Economy

The right isn't wrong, just stupid

Let’s try a little thought experiment here. What if the problem with conservatives isn’t that they are wrong, but rather than even when they are right their logic is so bad we can’t fairly judge the merit of their positions?

What if their logic is so twisted that it simply short circuits our brains? Their arguments send our thoughts careening like pinballs, bouncing from untruth to non sequitur to logic loop to inconsistency to false conclusion. Perhaps we completely forget to ask ourselves whether their positions might be right, because we are entangled like a kitten in their ball of yarn.

It’s certainly possible. Just because you can’t argue doesn’t make you wrong. I remember listening to our local hippie in 1978. Ed took on Henry Kissinger during open mike at a post-speech Q&A. Kissinger mauled Ed. Ed was right, but he couldn’t out-argue Kissinger.

What if the positions staked out by the right are right or partially right ones, even if they can’t really explain why? What would rational arguments for their positions look like? Gun control. Size of government. Welfare and public assistance. Climate change. Support for Israel. Teachers’ unions. The list goes on. Let’s look at a few of those.

Issue: Gun control. Obviously we have too many guns in this country and they’re in the wrong hands, and it would be better if there weren’t as many. But that’s not going to happen. People love guns, and it’s not just Americans. I have visited over 40 countries, and in every one I can remember, a significant segment of the population loved guns.

The reality is that whenever enough people really love something, they will find a way to get it—drugs, prostitution, and yes, guns. As we have found with all of those, if the demand exists it is simply impossible to significantly limit the supply, no matter how much effort we throw at it. That’s why England, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, has a handgun problem. So in practical terms we should give up on gun control for the same reason that conservatives should stop making kids sign promises not have sex—it simply doesn’t work.

Most of us progressives can get our heads around an argument based on pragmatism. After all, our progressive positions on legalizing prostitution and decriminalizing drugs are based on that same pragmatic logic. But that’s not the argument the right uses, and we get distracted. Instead of simply analyzing whether gun laws are effective, we end up exhausting ourselves debunking spurious arguments: Their bogus interpretation of the Second Amendment, the idea that home invasion is a real risk and that owning a handgun reduces that risk, or the idea that individual citizens need guns to protect themselves from the black helicopters of a totalitarian government.

Now the totalitarian government thing is worth thinking about. But progressives should be the ones buying assault rifles. If there is a significant risk of totalitarian government in the U.S., it is more likely to come from the well-documented efforts by the Christian ultra-right to infiltrate our military and Justice Department, rather than from the left. And while it is ridiculous to think that an ordinary person with a hand gun could stand up to a trained soldier, an ordinary person with an assault weapon is a formidable unit of force. A Kalashnikov assault rifle gives an armed citizen a reasonable chance against even the best equipped military.

Net/net—the right’s position on gun control is correct, their logic is nonsense, and us progressives should put down our lattes and get to the nearest gun show.

Issue: Size and Role of the Federal Government. The right hates the federal government. Sort of.

  • They hate the part of government that collects taxes to pay for things like interstates, public safety, and military intervention. They love the part of government that spends money to build roads, funds public safety and trophy wars.
  • They hate placing limits on the amount of money corporations can make. They love placing limits on the amount of money corporations can lose.
  • They hate income distribution from them to poor young black people. They love income distribution when it comes from future generations and goes to white farmers, elderly white people, and huge corporations run by and owned by, you guessed it, white people.
  • They believe the government should stay out of people’s lives, that is as long as those people aren’t gay, pregnant women or Muslims.
  • They believe in subsidized health care for everyone except those who really need it.
  • They hate the part of government that buys huge tracts of land for national parks, but love the part of government that lets wealthy ranchers, miners and loggers use those resources for free.
  • They despise government subsidies, unless it’s for Cuban-American magnates bulldozing the Everglades for sugar fields or bribes to build a new stadium for the local sports franchise.
  • They believe the government should let the market work, unless the bank with their savings in it is about to fail or the loan on the McMansion they bought is underwater. Then the government should do something.

In other words, the right wing is completely inconsistent about the federal government. That inconsistency drives us completely mad. We can’t really deal with the central question of whether a large federal government is good or bad because we are reduced to drooling, twitching wrecks trying to make sense of this stuff. We shouldn’t bother. The only common logic thread here is short-term self-interest, not sound economics or thoughtful policy.

But despite their incoherence, it’s not axiomatic that more federal government is a good thing. We progressives tend to look at Europe, and think that the higher levels of government involvement in Europeans’ lives might have something to do with their extraordinary quality of life. Maybe. Maybe not. Italy has a terrific quality of life and as best anyone can tell they don’t have any government at all. Maybe the quality of life in Europe is driven by other factors, and the large government presence is incidental.

So let’s start with a clean sheet and think our way through this. Conceptually we need a large federal government to manage the economy, support a massive military and force citizens to adhere to common set of basic rules, regulations and laws. That last item is code for not letting Alabama counties throw people in jail for being black. We don’t need any of that, really.

We don’t need a federal government to manage the economy. At a macro level, the invisible hand of the free market really does work. Now whether we want it to work is another matter. It is that invisible hand that is turning cities like Detroit and New Orleans into ghost towns and sending jobs to India. The reason right wing politicos like former Secretary Paulson talk about a free market then chicken out is because the invisible hand is ruthless. Still, it does work.

At a micro-economic level, certainly strong federal governments promote stability and that encourages investment. But federal governments also do lots of bad things economically.

  • Government spending does crowd out the private sector. For example, we would probably have private brands of beef on our supermarket shelves if we didn’t have the USDA creating quasi-brands like Prime and Choice.
  • Government intervention in the economy creates weird side effects, like the people I knew in New York who used rent-controlled apartments overlooking Central Park as storage units because they were cheaper than real storage. The new Dodd-Frank bill has a long list of banks deemed “too big to fail,” which is already creating untold mischief and will create more. The executives at those banks will make foolish business decisions just like the auto companies do, knowing they have a guaranteed bail-out in their back pocket.
  • Also any large centrally planned organization, public or private, is inefficient and costly. Governments are undoubtedly large and centralized. So it’s not clear less government might not be a net positive on the economic front.

If we stop supporting religious crusades in the name of national defense, we don’t need that massive military.

Reducing the size of the federal government wouldn’t reduce the amount of government in our lives, but it would shift it to the states. And each state would be free to make its own laws. Stop and think about that for a moment. What’s wrong with that? Why should my tax money go to keep right-wing freeloading farmers in Kansas happy? Or protecting the rights of gays in Texas? Or trying to provide quality education for black children in Alabama?

Or keeping Arizona from creating concentration camps for Latinos? Perhaps I should spend my time making Illinois better and then when the gays in Texas, the blacks in Alabama and the Latinos in Arizona get tired of that nonsense, they can move here.

Having just spent a week in Texas, my strong suspicion is that if most people in Texas knew they actually had to live under the laws of Texas without the safety net of federal regulation, the roads leaving Texas would be jammed with U-Haul trailers.

A downsized federal government would allow progressives to shape states more like the European model, should we choose. Or not. But it would be our choice. We could pay teachers more. Or less. We could reduce income disparity. Or not. We could raise gas prices to ten dollars per gallon (which would reduce pollution more than anything else we can do.) Or invest more in public transportation. We could put a $10,000 tax on cars produced in non-union states like Alabama and Tennessee. Without the federal government intervention and subsidies, many of the red states would turn into banana republics, eking out a marginal economy off commodity crops, minerals and tourism. We could buy vacation homes there to take advantage of the cheap cost of servants.

Net/net—the right’s position on the size and role of government might be correct. Their logic is…well it’s not logic. It’s not even coherent. I don’t know what to call it. But an over-sized federal government and the arcane electoral system that supports it is what allows a minority of the American people to dictate policy to a majority. They want to get rid of the federal government. So should we.

Issue: Welfare/Public Assistance. The right is against public assistance for three reasons. They perceive it as a major driver of their tax burden. They think people wouldn’t need it if they would just get off their fat asses and work. And they think the money goes to people of color.

Unlike many of their positions, there’s some truth in each of those. It does drive up taxes, although certainly it’s a drop in the bucket compared to corporate tax loopholes, military spending on frivolous wars, or farm subsidies. There probably are some lazy people on welfare, although the idea that anyone can make it up the socio-economic ladder on their own without any help is an idea more palatable to members of the lucky sperm club (business slang for inherited wealth, like Ted Turner, Donald Trump, etc.) than single mothers. And while welfare does go to people of color, it also goes to white people. In particular, it goes to old white people.

Still, there is a problem with welfare. And it’s a whopper. Our system undoubtedly prevents the horrible poverty we see on the streets of India. It also seems to trap people into a perpetual cycle of near-poverty. We now have multi-generational welfare recipients. And I, for one, admit I am uncomfortable with what seems to be a sense of entitlement by those recipients, be they white (as the elderly white Ohioan who allegedly yelled “The government better keep its hands off my Medicare”) or black, e.g., the whining ingrates displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

In an attempt to be kind, we have created a permanent underclass. Those that use welfare as intended, a stepping stone to get past temporary economic dislocation, seem to be the exception not the rule. Maybe, as the saying goes, the poor will always be amongst us, and the best we can do is not eliminate poverty, but instead try to create a little more turnover at the bottom.

Net/net—maybe we should eliminate or drastically curtail public assistance, not because it will reduce taxes, but because it will make poverty temporary rather than permanent.

Issue: Climate Control. I need to be careful here. Climate control is the third rail of S&R. Even suggesting that conservatives might be right on climate control caused a near heart attack in the plush editorial offices of Scholars & Rogues on the 75th floor of Progressive Thinking Towers. After I removed the defibrillator and helped the gasping editor to a comfortable chair, I reminded him that I was saying their position might be right, not their logic.

Their logic is that climate change isn’t real, or if it is we’re not causing it. The first of those is certainly nonsense and the latter almost certainly nonsense. But their conclusion is we should ignore it. And they are probably right, because we will never, ever do anything about it.

Part of that is the nature of the problem. We don’t do well with very gradually progressing problems that are shared across multiple groups of people, like overfishing. We do much better with natural calamities or terrorist acts or anything that is very urgent and specific. The idea that the world can mobilize around this type of problem is just not realistic, Kyoto or no.

Part of it is also that it’s not clear we can do much about it. We have a huge population on this planet and an ever-increasing desire for energy-intensive products, from flat screen TV’s to travel to servers that can host blogs. My sad conclusion, after years of study, is that humans have an insatiable desire for energy-assisted devices, be it corkscrews in the U.S. or toilets in Japan. Even if those of us in the first world backed off, it is unrealistic to think those in the third world will.

Net/net—we are not going to win this one.

OK, that’s probably enough contrarian logic for one blog. So let me leave it there. My point is simple. We progressives should stop trying to decipher right wing “logic” and instead consider their ideas on their own merits. We may well be surprised at where we come out.

For the record, we on the liberal side have our own sets of fools and charlatans, e.g. Cynthia McKinney, who is only marginally smarter and more coherent than Michelle Bachmann. Although, we do have the intellectual integrity to be embarrassed by ours.

47 replies »

  1. My problem with conservatives isn’t that their ideology and policies are different from mine. It’s that it is no longer possible to have a rational debate about anything with them. Ideally, Democrats and Republicans keep each other honest while working out solutions to common problems. But you can’t do that when one side lives in an fictional reality composed of conspiratorial fantasies designed to create a permanent state of anxiety and fear.

    In any case, President Obama is doing exactly what you suggest anyway; folding Republican policies into his own. This, of course, just leads to Republicans repudiating their own ideas and calling him a commie socialist Islamic Kenyan which illustrates my point for me.

  2. “What if the problem with conservatives isn’t that they are wrong, but rather than even when they are right their logic is so bad we can’t fairly judge the merit of their positions?” Funny, that’s what I say about liberals.

  3. “And while it is ridiculous to think that an ordinary person with a hand gun could stand up to a trained soldier, an ordinary person with an assault weapon is a formidable unit of force.”

    You may find it rediculous, but there are many trained soldiers who would argue the point with you. The tactical variables are too many to list here, but given a trained soldier in “full battle rattle” looking the wrong way at the wrong time and an ordinary person with a hand gun from a concealed position has a pretty good chance of sending your trained soldier home in a box and then using his weapons to take on his comrades.

    Now consider your trained soldier up against 10 ordinary people or 100 and your implied argument for the obsolescence of the Second Amendment gets absurd rather quickly.

    Wars are not won by weapons, but by determined people and/or proper application of tactical principles. Weapons are merely tools used in the process. History has had no shortage of dead dictators who learned that lesson the hard way. If and when government weapons become the trump card, we are all doomed to slavery, even you progressives.

    The danger inherent in underestimating your opponent is one of those tactical priciples I mentioned. The Soviets learned that in Afganistan and we should have learned that in Viet Nam. We conservatives are going to beat you progressives in part because you have determined that we are not smart enough to be taken seriously.

    I once heard Sen. Sam Ervine say: “People hear my speach and assume I’m nothing but a simple old country lawyer. By the time they realize their mistake, it’s too late!”

    See you at the revolution!

  4. We conservatives are going to beat you progressives in part because you have determined that we are not smart enough to be taken seriously.

    Hmm, see, that would be one of those tactical errors you keep talking about. We don’t underestimate you (if you can be considered representative of the extreme conservatism Sam describes, and I have no idea what your other beliefs are). We know you. We live with you and among you. We know exactly what your fears are and why you want what you want and why you can never, ever tell yourselves the truth about it. We don’t think you’re stupid. We do think you’re purposely ignorant of many things. Most of all, we know you’re afraid.

    And if enough progressives get angry enough to use what we know, and can live with the knowledge of what we have to do and why … well, fearful, ignorant people aren’t much of a threat. Especially if they’re stupid enough to think that “wily old country lawyer” bullshit ever really flies for long. Or that progressives don’t own guns.

    In fact, come near my daughter with your “traditional family values” and find out for yourself.

    • Ann is right. A lot of progressives own guns.

      Still, I think what folks to the left of the aisle want more than anything in the world is for our more conservative neighbors, our family members, and those who share our communities to understand just how badly they’re being duped and pimped. People like the Kochs don’t care about you or your values. For Rush and Beck and their ilk your entire value as a human is no more or less than the impact you make on their ratings. You have been played for morons since before Reagan by people who don’t know you, don’t respect you and don’t care about you.

      Oddly, perhaps even perversely from some people’s perspective, we DO care about you. I’m talking about people in my family, for instance, people that I love dearly. When they lend their support to people who turn around and work for policies that damage my family in powerful and material ways, it doesn’t just make me angry, it hurts me.

      There’s a divide in the US, but contrary to what you’ve been told it isn’t left vs right, red vs blue, retro vs metro, or any other clever us vs. them way of putting it. It’s top vs bottom, haves vs have-nots. And until we begin acting according to a clear understanding of this, we’re all fucked. The 400 richest Americans have more cash than the 150 million poorest. Think about that for a second. Let it sink in. Then ask yourself who really threatens your way of life: those who are already taking everything or a bunch of dirty hippies who just want us all to have a fair shot in life.

      Honest question. You don’t have to answer. Just think about it.

  5. I still think the best solution is to create a new country called, oh, I don’t know, “The confederacy,” say. And then we let everyone who wants to move there do just that. And welcome the people that want to leave. Say, that area east of Texas and north and west of Florida, and south of Maryland. And then we let them have exactly the country they want, and see what happens.

    If that doesn’t work (I can already hear the yelping), then we have a harder row to hoe. Which is to try, in the face of reams of evidence that it won’t be possible, to try to make people smarter. The problem is people don’t want to be smarter. The Republican war on science has been pretty successful so far, but it only works because the media supports it, or at least doesn’t call them on it, and a large number of Americans don’t know enough or care enough to try to set things straight. But then I always come back to Peter Medawar’s caution about the danger of educating people beyond their abilities for rational thought. Still, it’s a democracy, and it only works if people are rational enough to participate.

    This is when I get really worried, because there’s also plenty of evidence that people vote against their own self interests, and have been doing so in increasing numbers, I suspect. The NY Times had a story today or yesterday about how Social issues are going to dominate the Republican caucuses in Iowa. I can just imagine. So here I run into the brick wall of Sam’s point– to anyone paying even the barest attention, the world is in deep shit, and getting worse at an alarming rate. Just pick your favorite domain. And yet one of the two major parties in America is increasingly devoting itself to culture wars, again.

    • But then I always come back to Peter Medawar’s caution about the danger of educating people beyond their abilities for rational thought.

      America has a lot of problems, but over-educating people is, to date, not one of them.

  6. @wufink

    That “voting against self interest” thing always bugs me. I have read two pieces of research that may explain it.

    First, in some cases people dont think it’s against their self interest because they have unreasonable expectations. That’s why people arent up in arms over the wealth concentration stats Sam quotes.

    Second, when apartheid fell in S. Africa, the people who were most upset were the poor whites, because all of a sudden their social status dropped. Their absolute welfare stayed the same, but they lost their relative position, and it devastated them. In this case, working class conservatives dont care that they are voting against their absolute economic self-interests, as long as they are able to maintain some sort of relative status and power over other groups, e.g., blacks and gays.

    Does that make any sense or am was it too many steps in the logic chain?

  7. If the Right is wrong on gun control then why did Washington DC have 27 times more murders than El Paso last year? And El Paso is the larger city. Hmmmm. The other liberal bastion of extreme gun control is Chicago which had a murder rate 19 times higher than El Paso.

    The notion that more citizen owned guns means more crime and less personal safety does not prove out.

    According to the Brady Campaign Scorecard, the state with the most gun control is California which has a rate of murder over 400% higher than the state with the LEAST gun laws. The six states with the lowest murder rates (remember rates are population adjusted) all have adopted the policy of “Shall Issue” concealed carry.

    Gun control kills. Extreme gun control kills extremely.

    And I am….. E. Zach Lee-Wright

  8. Re the gun control issue, I appreciate your pragmatic approach. You are correct that gun control doesn’t work and will never work. Peform background checks, which most gun owners support, and prosecute gun traffickers and call it a day (ie, no “large capacity” magazine bans, assault weapons bans, microstamping, or other nonsensical notions).

    However, you miss a key point as to why conservatives are intractable and refuse to even dialogue with gun control groups such as The Brady Center. The primary reason is that such groups lie through their teeth. They claim to only be interested in public safety and reduciing availability of “illegal guns”, but anyone with half a brain knows that their true agenda is to incrementally accomplish what they cannot accomplish in one fell swoop; namely, a gun ban, or at the least the imposition of laws so draconian that the private ownership of firearms will be extremely difficult if not impossible.

  9. The primary reason is that such groups lie through their teeth. They claim to only be interested in public safety and reduciing availability of “illegal guns”, but anyone with half a brain knows that their true agenda is to incrementally accomplish what they cannot accomplish in one fell swoop; namely, a gun ban.

    Since this is such a thoughtful and reasonable point, let me reply in kind. I think this is a very fair comment. Some of the incoherence in the dialogue between left and right is introduced because one side or the other has an unstated agenda and is disingenuous about putting it forward.

    And the right is not above false arguments. Last night I saw where 51% of Republicans believe that Obama was not born in this country. First, it doesn’t matter. The ship has sailed. He is the president. Second, though, either that 51% really are fools as I posit in my post, or else they are putting forth a disingenuous argument.I suspect the real argument is far simpler: “Why Hailey darling, that man is a nigra! Who let a nigra be president? Why that can’t be right, he’s a nigra. Can’t we find a white boy that wants that job?”

  10. “Obviously we have too many guns in this country and they’re in the wrong hands, and it would be better if there weren’t as many. ”

    It’s hard to take any argument seriously when it starts off with a falsehood. Over 380 MILLION guns in America. About 200,000 crimes committed each year with guns. Assuming that each and every crime is committed by a different person that means that about 1 out of every 180 guns are used in crimes. That is almost ONE HALF of ONE PERCENT. Yep… that means that 99.5 percent of the guns are in the RIGHT HANDS.

    And as far as “assault weapons” go… you can read here for the truth of the matter: http://hubpages.com/t/36206

  11. To Otherwise: I consider myself a moderate, leaning slightly to the left on most social issues and to the right on economic and foreign policy issues (must be why I am often dizzy). In my comment above where I noted that the gun control groups simply lie, I was obviously focused on the gun issue. If you care to expand the analysis, yes, I agree with you, many on the right are equally disingenuous and at times dishonest on other issues. Totally agree on the absurd “birther” arguments. Problem is, people at both extremes of the spectrum tend to be full of crap. Honestly, how do you think Rachel Maddow would have reacted if it was George Bush rather than Obama who launched a few misles at Libya? How many Republicans would be complaining if Bush took exactly the same approach as Obama? The term knee jerk doesn’t begin to cover it. I will say, looking at the media and trying my hardest to do so objectively, I do find Fox to be slightly more balanced than MSNBC, which with the likes of Maddow and Lawrence O’donnel seem to be nothing more than a far left editorial board. At least Fox puts liberals and moderates on to give a counterpoint, even if they are often yelled at.

    • Peter: I respect your desire to be fair, but this is what’s called “false equivalence.” Rachel Maddow on her worst day is nowhere near what FOX does on its best days and the argument that “both sides do it” is one that dies brutally when subjected to factual analysis.

      By the way, the harshest criticism I have seen of Obama on Libya has come from the left. The right’s argument adds up to “hey, y’all would be mad as hell if Bush had done it,” which isn’t really a criticism of the decision. On the left he’s taking fire for acting without appropriate Congressional consent, which is a legitimate criticism of his actions.

  12. Zach and Jack, that’s really bad statistics……

    Wait, this is what I mean. You are sucking me down into the bad logic underneath rather than focusing on the central question. Goodness gracious! I waved the white flag on guns. Your spurious arguments don’t matter. I ceded the larger point. I give. And I get it that you really, really, really love your guns. Weally.

    Doesn’t anyone have any thoughts on the size of federal government or climate change or income redistribution, or are guns all that matter?

  13. Peter

    I am pretty much with you. Despite the snarky tone of my post, I am actually serious–I do think a lot of the right’s positions may be correct and do not get considered fully. I think it was Houseman that said, “Any man that is not a liberal at 20 has no heart, and any man that is still a liberal at 40 has not head.”

    Not sure I buy in on the argument for Fox, but I will agree that the general bias of the news of left, although I think the real left wing counterpart to Fox is actually NPR.

    And you are absolutely right. Ben Stein has argued that Obama is the best Republican president since Reagan, and I sadly agree. We should be screaming over Libya and we’re giving the guy a pass because he’s our guy not their guy.

  14. Samuel: Sorry, I watch both Fox and MSNBC and just don’t see it that way. I will concede that Maddow is intelligent and the best of the bunch, even if I often disagree with her politics. But on the whole I do find Fox more balanced. Whether it’s Alan Colmes or other guests, they at least provide a platform for differing points of view. Can you name one regular guest or analyst on MSNBC that provides a view that is remotely right of center?

    I found Olberman simply unwatchable. He was so mean spirited and angry that he gave me a headache. I find Lawrence O’Donnel to be little better (witnees his rant against an Arizona politician about the “high capacity clip” ban. He kept yelling, “do you wish Loughner didn’t have a large capacity clip” as if that would have prevented the tragedy or iis an outcome that can be legislated). I dunno, it just seems that for all their lip service to being kinder and gentler, many “progressives” seem snarky, elitist and angry.

    • If you find FOX balanced, then I don’t really know what I can say to you. This is a channel that has admitted that it lies (it’s done so in sworn court docs, in fact). Having a token straw man from the “other” side on isn’t the same as balance, and by the way, “balance” isn’t much of a goal in a world where one side has behaved in ways that are demonstrably egregious.

  15. 1. There’s not a right in the Constitution that isn’t subject to reasonable restrictions. People who like their guns should be willing to accept that this principle applies to their guns too.
    2. Recent history has shown that the government is too big in certain areas (military, for example) but too small in others. Financial regulation, for example, is an area where the federal government turned out to be too small. And the government must be big enough to step in and take over in those areas and at those times where free markets fail (drug research, for example).
    3. I might have more to say about climate control if you had spent more time talking about exactly what you meant and less time trying to deflect anticipated criticism from folks like me. 🙂

    • BTW, one reason you haven’t seen more discussion on non-gun issues is because we’re getting most of the traffic to this post from a link on a pro-gun site (click on “View my stats” link below the Statcounter image in the right sidebar to see it).

  16. I don’t know where you got those statistics, but I disagree with all of them. I am a so – called conservative and I agree with most of what you said I don’t.

    They hate the part of government that collects taxes to pay for things like interstates, public safety, and military intervention. They love the part of government that spends money to build roads, funds public safety and trophy wars.

    I hate the government collecting taxes for any reason, period.

    They hate placing limits on the amount of money corporations can make. They love placing limits on the amount of money corporations can lose.

    I don’t know how you came up with this, the free market is all about rolling the dice and taking your chances. You win, you win, you lose, you lose. Not our responsibility to bail you out for making stupid decisions.

    They hate income distribution from them to poor young black people. They love income distribution when it comes from future generations and goes to white farmers, elderly white people, and huge corporations run by and owned by, you guessed it, white people.

    WTF? I disagree with income distribution for anybody.

    They believe the government should stay out of people’s lives, that is as long as those people aren’t gay, pregnant women or Muslims.

    This is utter nonsense. Government should stay out of people’s lives no matter who they are.

    They believe in subsidized health care for everyone except those who really need it.

    Wrong again.

    They hate the part of government that buys huge tracts of land for national parks, but love the part of government that lets wealthy ranchers, miners and loggers use those resources for free.

    Wrong yet again.

    They despise government subsidies, unless it’s for Cuban-American magnates bulldozing the Everglades for sugar fields or bribes to build a new stadium for the local sports franchise.
    They believe the government should let the market work, unless the bank with their savings in it is about to fail or the loan on the McMansion they bought is underwater. Then the government should do something.

    No! Who, exactly, have you been talking to? Or do you just make this stuff up? I have a particular problem with sports stadiums.

    This conservative would like to see taxes reduced or eliminated, a true free market restored and the government shrunk back to 1900 levels.

  17. Otherwise sez: Zach and Jack, that’s really bad statistics……

    jack replies: Stating something doesn’t make it a fact. I’d love to have you show me just where my statistics went “bad.”

    Otherwise sez: Wait, this is what I mean. You are sucking me down into the bad logic underneath rather than focusing on the central question.

    Jack replies: I’d love to have you show me just where my logic went “bad.” And getting to the correct “central” answer via a faulty premise still leaves you standing on a faulty premise. You know what the story is about the man who built his home on sand, eh.

    Otherwise sez: Goodness gracious! I waved the white flag on guns. Your spurious arguments don’t matter.

    Jack replies: I’d love to have you show me just where my argument went “spurious.” But you can show neither badness nor spuriousness… you just claim it and then move along hoping no one notices.

    Otherwise sez: I ceded the larger point. I give. And I get it that you really, really, really love your guns. Weally.

    Jack replies: That’s silly. Might as well claim that I love my seat belt, my tire jack, safety glasses and any other piece of gear that protects me from harm. Do you “love” your keyboard because it helps you express your opinions as per the 1st Amendment?

  18. Yeah, Bill, that may be how you feel. Now tell us how the people you vote for act; compare it with how you think; and please tell us why you vote for the people you vote for. (I’m assuming you vote GOP, if you vote third party more than 90% of the time, never mind and good on ya.)

    In general, i think the fundamental issue that We the People pretty much hate each other. I don’t know why, nor do i care. I hate everybody…especially white people. I dislike Obama every bit as much as i disliked Bush. And if i ever voted for either major party even close to 10% of the time, i’d just exercise my second amendment rights into my own brain.

  19. @Jack and Zach

    OK, you want proof your arguments are spurious? Here it is. This study demolishes every point you two make, and does so with real statistics. It tears apart Zach’s foolish Chicago/El Paso argument and debunks Jack’s silly argument about gun ownership reducing crime, an urban myth which is based on a long-discredited study by Lott. Now I do not expect you to accept proof, and to be honest, I dont really expect you understand the attached study. But for the record, I said I would not debate silly arguments and I won’t. You taunted me into this one, but I will not wrestle with pigs–they enjoy rolling in shit but I dont.

    An Exploratory Analysis of Guns and Violent Crime in a Cross-National Sample of Cities

    http://utsa.edu/swjcj/archives/6.3/4%20-%20Guns%20and%20Violent%20Crime.pdf

    “This study was the first to examine the relationship between gun availability and crime in a cross-national sample of cities. Three competing hypotheses concerning this relationship were tested using LIML regression. The results lend some support to the weapon facilitation and instrumentality hypotheses. Gun availability significantly influenced the assault, gun assault, robbery, and gun robbery rates in these cities. Notably, no support was found for Lott’s (2000; see also Lott & Mustard, 1997) hypothesis that increasing gun availability reduces rates of crime.

    These results suggest that cities with high levels of gun availability will be characterized by more assaults and robberies. The fact that gun availability was found to influence total violent crime rates is surprising because it contradicts what has been found in previous research (Cook, 1991). Apparently, for the cities sampled here, increasing gun availability provides an incentive for city residents to commit crime that they normally would not commit if guns were not available.”

    And finally, my family has been here 400 years and we’ve fought in almost every war. Dont you worry about protecting my First Amendment rights. I will defend my own.

  20. Gun availability influenced increases in violent crime how again?

    You forgot a few variables in your thought process there ol professor type dude.

    First and foremost, if that study was valid, which under cursory glance, a supposed study debunking anything should be using data a little fresher than almost 12 & 15 years old (page 7), ROTFLMFAO, ROTFLMFAO. Then we see multiple sources of the data from GUN BAN COUNTRIES, ROTFLMFAO, boy those are REAL CREDIBLE SOURCES eh?

    Then we should see individual state increases and an overall increase in violent crimes in the US, but guess what, reality is we do not, ROTFLMFAO, yeah, some study that is eh?

    Lets take a look and see what you forgot.

    1) Since 1997 US Census & the avg of NSSF & PEW survey show an increase of 9 million households owning a firearm.
    2) FBI UCR database shows since 1997 to 2009, over a 30% reduction in violent crime rate and over a 20% reduction in murders.
    3) An increase of 12-15 states with concealed carry to 41 shall ssue and 7 may issue states.
    4) 34 states implement concealed carry in eateries selling alcohol
    5) 3 states and 71 universities implement concealed carry.

    All without the bloodbaths the anti’s have predicted inaccurately for oh what, the millionth time.

    So rather than be foolish about studies whose theorteical, how about going to the acual horses mouth and showing evryone the data. Funny how that government data just destroys your claims.

    So much for more guns equals more violence BS.

    Oh wait, we see gun control paradises Chicago 1982- 2009, NYC 1982 – 200, Washington D.C. 1976-2009. Care to show everyone the violent crime & murder rates from the FBI database or even the summary of such government data from nation master and show everyone what exactly happened in the gun ban paradises. Oh the suspense, lets ee you post the data eh?

    Oh other great examples you forgot about…

    Australia 1997 629 VCR per 100k people 2009 1,024 VCR per 100k people, murders did not reduce, reference AIC.GOV database.

    Canada 1997 980 VCR per 100k people 2009 1,324 VCR per 100k people, Murders increased 10% reference STACAN database.

    England 1997 820 VCR per 100k people 2009 1,667 VCR per 100k people, murders stayed the same, reference HOME OFFICE UK database.

    Wow, funny how less guns never means less violence, all from their own governments databases.

    Hey maybe you can explain how the FBI UCR database showed in 2008 1.38 mil violent crimes reported but only 381k involved a frearm?

    Oh don’t forget the government acknowledges over 70% of violent crimes are never reported. USDOJ National Victimization report 2008 4.8 mil Violent crimes not reported.

    Oh wait, whats this, the US government also acknowledges that 80% of all violent crimes are committed by career criminals/gang members. USDOJ National Gang Threat Assessment 2009. Did your study refute this fact, NOPE.

    Oh my, maybe if you did a little research (Chicago has a really nice study showing this), that 76-80% of all their shootings, was where both the shooter and injured were both involved in a criminal act at the time of the shooting. So what is your point about availability of firearms to felons who shoot other felons is a bad thing?

    Oh yeah, maybe if you reviewed these two government studies together, USDOJ Background Check & Firearm Transfer report 2008, and the DOJ Felons Firearms Use survey 1997, you would see the following.

    In 1997 80% of felons acquired their firearms from thefts and street buys, 12% from reatil stores, and 2% from gun shows. Did your study refute this study and data, NOPE.

    Since 1994 a 68% reduction in felons attempting to buy from a licensed source.

    This means today 95.52% of felons don’t even attempt to buy from a licensed source.

    See 12% x remainder (32%) = 3.84 % & 2% x reaminder (32%) = .64 % for a grand total of 4.48% of felons even attempt to buy a firearm from a licensed source.

    Oh don’t forget those two reports reference that less than 1% of the 1.67 mil rejected since 1994 or 100k a year are prosecuted. I mean after all since felons who make up over 50% of those rejecetd, are committing a felony just by attempting to buy a firearm, why weren’t those on average 50,000 felons prosecuted eh?

    But what is this, that same government survey in 1997, DOJ Felons Firearms Use, published Nov 2001. Yeah funny ow the felons back then stated that 15-18% of the time they used a firearm while committing a crime was a shot fired. Does that study of yours disprove this government study, NOPE. Has any other study shown this rate to have changed, NOPE.

    Multiple police firearm discharge reports are easily available on google, funny how they all show the only ones shots only hit the target 15% of the time. But your study disproves these police and US govermnet studies right, NOPE.

    Then again, the CDC database which shows oh what 12,252 murders by firearms and the oft claimed 70,000 injuries are direct proof that not all injuries are fatal. Care to google doctors or coroners reports on seeing multiple wound tracks from multiple incidents on people, THAT WERE NOT REPORTED!

    So we see a government database which shows 381k volent crimes committed with a firearm, 12,252 murders and 70k injuries. We also see those government surveys and studies where 15% of time shots are fired and where 15% of that time the targets are hit and 1 in 7 are deaths occured. Not to mention all thos eviolent crimes and injuries NOT REPORTED and not refuted by your referenced study, pathetic.

    Since your study fails to disprove the real data, much less these government surveys, a sane person using logic would have to work off the actual deaths and injuries.

    Care to work backwards to show how many incidents with firearms actually occured eh professor or is the math too complicated for you?

    Oh since your study referenced doesn’t dsiprove anything the government databases and studies show, want to try again on how increased firearms in the hand of the 80 mil law abiding gun owners increased violent crime eh?

  21. Otherwise sez: OK, you want proof your arguments are spurious? Here it is.

    Jack replies: Great… I am anticipating a specific rebuttal to the exact point I made.

    Otherwise sez: This study demolishes every point you two make,

    Jack replies: “every point”? I only made one… that your statement about “Obviously we have too many guns in this country and they’re in the wrong hands,” was wrong. I showed that far less than 1% of the guns in the country are used to do harm, which means that 99.5% are in the “right hands.” Does your “proof” specifically discuss that point? We shall see…

    Otherwise sez: and does so with real statistics….and debunks Jack’s silly argument about gun ownership reducing crime,

    Jack replies: You all remember what Peter posted a few posts up? Let me quote him…

    “However, you miss a key point as to why conservatives are intractable and refuse to even dialogue with gun control groups such as The Brady Center. The primary reason is that such groups lie through their teeth. ”

    Otherwise knows that I posted no argument, silly or other, that suggested any such thing. A simple scroll back proves that. Yet… he had to put the words in my mouth even though I didn’t actually post them just so he could have a strawman to argue against. This was no accident or mistake on his part.

    Jarhead pretty much destroyed the study so I won’t deal with that.

    Otherwise sez: And finally, my family has been here 400 years and we’ve fought in almost every war. Dont you worry about protecting my First Amendment rights. I will defend my own.

    Jack replies: Again, he feels the necessity to bring up a strawman argument about the First Amendment. I have not suggested the First needs defending, and that conservatives are the ones to do so. He made this “worry” up from thin air.

    Let me quote again from otherwise this time…

    “…their logic is so bad we can’t fairly judge the merit of their positions?

    What if their logic is so twisted that it simply short circuits our brains? Their arguments send our thoughts careening like pinballs, bouncing from untruth to non sequitur to logic loop to inconsistency to false conclusion”

    He imputes strawman arguments to others that have not been made, and he accuses others of having “bad” and “twisted” logic that short circuits the brain. Projection is a mighty powerful mind-tool for those who know they are consistently wrong and try to lay their weaknesses on others in order that they not feel bad about their own ineptness.

  22. “But you can’t do that when one side lives in a fictional reality composed of conspiratorial fantasies designed to create a permanent state of anxiety and fear.”

    I rest my case.

  23. Sammy sez: This is like reading climate denialists, isn’t it? No understanding at all of what the word “evidence” means

    Jack replies… Yeah… this evidence is pretty damning, eh…

    Glacier scientist: I knew data hadn’t been verified
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1245636/Glacier-scientists-says-knew-data-verified.html

    and…

    Climate chief was told of false glacier claims before Copenhagen
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7009081.ece

    What was it that Peter posted much earlier… oh yeah.. I remember…

    “The primary reason is that such groups lie through their teeth.”

    • Jack – The glacier data represents one significant error in WG2. There are something like three total significant errors like that (including the glacier error) in all of WG2, which is devoted to adaptation to climate disruption, NOT to the science underlying the reality of climate disruption.

      To date, no similar errors have been found in the science chapter (WG1) of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). You may not like the conclusions derived from the data, but there is no question that the scientific conclusions are rigorously supported by the data.

  24. Wildeye sez: “But you can’t do that when one side lives in a fictional reality composed of conspiratorial fantasies designed to create a permanent state of anxiety and fear.”

    Jack replies… And which conservative was it that said, “never let a crises go to waste”? Oh. yeah… it was a leading Democrat one office down from the President of the United States.

  25. Wow, I see everyone’s gone to town with the “my statistical analysis beats your statistical analysis” approach. Keep in mind that a utilitarian, societal cost-benefit approach is not the only way to look at the gun issue. Even if, on a net basis, contemplated gun control measures can be demonstrated to reduce the homicide and/or violent crime rate (which I personally doubt), from an individual rights perspective that shouldn’t matter. Should an individual wishing to have the means to defend herself with a firearm have that right curtailed or eliminated because society, as a whole, might, arguably be better off if the right is curtailed or eliminated for all?

    Also, if we are truly concerned about reducing death and injury, might not our resources be better allocated to more heavily regulating other, even more dangerous activities that also happen not to be constitutionally protected? Why don’t we perform background and mental health checks as a prerequisited for obtaining a drivers’ license? How many people are killed or injured every year, directly or indirectly, by criminals using a motor vehicle in the commission of a crime? How about alcohol and drug screenings? Stiffer penalties and license revocation for reckless driving? If not, why not? Personally, I feel that driving on a highway presents a much, much, much higher risk to my family than my ownership of firearms.

  26. The Second Amendment was clearly put in the Constitution for two reasons:

    1. That since the US would not have a standing army, there would likely be the need to raise militias comprised of citizen-soldiers. Now we quickly decided to ignore that the Constitution makes no provision for a standing army, but at the time the right to arming one’s self was important for the defense of the nation.

    2. That an armed citizenry would be the final check against government gone wild or usurped by unconstitutional means.

    Never mind point #1, the standard liberal argument based on it is pointless in any case. Point #2, however, is rather important. What i don’t get is that over the last, oh, 30 years the government has gone wild. Obama has simply expanded on Bush’s work to create a tyrannical central government unconstrained by the Bill of Rights.

    So my question remains (i’ve asked it before), why aren’t good conservatives who love America willing to use their guns for what the framers intended? I know that some are now willing because there’s a black, “socialist”, Muslim president. But why weren’t they ready to fire when Bush was deciding to spy on them without a warrant, etc. etc. etc? (And this presidential/government behavior goes back further than Bush, i just don’t want to deal with it at the moment.)

    I can only assume that the answer is that A. they’re suckers, B. they’re sissies, C. they’re cowards, D. they aren’t really at all patriotic or E. they’re just partisan hacks who are fine with tyranny so long as the side they’re “on” is in charge.

    If we’re unwilling to use our guns to defend all the other amendments in the Bill of Rights, the second becomes moot.

    …i know, i know, but the Muslims are just so scary! We have to do whatever it takes to protect our way of life from a handful of bearded guys half way around the world. Like i said, cowards and sissies.

  27. Peter sez: Should an individual wishing to have the means to defend herself with a firearm have that right curtailed or eliminated because society, as a whole, might, arguably be better off if the right is curtailed or eliminated for all?

    Jack replies: What other rights are up for grabs because less than 1% of the population misuses it? If society “as a whole” decided to do away with the 1st, the 4th, the 5th and the 8th Amendments would YOU set back and say… hey, that’s jake with me.

    Surely you are not going to argue that we can afford dozens of 9/11s or a couple of nukes in major cities at the expense of a little freedom from an undoubtedly outdated document that was written by a bunch of old, white slave owners.

  28. Jack sez: I’m stuffed full of irrational fears, and the only thing that makes me feel better is the false sense of power given to me by gun ownership.

    Lex replies: People like Jack give the second amendment a bad name. Look, he couldn’t even last a whole comment thread without trying to make others as cowardly and afraid of bogeymen as he is. And if Jack could kindly point us to some of his previous arguments on why various other amendments should not be curtailed in order to protect us from “dozens of 9/11s” and mushroom clouds, that would be great.

  29. Poor Lex, wthout the defense of the second amendment, all other rights are indeed moot.

    Then again understanding this basic premise requires you to understand exactly what a government is capabale of doing, which is anything they dang well please.

    We will expect to see all your blogs and notes protesting to presdient Bush directly which should number in the thousands right? We will expect you to prove by going through all those same blog sites records you should be able to produce no single blog from Jack and or any pro second amendment person complaining or criticizing the so called Patriot Act.

    Failure to produce said factual comparison just means you belong in the anti gun fascist liars camp, no data or facts to support your unsubstantiated claims. We will wait for you to provide said data.

  30. Hey Jarhead, i’m all for the second amendment. Just like i’m for all the amendments in the Bill of Rights.

    The point is that if you don’t use the second to defend the others, there’s no point in having the second. Seems strange that i have to explain that twice, but whatever….

    Jack trotted out the 9/11 issue and attempted to tie it to the second amendment…which is stupid, but again, whatever. I simply asked for his defense of all the other amendments, even in the face of his great fears of brown bogeymen. It’s not me who’s afraid of terrorists.

    If Jack doesn’t want to do that, or explain how he values the rest of the Bill of Rights as much as the second amendment, that’s his choice.

    But see, i don’t belong to “the anti gun fascist liars camp”. If you want proof, try getting into my house uninvited. How’s that?

    I understand that a government is capable of using its agents (like Marines) to do anything it wants. So if i’m not to trust the government, that means i’m also not to trust you, because you either are (or were) a voluntary agent of that government. Fair point?

  31. Well, it’s been fun, but this has gotten too far out there for me.

    I would like to personally thank the commenters from the other side of the political spectrum who made my case better than I ever could. You guys are terrific.

    Tomorrow I am posting another piece. I don’t to tell too much, but I will say it involves everybody’s favorite, Sarah, and should be fun. So tune in then.

    Otherwise

  32. No, I am one of those that learned the hard way what the government was all about and culminated when I told the SOB officer with all due respect to the position held to get screwed.

    I am one of those that upholds the oath to protect my country, and LAWFUL ORDERS.

    Since you were never in the military, I know we could never expect you to understand that point and concept, fair point eh?

    And I use your quote ”

    “But why weren’t they ready to fire when Bush was deciding to spy on them without a warrant, etc. etc. etc? (And this presidential/government behavior goes back further than Bush, i just don’t want to deal with it at the moment.)

    I can only assume that the answer is that A. they’re suckers, B. they’re sissies, C. they’re cowards, D. they aren’t really at all patriotic or E. they’re just partisan hacks who are fine with tyranny so long as the side they’re “on” is in charge.”

    So I demanded evidence and still you didn’t provide any data AGAIN! I gave you your chance, as if you actually had such data, you would have justifiably rubbed my face in it. But again, you , and I gag saying it “people” just can’t seem to make me eat crow by proving the data and information presented wrong, sucks to be you!

    Since you are too chicken schiite to provide the proof requested, then by your own failure to provide said data SAYS IT ALL!

    Oh and don’t flatter yourself that you are worth visiting, LOL, you are rather pathetic.

    As for otherwise, the same goes for you as to demonstrating your unwavering ability to never be able to refute the basic government data. I presented the obvious failures and government data that thumped your pathetic study and will do so to ANY such pathetic anti gun funded study. Providing ever more proof your position on this issue is only based on lies and emotional rhetoric.

    You should really stick to the other things you wrote about that seems you might have a clue about otherwise, oh I mean GENE!

  33. First of all, great article because it can’t be ignored– too much truty. Fact is, it is much harder to argue from the left than the right, because, when stripped to its basics, as this article did, the right is saying (without knowing it) that we are individually and collectively a sorry pastiche of self-obsession, mean-spiritedness, and base, irrational fears that make any notion of a greater good delusional. So, let’s just stop trying, dismantle social spending, put some barbed wire around Harvard Yard, the southern tip of NYC and Brentwood, and let the best white male win.

  34. The only real solution to politics is to eliminate all sides except one. Society has lost all ability to argue objectively and only looks to the bottom line. The best teacher I had in college was the one I disagreed with on almost everything. She told me if I couldn’t effectively argue both sides of an issue then I have no business entering the argument.

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