columnist for the LA Times.

David Schraub said...

True, but his primary affiliation is "moron".

Anonymous said...

You are a stupid motherfucker

Michael said...

Your premise is faulty

David said...

I detect an emanation from your penumbra.

Patrick said...

You can call names all day, but Rush is well on the way to being a billionaire, Jonah's a best-selling author - and his best seller is a history book, and Mark's written a brilliant book about population decline and it's meaning for all of us, not to mention that he writes brilliantly on a huge range of issues.

Oh, and BTW, Krauthammer used to be a psychiatrist.

You may not like them, but they move millions, and they're smarter than you give them credit. Oh! *That's* the reason for the name calling.

Anonymous said...

Patrick wrote: "You may not like them, but they move millions, and they're smarter than you give them credit. Oh! *That's* the reason for the name calling."

Actually, I think the reason for the name calling is that they're smarter than David. Galls him, I suspect.

lacegrl130 said...

I adore the three "morons" and read everything they write - the left should be so blessed...

PG said...

but they move millions, and they're smarter than you give them credit.

It's the use of the first clause as evidence for the second that most disturbs me about Patrick's comment. Alas for the passing of William F. Buckley, who did not equate popularity and the ability to make money and sell books with necessarily having said anything particularly intelligent.

McDonald's makes more money than all of the growers and direct-to-consumer retailers of fresh vegetables in the U.S., and in the contemporary conservative's mind, this means McDonald's must be better for you than fresh vegetables. Hey, they're making more money, and people would only spend money on what is good for them! It's not like people spend money on what is cheap and easy and agrees with their existing tastes.

Anonymous said...

Describing Krauthammer simply as a 'Washington Post columnist' is a statement that even morons would snicker at.

Go ahead, ask them.

Jeffrey said...

Well they're certainly not as smart or influential as some anonymous blogger on blogger.com

Tamaqua said...

Laddy - graduate law school - get a job - find a nice girl - get married - raise a family for a few years - and then I'll let you tell me who's a "moron" and the relative value of a Rhodes Scholar.

Anonymous said...

You clueless libs.....

Anonymous said...

It's pretty revealing statement on liberalism that every single one on your "liberal" list likely considers every single one on the "conservative" list to be an unrepentant racist.

Anonymous said...

My Dad had two PhDs (Pathology and Chemistry) and was the Chairman of the School of Medicine at a University, but was completing lacking in common sense. He needed help with the simplest of matters like opening a can of soda. My Mom was only a high school graduate and started as a lowly file clerk at the largest county hospital in all of California. But by the time she retired she had climbed her way up all the way to the third highest administrative position, where she hit a glass ceiling. She had all the common sense in the world. Argumentative exercises like Mr. Schraub's above only serve to tell me about the limited amount of experience possessed by the person postulating the argument.

PG said...

and then I'll let you tell me who's a "moron" and the relative value of a Rhodes Scholar.

Or, you know, you could ignore every opinion that doesn't already agree with what you believe. That seems to be the M.O. for the kind of people who are most influenced by Limbaugh, Goldberg and Steyn. I'm married to a Republican, and even he describes Limbaugh as an "entertainer." (He's not currently working in politics, so it's safe for him to say that without having to scurry back out and apologize to Limbaugh.)

I've read both of Limbaugh's books. He's occasionally funny and has some good gimmicks, but his research and statistics are poor; his logic frequently descends to ad hominems; the conclusions of his arguments don't necessarily follow from his premises; his grasp of science is weak. He gives people what they want to hear in a way they'll find entertaining. He's a triumph of the free market. The only bad thing about Rush is that some people assume everything he says is correct, and that's not really his fault, it's theirs.

Patrick said...

Hi PG,

I just remarked that they move people, and they're smarter than they've been credited here. I wasn't trying to say that because of the first, hence the second. I think you're reading more than I intended. But you needed to misunderstand me in order to expel the rest of that steaming pile of bile, didn't you?

Anyway, I love the use of the word "disturbing." It's second only to "controversial" in the liberal lexicon of put-downs for those who disagree. I believe the use of "disturbing" is supposed to make me recoil, as would a vampire exposed to a cross. Sorry. Not gonna happen.

As for the rest of your note, well, concentrate, would you? You're all over the place. McDonald's? What's that all about?

To answer the point lurking in the murky undergrowth of your prose, in my experience, the conservative movement is much more diverse than the liberal left, which tends to run a bit doctrinaire, in my experience. For example, I rarely eat at McDonald's, preferring to eat as close to the food chain as I can.

PG said...

That's funny, my parents are somewhat similar to those of Anonymous -- my dad is a physician, my mom has a junior college degree. And yet despite my dad's frequent lack of common sense, he still knows more about his field than my mom does. Somehow, "common sense" does not immediately endow a person with knowledge or the ability to use it.

PG said...

"I just remarked that they move people, and they're smarter than they've been credited here."

If you weren't trying to use popularity as evidence of intelligence, what is your evidence that they are in fact smarter than David has credited them to be?

"I believe the use of "disturbing" is supposed to make me recoil, as would a vampire exposed to a cross."

No, dear, the point of my saying that you're disturbing is that I recoil from you. I'm not sure you understand what the word "disturbing" means. If A is disturbed by B, A is the one recoiling; B may be totally unaffected and oblivious to A.

As for the rest of your note, well, concentrate, would you? You're all over the place. McDonald's? What's that all about?

Sorry, I forgot my audience and thought obviously sarcasm would be understood. The point about McDonald's is that merely because something is popular and profitable, that doesn't mean it improves your mind or body.

Patrick said...

Hi PG,

Oh, com alnong now! You overlooked, abstracted, and twisted to serve your purpose - to find me "disturbing."

I *love* this leftist approach of finding people "disturbing" as prelude to coming down with a touch of the vapors, as a way to make those who disagree feel bad about themselves.

That said, you are livelier than the owner of this blog. Anyone who publishes under the name "The Debate Link" and then sinks to name calling is too funny for words.

Tamaqua said...

To "PG"

Or I could just point out the hubris of an ingenue and suggest another way before referring to fairly accomplished people as "morons."

Please have a grand weekend.

Patrick said...

Oh, and by the way, I like our list better.

Matthias said...

Wait... Rachel Maddow is notable for being a Rhodes Scholar, but Charles Krauthammer is notable only as a columnist?

He has an MD. He also has a Pulitzer Prize. Did you feel those weren't worth mentioning? Or are you really so stupid that you didn't know?

Steyn and Goldberg are both #1 bestselling authors.

Limbaugh is widely noted as changing the entire structure of the radio business with his rather brilliant syndication model. Forget his politics for a moment and recognize that his biggest achievement is really an entrepreneurial one.

Also... Bill Moyers was a top government official? He was the press secretary.

Hucbald said...

I think our morons are more intelligent than your a-listers.

Patrick said...

Hucbald is brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Most thinking people now recognize employment with the Times and receipt of a soft-science Nobel to be akin to winning "Most Popular" at Karl Marx High. It might get you through the velvet rope in Washington but it doesn't mean your IQ is anything special.

Patrick said...

Well, Krugman did have his day. Of late, however, he has gone a little nuts.

Maddow, Rich, and Digby are almost unknown to me, so I can't really comment. Moyers, on the other hand, I have seen and heard often, and he's never struck me as anything but a doctrinaire leftist, unable to do much beyond spouting leftist bromides.

Anonymous said...

Paul Krugman, the only economist alive who thinks that the New Deal wasn't large enough - http://tinyurl.com/4m322z

Frank Rich, teller of Fairy Tales - http://tinyurl.com/ntrmll

Bill Moyers, Homophobe - http://tinyurl.com/apy3xl

and two people who I really have no clue who they are. I am glad that is your list and not mine.

Anonymous said...

I hate to break it to you but this blog entry equals pure fail. As usual with the left, instead of actually presenting an argument they resort to finger pointing and name calling. MTV politics at its finest...

Anonymous said...

You should thank Mark Steyn. He was kind enough to link to this failblog and quadrupled your total hits!!

PG said...

as a way to make those who disagree feel bad about themselves.

I assure you, I always assume the kind of people who equate popularity with intelligence are incapable of feeling bad about themselves. And if you weren't equating popularity with intelligence, then I ask again, what's your evidence for Goldberg's or Limbaugh's intelligence?

If you consider Mark Steyn to be brilliant based on a book in which he declares that the population of Muslims in Europe (currently 20 million) can grow enough by 2025 to displace 200 million non-Muslim Europeans -- can grow by a factor of 10 in the span of 20 years -- then I'm skeptical of your statistical skills too.

Or I could just point out the hubris of an ingenue and suggest another way before referring to fairly accomplished people as "morons."

Assuming that someone must be wrong because he is young, without actually refuting his claim, is an example of an "ad hominem," for those of you who didn't understand what I meant in my critique of Limbaugh's books in their role as political arguments. (I have nothing but praise for them in their role as entertainment for those who are like-minded to Limbaugh.)

Steyn and Goldberg are both #1 bestselling authors.

Here we go again with equating popularity to intelligence. I strongly suspect all these people think that Dan Brown has brilliant, original ideas that are well expressed. I mean, he's a #1 bestselling author! Ditto Danielle Steele.

Anonymous said...

You know it's gotta be killing this guy that he spent all this time putting together a blog that no one reads just to show how smart he is, and when they finally do, it's to see him point the finger and call someone a moron.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant analysis of Steyn, Goldberg and Limbaugh! I'm sure you read Liberal Facism and America Alone and have spent some time listening to Rush before arriving at that conclusion. I'd love to read an exposition that refutes their analyses in detail. However, I understand that it's a lot harder to do that than simply calling them morons. I can't wait until you're practicing law and filing malpractice suits! Best of luck in your pursuits.

PG said...

More statistical greatness from Steyn, from his "Mailbag Extra" today:

A reader points out, "And yet, somehow, the infant mortality rate is significantly higher in the US than it is in the UK."

Mark's response: "That's to say, it's not just that they have fewer infant deaths, they have fewer infants, period."

Evidently the concept of a rate, in which the number of deaths is divided by the number of infants, such that in a country with fewer infants there also would have to be proportionately fewer infant deaths, is a bit beyond Steyn's ken.

Meanwhile, this guy's fanclub pooh-poohs economics as a "soft science" in which a Nobel is meaningless.

David Schraub said...

Meanwhile, this guy's fanclub pooh-poohs economics as a "soft science" in which a Nobel is meaningless.

Them's fighting words at the University of Chicago.

Anonymous said...

The question was limited to "columnists, bloggers and television or radio commentators". My conservative worldview has been shaped by people like Milton Friedman and Antonin Scalia (Nobel Prize Winner and Supreme Court Justice). Maybe the relative credentials in the lists reflect the propensity of liberal intellectuals to seek fame and attention more than conservative intellectuals do?

Anonymous said...

George W. Bush was also a former top government official. I suppose that makes him a good candidate for helping to shape others' opinions and worldviews.

PG said...

I'm pretty sure Krugman's already had his fighting words with the University of Chicago and the rest of the "freshwater economics" gang.

I meant to write about this at the time and then forgot: doesn't Krugman's beloved Capitol Hill Babysitting Co-Op example ignore the role of sticky prices and wages? If the coupons have a set value of 30 minutes of baby-sitting time, then their value cannot fluctuate with their accumulation. Currency that has a set worth in terms of the service it can be used to pay for will inherently cripple the economy's ability to adjust to stockpiling behaviors.

Of course, there is stickiness in the real world, too: employers are slow to cut wages and benefits (unfortunately, they're more likely to cut some jobs altogether, as we've seen at big law firms that have laid off associates without reducing the wages of those who remain). But it seems to me that stickiness and other forms of transaction cost (because readjusting compensation is a transaction cost) are acknowledged by all economists.

I hope Krugman is not correct that Chicago et al. no longer teach any Keynesianism at all. I had a fairly conservative economics department (I remember getting a recommendation from one of my profs who said, "I'm happy to do it despite how much we argued in class"), but we still learned the basics of Keynes. It was a close-enough-to-coastal school, though.

Jack said...

OMG! Theres a tea party at your blog, David!

Anonymous said...

It took two degrees from Ivy League schools and about 20 years in the real world before it fully dawned on me that there are no bigger morons on Earth than over-educated children who have yet to live life. Nice bit of analysis though. Mark Steyn was tickled enough by it to give you some undeserved linky love.

David Schraub said...

I don't see any reason to suspect that liberal intellectuals are more driven to seek fame and fortune than their conservative peers. It's a fair point to note that many of the top conservative dogs I mentioned are not really in the mainstream media (though Posner definitely is, as a regular blogger). But there are some (such as Thomas Sowell, who oscillates between perfectly fine economic analysis and advocating military coups), and likewise there are liberal demagogues who are not intellectuals but work as commentators (e.g., Michael Moore, Al Sharpton). But note how they're not on the list.

PG said...

George Will (one of the conservatives David acknowledged to be a cut above the rest) is a columnist and TV commentator, and he has a much sounder grasp of history than any of the top 5 on the list. (Although I agree that Volokh is excellent in his field of law, and moreover has the sense to be cautious when he ventures outside his specialty, which more bloggers would do well to emulate.)

Other conservative columnists:

Robert Samuelson (except, oops, he's one of those "soft science" economists);

Peggy Noonan (like Moyers, a former presidential speechwriter; she's sometimes a bit silly but she is a more decent person than Limbaugh while still having good instincts for the emotive side of political ideas);

Tony Blankley (another former presidential speechwriter).

Heck, just look at the conservative columnists whom Obama thought were safe to have a meal with, without their frothing so much they'd get their spit in his food.

Patrick said...

Hi PG,

I refer you to the remarks made by others, some moments ago.

I'm afraid you are beclowning yourself. I'd encourage you to stop before you look like an angry, whiny loser.

PG said...

Patrick, talking to people who are apparently incapable of providing evidence for their contrary claims always makes me feel like a winner, at least in a debating sense. And you have seen the name of this blog, I hope?

Nearly every comment from you and your ilk has consisted of one or more of the following:

(1) No, YOU'RE a moron!
(2) More people listen to Rush Limbaugh than listen to you, so he must be smarter than you are.
(3) You're in your 20s and a grad student who is unmarried, so you lack the True Wisdom [that apparently only three failed marriages like Limbaugh's can grant].
(4) Being a Rhodes Scholar or winning the Nobel Prize in Economics are no indication of intelligence. Common sense is what counts, and I am the authority on what constitutes common sense.

Anonymous said...

I have seen a photo of Krugman's acre-sized monster mansion. Hard to take anything he says on the inequities of the capitalist system or the perils of global warming seriously after that. Typical Liberal hypocrite telling everyone else how to live while ignoring his own advice.

As for Steyn and Rush, both are great entertainers and provide a unique view on politics and culture. I am surprised you did not slam them as "former DiscJockeys" but I guess you thought "moron" covered it.

natesparks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"McDonald's makes more money than all of the growers and direct-to-consumer retailers of fresh vegetables in the U.S."

link please.

Mr. Smartypants

Anonymous said...

I didn't have the good fortune to attend any schooling past grade 11 in Canada but it took me about 5 seconds to recognize this post as just more bed-wetting, intellectual wanna-be, drivel from some snot nosed punk who has all of 24 years of life experience.

There are intellects on both sides but only one side enjoys the wisdom of common sense. Say what you will about Goldberg, Steyn ( a pretty funny writer, actually) , etc. but I'd be just as embarrassed about hailing the thought capacity of a theater critic with a Mel Gibson obsession, an anti-semetic, economist who once advised Enron and the rest of the left's slate of influential heroes.

Sure, Krugman is read by about 900,000 people, Maddow reaches a little over a million. Rush averages about 20 million per broadcast, not bad for a poorly read, idiot.

Fuck, the left's pretentious preening never ceases to amaze me.

PG said...

I think that last comment manages to hit all 4 categories I've identified. Note that none of the partisans of "common sense" who have commented thus far have defined what this is and how they know who has it and who doesn't -- beyond "X agrees with me and therefore must have common sense; Y disagrees with me and therefore lacks it."

Anonymous said...

Both libs and cons are total trash. People need to stop identifying themselves with dumb labels that don't really describe who they are. I'm religious, guess I'm a conservative. But I have a gay sister who i hope can one day marry her partner, guess I'm a liberal. It's a goddamn see-saw, and the everyone here is along for the ride. Make up your own minds, and quit listening to idiots like Bill Moyer and Rush Limbaugh.

Anonymous said...

Hm, they are "morons". You argue real good. I'm convinced!

Kris said...

I find it fascinating that PG must compulsively respond to nearly every post. While I disagree with his condescension towards conservatives – a good idea is a good idea regardless of source. If narrow-minded folks insist that the source of a good idea negates the “goodness” of the idea itself, then they miss out on its benefits.

Anonymous said...

Okay PG, I'm the Canadian who stated that the right enjoys common sense and you wonder how one defines that. Further you argue that ability to reach a larger audience dosen't, in itself, show superior intellect.

Well first, the original post, discussed the most influential personalities, not the smartest.

Heck, if it all about inteelect then I will grant you that, in his field, Krugman is obviously brilliant. But that hardl makes him wise. Common sense is wisdom.

If we are looking for a definition of common sense, I would put forward that common sense is the ability to make choices or be an advocate for, policies that improve society. And for decades, people on the left have advocated for policies that, while soundiong warm and fuzzy in theory and making their propenents feel good about themselves, have damaged society.

How many times must we see liberal policies fail the people they are supposed to help? Welfare, education and now healthcare. Do we really think that our education systejm is better today than it was 40 years ago? Or our minority populations are in better shape.

The condition of these and other areas are a direct result of 40 years of democratic management (it dosen't matter who is in the white house. These areas are the realm of local city and regional governments, an area that the democrats have had a monopoly of power.)

I hate to bring up this ACORN fiasco, but this didn't happen in a vacuum (sp?). It's systemic and if the management of these areas were within the power of right wing values, it would never have ocurred.

The right is not afraid to say no, even though it appears that we are uncaring and oblivious to human struggle. But it's actually the exact opposite. We say no because we understand that making the hard choices works out in the long term. Heck, just equate every sociaol policy to how you would manage your family. Do you teach your kids about desiring peace instead of chracter? Equality over personal accountability? The list goes on.

Sorry for the long post but I just shake my head at what I perceive to be blatantly obvious. Theses discussion always remind me of liberals who extoll the wonder of how Cubans have such great accesss to healthcare and how high their literacy rate is. But noone wants to talk about the totalitarian nature of their society and yes they can read, but only what the government wants them to. And everyone has access to healthcare, but the quality stinks.

It's why, by the hundreds of thousands, their citizns risk death to get to the US. And why their leaders go overseas when seeking sophisticated medical care.

People who see things as they really are and not what they want them to be are wise and that is common sense.

Abuabasabat said...

"But we could elevate the discourse a little bit, no?" says the author of this post, Dave.

Why bother? I stopped at "three utter morons." I was completely bowled over by your “bon mot” … I mean your “intellectual combat.” It was also the end of your initial post.

Tell ya what. Let's put up Moyers against Limbaugh, Rich against Steyn, Maddow (who?) against Goldberg, Digby (who?) against Volokh, and Krugman against Krauthammer in 5 separate debates and see what happens. If the left would for one instant forget about its infantile snobbery, it might be surprised at who comes across as a "moron."

Regarding your later apologia:

"I'm perfectly willing to stake my claim upon the terrain of ideas ..."

The conservatives having no ideas, natch -- at least none approaching Obama's "hope!", "change!" and "action!" (not to mention the crease of his pants or the tenor of his voice). Let’s not forget the ideas of Obama’s friends, mentors, or colleagues while we’re at it either: from his preachers to his czars to his associates at ACORN (I mean the brilliant tax advisors, murderers, and whore-mongers that work there) we can see the amazing ideas flow.
Perhaps you can forgive conservative skepticism over leftist “ideas.”

"... and leave conservatives to the field of snickering bon mots and rabble-rousing."

The left never rouses the rabble (he said, tuning out the GW Bush years, the GHW Bush years, the Reagan years, the Nixon years, the sixties, the Cuban revolution, Mao, the rise of fascism, the Russian Revolution, the French Revolution …). Nor does the left snark, as we can all see. Like, here.

"It may be unsporting to engage in intellectual combat with an opponent so clearly unarmed, but such is the world we apparently live in. I'd rather it weren't, but it is."

Translation: "I am a supercilious twit and pretty damn smart too. Have you SEEN the price of argula recently?"

Anonymous said...

PG,

First of all, your attack on Steyn above makes you look bad. You removed his quote from context. Here's what he wrote (with the part in italics being what you left out): "But, even without taking into account the significant variations in the definition of "live birth", one thing you notice is that, by comparison with the United States, the countries with the lowest "infant mortality rate" have some of the lowest fertility rates on the planet. That's to say, it's not just that they have fewer infant deaths, they have fewer infants, period." By leaving out the first sentence, you make it look as if the "That's" refers to the mortality rates. I'd call it a cheap trick, except I think you really thought you had him; and yet, it's your poor reading skills that have been exposed.

As for your incessant calls for proof about the intelligence of Limbaugh, Goldberg, etc. - it's curious that you're so offended by the absence of proof for that, and yet seemingly untroubled by Mr. Schraub's unsubstantiated claim that these men are morons. So, apparently it's fine to call someone a moron without any supporting evidence, but calling them intelligent is out of bounds.

Chris Arndt said...

I wouldn't put forth that the Keynsians are the morons we should respect or follow.

Being a Rhodes Scholar is not very significant to me if what the end results of what they proposed to study in life didn't impress me.

Actually... three out of four of Debatey's lefties have pretty impressive achievements under their collectivist belts, but that doesn't change the fact that they advocate greater responsibility, control and power go to a large central government in a universe where the quality of useful information available declines the further one goes up the bureaucratic chain; the people whom should be enabled the most because they have access to the best knowledge fastest are the one deprived of power the fastest under the world view of Debatey's five.

Lovely. I don't care what Paul Krugman did in life that made him deserving of a world-renowned prize but judging from his words that I have read my 11-year-old nephew could kick his ass in a debate contest.

I mean, my 11-year-old nephew is really smart, and Krugman is probably more intelligent than I, but there is at least a good chance that he is dumber than a box of rocks and I only say that because I've read Paul Krugman.

Krauthammer, Limbuagh, Steyn, and Goldberg were at least smart enough to say that "freedom" (used responsibly, with an ordered and limited government) is a cure to many of America's ills and by gosh that impresses me more than any of their professional or educational or sales achievements.

David Schraub said...

Your definition of "common sense" sounds suspiciously akin to philosophical pragmatism, which basically says we should judge actions based on how well they actually work in terms of improving the human condition, rather than on their adherence to high theory (this, of course, has to be distinct from empirical debates over what the outcomes of particular policies are. If I think the policies of the past 40 years have improved the status of America's racial minorities, we're having an internal debate within the pragmatic tradition. If I think it doesn't matter whether the policies have had a good impact or not because I think they express an important moral principle, and that trumps, then we'd have a conflict in theory). I say "suspicious" because at least three of the five liberal thinkers I identify as being those I'd like to be the left's touchstones (Dewey, Rorty, and Young) all pretty explicitly work within that school (as does Posner on the right).

I definitely agree that we should judge actions not based on whether they make us feel good but on their "cash value" (to borrow from the great pragmatist William James), but it is beyond absurd to act like pragmatism is primarily a conservative movement (Posner, again, is a noted exception).

Conservatives have plenty of deep commitments to high theory that they will defend against concrete results. Neoconservatism was a recent obvious example -- that the theoretical importance of democracy promotion trumps any empirical scrutiny over whether our invasions our doing good (I speak as someone who formerly was sympathetic to the view). Jon Chait has noted size of government as another example; whereas liberals at least nominally only want to expand government if they think it will do some material good (that is, I wouldn't support expansion "on principle" even if I could be shown that the expansion wouldn't actually accomplish anything), conservatives value shrinking government as an independent moral principle (seeing it as an extension of liberty), even where it could be shown to make us collectively worse off, because the principle takes precedence. A commitment to the ideal of color-blindness, regardless of whether it empirically results in concrete improvements in race relations, is another obvious example of ideology trumping concreteness.

I'd note finally that I think the false binaries you set up, e.g., between "equality" and "personal accountability", are also not tough, grounded assessments about the world-as-is, but theoretical accounts that are pretty disconnected from actual practice. As Ta-Nehisi Coates mocked: "We have this construct of 'black people,'--or maybe liberalism--which holds that people who cite racism, must go home and tell their kids that it's fine to drop out of school. They can always say it was The White Man. They should do some crack while they're at it." There's no reason for those binaries to hold.

SEK said...

Now see, that's just weird. I came here to commend you on your choice in morons, and find myself linked in the post. Now, far be it for me to disagree with myself, but -- no, actually, I think I'm as correct now as I was then.

incessant calls for proof about the intelligence of Limbaugh, Goldberg

Limbaugh's a shrewd racist, but Goldberg, as that link up there demonstrates, is a dishonest and tendentious hack. That a legacy kid whose only talent is having been born to his mother is considered an intellectual luminary speaks very, very poorly of a whole swath of people.

SEK said...

the people whom should be enabled the most because they have access to the best knowledge fastest are the one deprived of power the fastest under the world view of Debatey's five.

Chris, your minimal control over the English language notwithstanding, even you would be a leading conservative columnist had you been lucky enough to have been born to Jonah's mother. You think you're arguing for a meritocracy, but in championing the opinions of undeserving pups of obscene privilege, you're actually doing the exact opposite.

Please, conservatives, for everyone's sake: Try harder.

Anonymous said...

David, Caniadian here.

Man, I already told you, I barely got through grade 11. Your response is way above me.

But I think you stated that my understanding of common sense is somethin akin to philiosophical pragmatism which says we should judge actions on how they actually work.

Well, duh? Kinda my whole point.

Stop thinking so hard. When your son's teacher calls you in because Johnny has stolen a classmate's chocolate bar, Johnny was bad and deserves punishment. When you are punished for an action, you learn to change your actions. When excuses are provided for you on why you acted improprly, you believe that you bear no responsibility for your action. And you do it again and again and again.

Just like when you work hard at school and really hard when you graduate, you become a partner at the firm and you are rewarded. My guess is that is your desire.

This isn't rocket scince. It's why us dumb, neanderthals (sp?) on the right get it.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck......It's why, in all my ignorance, I don't understand the left. But I think, way down deep, they think just like I do but somehow feel soiled by it because on the surface, it feels like selling out or losing one's idealism. I really don't know. But they can't really have thoughts that defy obvious logic.

steve burton said...

Mr. Schraub: you seem to be under the impression that "Friedrich Hayak [sic], Robert Nozick, Richard Posner, Michael Oakeshott, and Leo Strauss" are/were "columnists, bloggers and television or radio commentators."

But they are/were not.

Perhaps the reason that conservative bloggers did not name any of the above is because they...ummm...actually read the question.

Hope this helps.

Chris Arndt said...

SEK I give you great honor by bothering to address you by your chosen nomenclature... or I simply don't care enough for the effort of pursuing an apt nickname.

Over here.... http://dsadevil.blogspot.com/2009/09/i-like-our-list-better.html?showComment=1253311841280#c2270966884745419819

You missed my point entirely. I never argued for meritocracy (as meritocracy is not conducive to good representative government or great customer service in the private sector) in this context... I argued that smaller agencies are more responsive to the needs and desires of their respective constituents or customers (or audiences) than larger agencies are to the needs and desires of their respective constituents, costumers, or audiences.

That is a simple fact and hard truth... a practical truth... and is something that apparently would not occur to the modern Krugman or his co-leftists.

Actually I pay you great honor by choosing to use words instead of clicks and grunts... now I'm trying to remember where I know you from, only my friends, co-workers, and the lady at the bank calls me by my first name....

Abuabasabat said...

Take it from a clown who knows pretentious fools, SEK is da bomb.

(Why do the biggest ones have PhDs in English lit from places like UC-Irvine and failed to impress the lovelies in Baton Rouge?)

PG said...

steve burton,

Richard Posner blogs for The Atlantic and also with his colleague Becker.

If you didn't know that he blogs, I'm skeptical that you actually know much about Posner at all.

The rest of the folks you listed are currently dead.

kris,

While I disagree with his condescension towards conservatives

I don't condescend toward all conservatives, just the ones who think Limbaugh is a genius. My father and spouse are conservatives and two of the smartest people in my acquaintance, and I don't condescend toward either of them (except for my father's aforementioned lack of common sense in which he will do things like not pack his reading glasses and then get annoyed when he can't read the menu at a restaurant -- that's more like teasing than condescension, though). However, these two smart Republicans I know wouldn't count any of the Three Morons as people who had shaped their opinion or worldview.

steve burton said...

Oh dear - Posner has been blogging?

Sorry to hear it. He publishes way too much as it is.

The rest of the folks I listed are, indeed, currently dead. Kind of underlines my point - no?

PG said...

Well first, the original post, discussed the most influential personalities, not the smartest.

What y'all took issue with was David's assertion that three of those influential personalities were morons. Had his post omitted that, Steyn wouldn't have linked it and none of you would be commenting here.

If we are looking for a definition of common sense, I would put forward that common sense is the ability to make choices or be an advocate for, policies that improve society.

Except there is an ongoing debate about what constitutes improvement. Personally, I believe a policy under which children are not dumped into orphanages (Gingrich's substitute for welfare) or left to starve is an improvement in society. I believe a policy under which schools endeavor to teach children who don't speak English as a first language, or who have mental or physical disabilities, also is an improvement in society. I believe taking a person who is unconscious, bleeding in the street, to the emergency room without first ascertaining whether she is a citizen of the U.S. is an improvement on a society where we provide basic decency only to those we are absolutely sure are our fellow citizens.

But, even without taking into account the significant variations in the definition of "live birth", one thing you notice is that, by comparison with the United States, the countries with the lowest "infant mortality rate" have some of the lowest fertility rates on the planet. That's to say, it's not just that they have fewer infant deaths, they have fewer infants, period."

How is this longer quote any more of a refutation of Steyn's interlocutor's point about the UK's lower mortality rates? Steyn apparently thinks that lower birth rates will inevitably result in lower birth mortality rates. That only makes sense if he doesn't grasp that rates are proportions, not absolute numbers.

JonnyN said...

Firstly, Steyn is a writer and a very good writer at that: extremely funny and knowledgeable about a range of topics yes, but above everything else a writer with a superb turn of phrase - better than any other columnist I know of in the world today.

Secondly, so what if Krugman has a Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (there is technically no such thing as a Nobel Prize in Economics). It isn't as if his writing in the New York Times has anything to do with this. His writing in the NYT is just a mish mash of leftist talking points and insults to people who disagree with him.

Now Krugman is probably smarter than Steyn in some sense, but he is a much worse writer and has a terrible understanding of politics (something common amongst trained economists - but most are not as vicious as Krugman).

I've no idea who Maddow is (come on, Rhodes Scholar or not, at least tell me what she does!) but I do read Goldberg and Krugman and in my humble opinion Goldberg, although fallible, actually provides better analysis than Krugman does.

Now I say, "in my humble opinion", but by your metric my opinion is probably considerably less humble than yours is. If we were to compare degrees, universities and so on a like for like basis it is highly likely that I would beat you hands down and count as "more intellectual" than you. That's how you would judge things. I'd rather just take people's arguments for what they are and cut out the snobbishness.

PG said...

they advocate greater responsibility, control and power go to a large central government in a universe where the quality of useful information available declines the further one goes up the bureaucratic chain

Again, common sense/ wisdom = "agrees with me!"

The quality of useful information often is greater at a higher level. For example, if the only information you had was about how medicine is practiced in McAllen, TX, you'd probably assume (as the folks there generally do) that now that Texas has tort reform, a great deal has been done to reduce medical waste and so forth. If you have access to information at the state level, however, you know that El Paso is doing better on expenditures while serving a similar demographic. And if you have access to information at the national level, you know that the Mayo Clinic's model does better yet.

Abuabasabat said...

"If you didn't know that he blogs, I'm skeptical that you actually know much about Posner at all."

And conservatives say the Left is full of humorless prigs!

How old are you PG? Do you think we are all 24 years old here? Do you have ANY idea how long Posner has been around? Do you have the slighest clue as to what percentage of Posner's career has been spent blogging?

Abuabasabat said...

"Again, common sense/ wisdom = 'agrees with me!'" - Some prolific commenter

Humorless prigs: "Moron = one who disagrees with me."

So, there!

SEK said...

SEK I give you great honor by bothering to address you by your chosen nomenclature... or I simply don't care enough for the effort of pursuing an apt nickname.

I didn't realize this was a debutante ball, Mr. Arndt, Esq. But now that I do . . .

I never argued for meritocracy (as meritocracy is not conducive to good representative government or great customer service in the private sector) in this context...

Yes, you stood atop the slippery slope of the conservative idea of "responsibility," and I had the temerity to point out what was at the bottom. You shouldn't need me to tell you that when conservatives speak of "responsibility" and "smaller government," they're appealing to the idea that federalism abridges their individual rights. You shouldn't need me to point out that conservative opposition to universal health care is rooted in an ideology of personal responsibility along the lines of, "if you give people welfare, they'll never learn to take care of themselves." You shouldn't need me to tell you that the people who champion this ideology of personal responsibility are almost exclusively second-tier, second-generation recipients of conservative welfare like Goldberg, Kristol, Krauthammer, &c. However, your principled opposition to meritocracy tells me that this won't bother you.

I argued that smaller agencies are more responsive to the needs and desires of their respective constituents or customers (or audiences) than larger agencies are to the needs and desires of their respective constituents, costumers, or audiences.

I take it, then, your opposition extends to corporate America too? That you oppose free markets because, when left unregulated, they create actual or virtual monopolies?

That is a simple fact and hard truth...

And that is a bad cliche employed by those without wit enough to prove the validity of their ideas in open debate.

Take it from a clown who knows pretentious fools, SEK is da bomb.

Baseless insults that don't even attempt to address arguments are a sure sign you are in the presence of genius.

(Why do the biggest ones have PhDs in English lit from places like UC-Irvine and failed to impress the lovelies in Baton Rouge?)

As are attempts to insult/intimidate people by indicating that you have read their "About" page. You, good sir, are a winner on both counts.

Anonymous said...

PG, stop it, you're just making yourself foolish with this Steyn quote, because you apparently can't follow a fairly straightforward set of ideas. OK, here you go. Steyn wrote: "But, even without taking into account the significant variations in the definition of 'live birth', one thing you notice is that, by comparison with the United States, the countries with the lowest 'infant mortality rate' have some of the lowest fertility rates on the planet. That's to say, it's not just that they have fewer infant deaths, they have fewer infants, period."

What he's clearly saying is that countries with low mortality rates also happen to be countries with low fertility rates. I'm so happy you understand what "rates" are, PG, but Steyn does as well. He's leaving it open to discussion as to why exactly that is, but he's not pretending the one rate is what causes the other. He's suggesting there may be other cultural factors which make it logical that the one kind of country (low infant mortality rate) is also the other kind of country (low fertility rate). If you still don't get this, then I'll guess you can remain triumphantly happy in your ignorance. I only brought this up in the first place because I thought you were being blatantly unfair to Steyn, someone in whom I actually have very little interest. But, he deserves better than you're giving him.

PG said...

Firstly, Steyn is a writer and a very good writer at that: extremely funny and knowledgeable about a range of topics yes, but above everything else a writer with a superb turn of phrase - better than any other columnist I know of in the world today.

What is his knowledge about Muslim women's ability to reproduce faster than other humans?

It isn't as if his writing in the New York Times has anything to do with this.

Yes, a review of how economic thinking in America has influenced our political policies is completely irrelevant to being an economist.

I do read Goldberg and Krugman and in my humble opinion Goldberg, although fallible, actually provides better analysis than Krugman does.

Better analysis of what? Economics? Could you link to an example of this superior analysis?

Abuabasabat said...

Let me amend my earlier comment:

Humorless prigs: "Moron = one who disagrees with me ... and doesn't have a PhD from places like UC-Irvine. Or a JD. Or something like that. You know, letters after thier names. And awards. Major awards. From people who agree with me."

PG said...

How old are you PG? Do you think we are all 24 years old here?

I'm older than 24, dear. I don't know about you.

I haven't said that anyone was a moron for disagreeing with me. I've criticized Limbaugh for his command of statistics, science, and other areas of knowledge (not for his conclusions). I've criticized Steyn similarly.

He's leaving it open to discussion as to why exactly that is, but he's not pretending the one rate is what causes the other. He's suggesting there may be other cultural factors which make it logical that the one kind of country (low infant mortality rate) is also the other kind of country (low fertility rate).

To finish off quoting that para, Steyn says, "But, as a general proposition, I would say that, when fertility rates get as low as they are in Germany, Italy, Spain and elsewhere, to the point that you now have upside-down family trees of four grandparents, two children, one grandchild, it's hardly surprising that "infant mortality" is lower."

Why is it "hardly surprising"? He doesn't say. His only assertion here is that these countries have lower fertility rates, and it is therefore "hardly surprising" that they have lower mortality rates. How is this not connecting lower birth rates to lower mortality rates, which in turn suggests that he doesn't get that each rate is calculated independently of the other?

Birth rates = births/ number of people [or women, or women of fertile age])

Infant mortality rates = dead infants/ number of all infants.

Anonymous said...

PG,

This is the point in the argument where the rubber really hits the road.

You think that the right, in the micro, wants to ask the bleeding, illegal immigrant for proof of citizenship prior to giving them life saving, medical care.

What is wrong with the left? Do you actually think that I get up every morning and wish harm on another human? That you have some inate, higher morality than I do? That comment is representative of the definitive belief of the left. That the right is hateful and evil.

We don't belive that of you. Even though we believe that you advocate for policies that damage humanity, we just think, while good intended, you're wrong, not evil.

It astounds me to think that the left thinks that the right (a predominantly, Christian, caring group...someone circle the square for me that the most charitable people on earth, somehow are indifferent to leaving their fellow humans dying in the streetes over citizenship issues)doesn't have the same good intentions that they do.

We just believe that, in the macro, our policies are going to better mitigate the chance of someone dying in the street.

The charge the left so recklessy makes of the right as less than honorable, caring humans is despicable. And frankly, were're sick of it.

And again, facts and "common sense" show otherwise. We consistently give more of our time, our wealth and personal empathy to people in need. We just don't write abstract, book driven, psuedo intellectual op-eds about how to improve the world. Yes, we show it in our actions.

Abuabasabat said...

"Better analysis of what? Economics? Could you link to an example of this superior analysis?"

Krugman does economics? Who knew? I thought the guy just screams hysterically over anything Republican. I heard him say something once -- a long time ago -- about economics, but I thought HIS major award was for saying that "climate change skeptics are committing treason against the planet."

Silly clown I.

Chris Arndt said...

I never argued "common sense" either.

Abuabasabat said...

"As are attempts to insult/intimidate people by indicating that you have read their "About" page. You, good sir, are a winner on both counts." - SEK

Thank you, you pretentious boring boor.

Anonymous said...

go fuck yourself you screwball

Abuabasabat said...

No. Thanks for the suggestion; I just screwed your mother, child.

PG said...

You think that the right, in the micro, wants to ask the bleeding, illegal immigrant for proof of citizenship prior to giving them life saving, medical care.

I have seen several people on the right suggest that we should revoke the EMTALA, which requires emergency services to be provided to all, because it allows illegal immigrants to use emergency services. If I am found lying bleeding and unconscious in the street, how is anyone to know whether I am an illegal immigrant or not? I'm brown, which is a strike against my entitlement to ER resources right there.

Thankfully, people with such a mindset are the minority.

And Abuabasabat wins. In the face of such eloquence, I'll leave this thread to the dittoheads.

Abuabasabat said...

"In the face of such eloquence ..."

You mean Anonymous didn't win with "Go fuck yourself"?

"I'll leave this thread to the dittoheads."

Promises promises, PG.

PG said...

Oops, one last thing: Anonymous @ 6:24PM seems to believe I'm saying people on the right are hateful and evil and not advocating their policies because they believe it will serve society as a whole.

That's not what I'm saying at all. As I would have thought my comment @ 5:59PM indicated, people can support different policies, each believing that his preference is for the overall betterment of society. With regard to the provision of emergency services to illegal immigrants, I'm sure people on the right believe that our society is better served by conserving our scarce resources for those who are not lawbreakers and by creating ever-greater disincentives for people to engage in law-breaking in the first place. People just have different ideas about how much short term human suffering is acceptable in order to reach a long term societal goal.

FOR EXAMPLE, someone on the right might say that we shouldn't provide welfare services and free public education, which we currently do out of concern for children who otherwise couldn't afford these basic needs, because that just incentivizes parental irresponsibility. In particular, the existence of welfare, and policies that allow unwed mothers to stay in school, create an incentive for unwed motherhood. Conservatives believe the short-term human suffering that results is outweighed by the long-term improvement in our society. I disagree, but I don't say that makes conservatives evil.

Some conservatives evidently just feel evil themselves when they have to think about how certain policy proposals might play out in real life, as with the idea of refusing emergency services to people who haven't documented that they're not illegal immigrants.

Anonymous said...

Yes, PG, I'm sure there are people on the right who want to enact policy that denies care to illegal immigrants.

But, our belief, is you have to set policy that causes a change in the macro, in people's actions. That dosen't mean we lack the desire and the compassion to help those in dire need.

To change behavior, we have to start somewhere, and yes, that means not being afraid to be criticized for making the hard choices. Because, we believe, it will ultimately result in a better outcome for all.

Sorry to make the same family analogy but it hurts to discipline your child when you really just want to hug him/her...but it is the best thing to do to make them a better, more responsible member of society.

The point is, we must preach principles in the macro while showing compassion and care in the micro.

This is not a conflicting comment. We teach our children (and consequently, society)that we expect responsibility and accountability but when mistakes are made (and please, I don't think being poor and migrant is a mistake...just a choice of words), you provide compassion and assistance.

I struggle to believe, human nature being what it is, that offering unbridled assistance will change behavior. How can it?

If you grew up in an environment that tought you that you could get the necessities of existence without effort, why make the effort. Unless, of course, you wanted grander things.

And the people that want grander things work hard, innovate, risk capital, etc. And those are all good things. They cause employment, ideas and the further advancement of our society.

Joe said...

Lot of posts between here and the original post, but I just wanted to say it sure looks like an ad hominem to me. Really, an ad hominem by association. (Not to mention left/right dickwaving.)

Far more productive (at least from a "dialogue" perspective) to unpack the writings of those conservative bloggers and show how much of it is crap argument. Which isn't that difficult.

englisher said...

A transparent attempt to position the author above not only the people who contributed to the poll but some of the conservative columnists who came out on top.

Petty and egotistical, par for the course I guess.

Anonymous said...

Just got back from going to the grocery store to buy smokes. (I know, bad for you). And to top it off, that just ends a day of golfing and swilling beer. Good scotch is next.

I guess I'm an uncaring, republican pig. But heck, i feel ok about myself and know, that in a pinch, I'll be there for someone who needs help.

The funny thing is, among the usual snobby comments from the other uncaring republican pigs in the grocery store lineup, I heard some pretty derogatory comments about the current administration from the check-out staff (mostly Mexican immmigrants).

What the left fails to recognize (and will yell the mantra of racism, racism, racism, while they stick their fingers in their ears) is that there is an enourmous populist uprising going on. The public has finally reached the breaking point of hearing Al Sharpton, Nacy Pelosi, Barney Frank, et al, dismiss them as a bunch of uneducated, buffoons.

Listen, as I've stated previously, I'm a Canadian and by nature, not used to this hyperbolic polarization of political beliefs. But what I am witnessing is something extraordinary and seems to me, in my limited knowledge, as a a paradigm shift in political activism from the right.

And the left is just missing it completely. The strategy of denial and dismissiveness is going to haunt them for the next 20 years before the public forgets and re-elects a leftist for another failed 4 year experiment.

Thomas T said...

God, this thread is boring. Joe down here has it pretty close to right: It's a bunch of the same old tired left-right dickwaving, as he puts it. More politics as sports.

This whole "stupid"/"smart" framing -- which permeates so much of the political back-and-forth these days -- is a big waste of everyone's time. It's a useless distraction. It leads to long, boring comment threads like this one, where little of actual value winds up getting said.

All of you, on both sides, need to recognize and then heed a basic, fundamental fact: The "other guy" operates from a completely different starting premise than you do. That's all. It's no more complicated than that.

On average, he's no less smart, no less logical, no less erudite than you. He's simply starting from philosophical/moral point X, then through a process of logic and critical thinking arriving at final points P, Q and R. You're starting from point B, then through a process of logic and critical thinking arriving at final points J, K and L.

Braying about the stupidity of Jonah Goldberg or Frank Rich is to spin your wheels and miss the real action. You can't view the debate in midflight and deem the speaker "stupid" simply because his argument is headed somewhere different from yours. You have to remember, more than anything, where he started. THAT is where your disagreement ultimately lies.

When you keep that in mind, you'll stop wasting your time talking about intellect, you'll foment civility and -- best of all -- you'll construct far more effective arguments.

Anonymous said...

Thomas T,

Sorry buddy, but you're higher than thou, stop your ignorant back and forth, you little idiots, I'm smarter than you, dosen't wash.

Fuck, people like you (and I'm guessing you're from the right, like I am), are such snobs. I can be changed by argument. I was. I moved here from Canada, a dedicated social democrat. And, upon experience and reading, came to associate with the right.

For crying out loud, the middle decides who ends up in power in this country. Not dismissive, ideologues like your comments suggest.

And just as they drastically moved towards the Democrats in 2008, they can be moved, by argument, to the other side in 2012.

Your all knowing, "oh let the peons make thier silly little arguments" blather is typical of an elitist who really thinks anyone other than you dosen't have a valid argument.

I'm a prime example of your ignorant errors. Plus your snideness just pisses me and others off.

Rebecca said...

Daaaaamn. Where'd this get linked?

Patrick said...

WRT people who start from completely different philosophical positions, take Karl Marx and Ayn Rand.

Whose followers have killed more people?

Whose followers have lifted more people out of misery?

Now I like our list even better.

Thomas T said...

For crying out loud, the middle decides who ends up in power in this country. Not dismissive, ideologues like your comments suggest.
...

Your all knowing, "oh let the peons make thier silly little arguments" blather is typical of an elitist who really thinks anyone other than you dosen't have a valid argument.


I didn't call anyone here a peon, or imply any such thing. I didn't call anyone anything, in fact. I described the conversation as boring. And it is.

It's boring precisely BECAUSE it's not argument, and argument is what you're rightly exalting. It doesn't convince anybody of anything. It's just useless partisan attack on the alleged intellectual prowess of others, and thus actually SKIRTS real debate.

Of course it's the middle that decides who ends up in power. That's a given. What does that have to do with anything? My remarks were about a particular brand of conversation that has emerged, and which I think serves little purpose.

You may disagree. You may deem it productive to engage in "he's stupid," "no he's stupid" discussions. You may think it helps convince people of truths, or how to vote. But, given what you've written here, I suspect you don't, and that what has actually happened is you've simply misinterpreted my post. That could be my fault -- maybe my writing wasn't clear -- or it could be yours -- maybe you have preconceptions about comments like mine.

Whatever the case, "that guy is stupid" doesn't get anybody anywhere, and if you actually do think it's effective and useful, then we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

But my point is that "you're stupid, no you're more stupid" has its value. You may want to stand above the fray and think less of us for engaging in this pedestrian back and forth but I'm here to tell you that it has an impact.

The convincing of those in the middle has everything to do with it.Believe me or not, but I am newcomer to being politacally aware, reading blogs and thinking about these issues in general.

Heck, I didn't even vote in the last election. But, as a result of recent events and deciding to read and become somewhat aware, I have come to to some pretty strong feelings about things and certainly have made a distinctive choice in how I will vote in the future. I don't think I am alone in this evolution.

Your dismissiveness about "he said, she said" is either an elitist view of us political infants or a gross missundertstanding of the change in the landscape. People like me are, for the first time, paying attention. And if I understand the voting laws correctly, our votes count just as much as the politically seasoned and smarter class of people. No matter what side you approach it from.

Anonymous said...

It's Hayek, genius

EB said...

I was directed here ironically by one of the people you cite as a moron. I guess he wants to demonstrate the stupidity of your post.

Do people still use the joke, or variant "I don't want to have a war of words with an unarmed opponent." outside of high school and beer joints? Is that the way you demonstrate your superior intellect?

I've heard more compelling arguments from crazy guys living on the street.

Knemon said...

'Of course it's the middle that decides who ends up in power. That's a given.'

Not with our primary system, it ain't.

Anonymous said...

Just a small note: On the infant mortality subject, I've noticed Steyn's mentioned he's writing something on the subject, and is reserving making his argument until he's finished that. His responses to letters have given some hints of what it'll be, then a disclaimer that he'll be elaborating later.

I can guess where he's going, and I think it'll be debatable, but it's not a simple error of equating percentage with absolute numbers. It's an argument about culture.

Here's how I'd put it. A culture that has mostly planned and very wanted pregnancies is going to have way less infant mortality, because families are focused on the welfare of that planned and wanted child.

This is a good thing for children. However, the same factors that lead to this major investment in a child might also be the same factors that make childbearing rare, something that you only invest in once or twice, if you believe you have the comfortable situation/government support/emotional stability to do so. Which again, some people would argue isn't a bad thing, but might make it difficult demographics-wise to keep running a country.

I'm not sure if that'll be Steyn's argument, however. We'll wait and see.

PG said...

Here's how I'd put it. A culture that has mostly planned and very wanted pregnancies is going to have way less infant mortality, because families are focused on the welfare of that planned and wanted child.

This is a good thing for children. However, the same factors that lead to this major investment in a child might also be the same factors that make childbearing rare, something that you only invest in once or twice, if you believe you have the comfortable situation/government support/emotional stability to do so. Which again, some people would argue isn't a bad thing, but might make it difficult demographics-wise to keep running a country.


See Iceland, which has similar fertility rates as the U.S., but with significantly lower infant mortality rates. If Steyn tries to dismiss Iceland by pointing out that their population and thus total number of babies born is lower than in the U.S., we're back to his problems with grasping the distinction between absolute numbers and rates.

"The UN rates the US and Iceland as having virtually identical fertility rates (the US is ranked 127, Iceland is ranked 128). But Iceland has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world.

"There are countries which probably won’t be able to significantly lower infant mortality without lowering fertility rates — Niger, for example, which has about 7 births per woman, a number that’s way too high for health either of women or of children. But the US, with a fertility rate barely above 2 births per woman, is not in that situation. Because our high infant mortality rate isn’t being caused by a high fertility rate, we can lower infant mortality without lowering fertility."