The Always Losing Argument

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I read an article the other day, recommended by a friend, about “conservatives” and the futility of the reactionary politics that defines them. They are always looking backward, to a time when things were “better.”barton-lead

But the getting there always stymies them.

Well, sure.

Because it doesn’t have intellectual pull. It comes off as the philosophical-political equivalent of “get off my lawn, you damned kids.” An old man fulminating about lost youth.

It doesn’t sell.

But arguing principles – especially good ones – does.

Or at least, can.

The political left has been successful because it is perceived as principled. It talks constantly about moving forward (“progressivism”) and is thus regarded as the antithesis of fuddy-duddy “conservative” reactionaries.

Who are always playing catch-up.dino-pic

Which is why they never catch-up.

Let alone pass.

But if they’d take a principled stand for once…

Joe Barton, for instance.

He is a “conservative” Republican congressman from Texas and the only congressman who has publicly stated that the federal government’s mandatory minimum fuel economy edicts – Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency, in the bureau-lingo of DC – ought to be repealed.

But not because he says the federal government – which isn’t the Great and Powerful Oz, but just a few thousand bureaucrats and office-holders; in other words, ordinary (usually, very ordinary) people, without special wisdom much less right to rule the rest of us – has no business involving itself in such things to begin with.

He trots out the wearingly reactionary argument that the “market can handle it.”

He does not mention (reactionary conservatives never mention) the right of each of us to determine for ourselves what sort of vehicle best meets our needs.

Without their “help.” dear-leaders

The “market” (like “society”) has no rights because it is a construct, a figure of speech. In flesh and blood reality, there are only individual people and however many of these exist, none have rights superior to (or less than) others.

This goes doubleplusgood for those who regard themselves as Wizards, especially.

In truth, they are just the men (and women) behind the curtain. And we should be paying attention to them, rather than the booming voice of Oz.

One of these men is President Obama, who on his stupendously arrogant say-so, wishes to decree that all new cars shall average 54.5 MPG by the year 2025. Through his consiglierie (well, one of his consiglieries) Paul Hemmersbaugh of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Great and Powerful Oz decrees the new fuel economy standards are both “necessary” and “achievable.”

Both are value judgments we may take issue with – but which we will nonetheless be compelled to abide by, if the new mandate is imposed upon us.

But, let’s backup a little. What is this business of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration?

Why is our “safety” any of their business?

It’s busybody-ism at gunpoint. No different, in substance, than observing your next-door neighbor lifting (as you see it) “too much” weight and rushing over to insist he desist.

While fingering your pistol.busybody

One can at least make a morally reasonable argument that actions necessarily affecting others in a harmful way are legitimate areas of government interest. If the premise is principled rather than reactionary. Vehicle exhaust emissions, for instance. Within reason, of course.

But “safety”?

And the fuel efficiency of vehicles?

How is any of this any of their business?

No harm to anyone necessarily follows as a consequence of Joe driving a car without air bags. Except, perhaps, to Joe. But that’s his business, just as it is no one else’s business what Joe eats for breakfast.

It will be answered that – as regards “safety” – the rhetorical sleight-of-hand called “society” bears the costs of “risks” not minimized by coercive edict. But this is not necessarily so. And, if risk does become actual cost, “society” only foots the bill because of coercive (and collective) transfer of the costs onto others – invariably those who did not impose it.old-bag

Example: Joe wrecks his car, which does not have air bags. He is injured but cannot afford the hospital bill. The government forces Bob (and Kathy and Tim and Jeff) to foot the bill – and then forces all of them to buy air bags in their next new car.

We all end up paying more. And – having accepted the principle behind this collective accountability and risk management – there will be more to come.

On this fuel efficiency business, the Wizards – most of whom do not drive (are not chauffeured in) “efficient” vehicles themselves – are annoyed that “too many” buyers (us) continue to not choose hybrid and electric and other ultra-efficient (but ultra-expensive and ultra-unappealing) vehicles, even though these are available.

The problem is that less “efficient” vehicles – damn them! – are also still available to the peonage. Hence the need, as the men behind the curtain see it, to impose the 54.5 MPG standard, which will serve as an Extinction Level Event for two-thirds of the car types currently in existence and all of the truck/SUV types, as no known or even contemplated technology is available that can cause a vehicle larger than a compact car having more than about 1.5 liters under its hood to average 54.5 MPG.dear-leader

It will still be legal to build and sell vehicles that do not average 54.5 MPG. But viciously punitive taxes imposed on these “gas guzzlers” will price them out of reach for all but the men and women behind the curtain, who pull the levers – including the one that controls the mechanical claw that reaches into our pockets to provide their six (and seven) figure sustenance.

Back to Barton.

If only he’d take a principled stand.

Dare to ask why the government is dictating to people in a free country the type of vehicles they’ll be allowed to buy. Dare to question, on principle, this business of busybodies-at-gunpoint decreeing “standards” we (not they) will be forced to subsidize with our resources.

That’s a winning argument no “progressive” can counter without exposing the toothsome urge to direct and control, using violence rather the persuasion.

Which is why reactionary “conservatives” never make a principle argument.

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31 COMMENTS

  1. always losing arguments of witch doctors and purveyors of infantile golden behavioral rules… Mencken on religion and mainstream ethical conventions…

    “The only practical effect of having a soul is that it fills man with anthropomorphic and anthropocentric vanities—in brief, with the cocky superstitions that make him disgusting.”

    “What I most strongly object to in religion is not the expression of nonsensical views—these could easily be combated by rebuttal from the other side—but the inveterate tendency of religion to seek the enforcement of its views by the power of the government.”

    “One of the most irrational of all the conventions of modern society is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected. …This convention protects them, and so they proceed with their blather unwhipped and almost unmolested, to the great damage of common sense and common decency. that they should have this immunity is an outrage. There is nothing in religious ideas, as a class, to lift them above other ideas. On the contrary, they are always dubious and often quite silly. Nor is there any visible intellectual dignity in theologians. Few of them know anything that is worth knowing, and not many of them are even honest.”

    “In my view, “religion belongs to a very early stage of human development, and… its rapid decay in the world since the Reformation is evidence of genuine progress”

    “I am, indeed, against all proselyters, whether they be on my side or on some other side. What moves nine-tenths of them, I believe, is simply the certainty of the result that I have just mentioned. Their lofty pretensions are all tosh. The thing they yearn for is the satisfaction of making someone unhappy: that yearning is almost as universal among them as thirst is in dry Congressmen.”

    “For the Bible, despite all its contradictions and absurdities, its barbarisms and obscenities, remains grand and gaudy stuff, and so it deserves careful study and enlightened exposition. It is not only lovely in phrase; it is also rich in ideas, many of them far from foolish. One somehow gathers the notion that it was written from end to end by honest men—inspired, perhaps, but nevertheless honest. When they had anything to say they said it plainly, whether it was counsel that enemies be slain or counsel that enemies be kissed. They knew how to tell a story, and how to sing a song, and how to swathe a dubious argument in specious and disarming words.”

    “I dislike persons who change their basic ideas, and I dislike them when they change them for good reasons quite as much as when they change them for bad ones. A convert to a good idea is simply a man who confesses that he was formerly an ass—and is probably one still. When such a man favors me with a certificate that my eloquence has shaken him I feel about him precisely as I’d feel if he told me that he had started (or stopped) beating his wife on my recommendation.”

    “The Fathers of the Republic, I believe, were far cleverer fellows than they are commonly represented to be, even in the schoolbooks. If it was not divine inspiration that moved them, then they must have drunk better liquor than is now obtainable on earth. For when they made religion a free-for-all, they prepared the way for making it ridiculous; and when they opened the doors of office to the mob, they disposed forever of the delusion that government is a solemn and noble thing, by wisdom out of altruism.”

    “We must think of human progress, not as of something going on in the race in general, but as of something going on in a small minority, perpetually beleaguered in a few walled towns. Now and then the horde of barbarians outside breaks through, and we have an armed effort to halt the process. That is, we have a Reformation, a French Revolution, a war for democracy, a Great Awakening. The minority is decimated and driven to cover. But a few survive—and a few are enough to carry on.”

    “The Catholics get rid of the difficulty by setting up an infallible Pope, and consenting formally to accept his verdicts, but the Protestants simply chase their own tails. By depriving revelation of all force and authority, they rob their so-called religion of every dignity. It becomes, in their hands, a mere romantic imposture, unsatisfying to the pious and unconvincing to the judicious.”

    “The effort to put down Christian Science by law is one of the craziest enterprises upon which medical men waste their energies. It is based upon a superstition even sillier than that behind Christian Science itself: to wit, the superstition that, when an evil shows itself, all that is needed to dispose of it is to pass a law against it.”

    “For men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt. The more stupid the man, the larger his stock of adamantine assurances, the heavier his load of faith.”

    “Children born to-day may see the beginnings of a genuine state church in the Republic, with a hierarchy of live wires and a purely American theology. I regret that I am too old to wait for it, for if it comes it will be a lulu.”

    “What lay at the bottom of their savagery, of course, was their idiotic belief in Calvinism—beyond question the most brutal and barbaric theology ever subscribed to by mortal man, whether in or out of the African bush.”

    “My argument for them is not altruistic in the least, but purely selfish. I should dislike to see them harassed by the law for two plain and sound reasons. One is that their continued existence soothes my vanity (and hence promotes my happiness) by proving to me that there are even worse fools in the world than I am. The other is that, if they were jailed to-morrow for believing in Christian Science, I should probably be jailed the next day for refusing to believe in something still sillier. Once the law begins to horn into such matters, I am against the law, no matter how virtuous its ostensible intent. No liberty is worth a hoot which doesn’t allow the citizen to be foolish once in a while, and to kick up once in a while, and to hurt himself once in a while.”

    “The Low Church rectors, in the main, struggle with poor congregations, born to the faith but deficient in buying power. As bank accounts increase the fear of the devil diminishes, and there arises a sense of beauty. This sense of beauty, in its practical effects, is identical with the work of the Paulist Fathers.”

    “As animals go, even in so limited a space as our world, man is botched and ridiculous. Few other brutes are so stupid, so docile or so cowardly.”

    • “Americans, sadly, are now victims who have turned into perpetrators. Indeed, since September 2001, the war on terror has claimed more innocent victims than those terrorist attacks. This fact is unrecognized at home because the victims of the war on terror are not Americans. But the rest of the world does not draw the same distinction, and world opinion has turned against America.” – George S.
      – – – –

      Soros has spent at least $80 million on drug legalization efforts since 1994, when he diverted a portion of his foundation’s funds to organizations exploring alternative drug policies, according to tax filings.

      His spending has been supplemented by Peter B. Lewis, the late chairman of Progressive Insurance Co. and an unabashed pot smoker who channeled more than $40 million to influence local debates.

      The two billionaires’ funding has been unmatched by anyone on the other side of the debate.
      – – –

      Soros helped establish and fund the Tides Foundation which assists liberal charities and fights for social justice. The Tides Foundation is currently trying to establish a $100 million endowment fund for Wikipedia.
      https://www.tides.org/fileadmin/user/pdf/2015_Annual_Report_web.pdf

  2. re: always losing arguments… the argument from divine scribblings…

    Dave H. asks if you are an Eloi or a Morlock. This article’s final paragraphs will let you know which one Dave H. most likely is…
    http://www.thecommonsenseshow.com/2014/04/30/are-you-an-eloi-or-a-morlock/

    The truth is that no one human will lead us out of the morass we find ourselves in as both our lifestyles and the hope for a better future are being cannibalized by the shadowy forces which controls our government, our media and the public’s world view.

    Twenty years ago, many people pinned their hopes that the modern-day George was actually Ross Perot who had appeared to effectively challenge the establishment.

    In more recent times, many of us in the Patriot movement thought George had changed his name to Ron Paul and have we ever been disappointed.

    In reality, the spirit of George does not exist in any mortal man. George will never be our savior. However, the spirit of George, which resides in all of us, is Jesus Christ.
    http://archbishopcranmer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Episcopal-Eloi-Morlock-2.jpg

    Through Jesus we will defeat all evil. Yes, there are things that the “awake” should be doing. We should be informing, teaching and leading the resistance against the globalist tyranny. We should start our own radio shows, write editorials, attend meetings and attempt to impact the political process.

    However, the ultimate victory will be achieved through spiritual means and there will be no victory unless America reclaims its spiritual side and once again, reassert itself as a force of moral courage in the world backed by Biblical authority.

    Grand Abrahamic Temple of Christians Muslims Jews and Sinful Morlocks Yearning To Be Saved Eloi
    http://postflaviana.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/tm_morlocksphinx-2.jpg

  3. To paraphrase Bastiat, If people are too stupid and evil to make decisions to run their own lives, why is it that the proposals and laws of bureaucrats, politicians and social reformers always considered good? Are they not also members of the human race?

  4. The United States Constitution has been so amended,changed,misinterpreted and or ignored that the original intent of the Founding Fathers for a limited Federal Government with enumerated limited functions does not exist anymore. Instead we have a mobocracy democracy with the rule of law subject to the rule of men. Where rights have become privileges. Therefore,about 90% of what the Federal Government does today is either illegal or unconstitutional. With that said,most modern Conservatives are fighting a rearguard action to try and halt the onslaught of leviathan. In that regard it is about 50 years too late. Once the socialist genie escaped from it’s lamp that was the end of liberty in America.

    • Hi Jerry,

      “The original intent of the Founding Fathers for a limited Federal Government with enumerated limited functions does not exist anymore.”

      The purpose of the constitution was to expand, not limit, the power of the Federal government. The original purpose of the constitutional convention was to amend the articles of confederation precisely because it did not formally allow for a robust central government. Those in attendance immediately abandoned the pretense of “amending” the articles and just threw them out. Many have argued that the “founding fathers” real intention was to engineer a coup d’etat (see Spooner, Nock and Sheldon Richman). Certainly everyone involved, including the Jefforsonians, desired a framework that allowed for stronger central government.

      “Most modern Conservatives are fighting a rearguard action to try and halt the onslaught of leviathan.”

      Please, this is absurd. Most conservatives are active participants in the growth of Leviathan. Their knee jerk and unshakeable support for warfare, the military, the police, “law and order”, the drug war, etc… requires an expansion of government power every bit as significant as liberal demands for welfare, “free” health care, “free” education, green subsidies, etc…

      Republicans always “fail” at reigning in Leviathan because they have no intention of doing so. The small government rhetoric is a sham, designed to create the false dichotomy that keeps voters deluded about the nature of the two parties. Libertarians should stop peddling the “small government conservative” myth as it merely perpetuates an illusion that empowers Leviathan.

      Also, it is long past time that libertarians stop fetishizing the constitution and the so called “intent” of the founding fathers. Words on paper cannot limit government power. However, they can be interpreted in any way so as to legitimize government power. This process began almost immediately with the “Alien and Sedition act”. Whatever Jefferson’s intent, no government can be “bound by the chains of the constitution”. He was a smart man and I suspect he knew this.

      Jeremy

      • “Most modern Conservatives are fighting a rearguard action to try and halt the onslaught of leviathan.”
        No, they are just trying to slow it down, because they are a bunch of Clovers that think the speed with which ‘Progressives’ are pushing the growth of Leviathan is not saaaaaaaafe.

        • Hi PTB,

          “No, they are just trying to slow it down.”

          They don’t even do this. Since Nixon, Govco spending has grown more under Republican administrations than under Democratic ones. If Trump wins, he may change the trend, but I doubt it.

          Buckley revealed the true “conservative” priorities when he declared “we have got to accept Big Government for the duration — for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged, given our present government skills, except though the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.”

          Modern conservative politicians have always favored big government; they pretend to oppose some big government programs like welfare (unless given to corporations), health care, etc…, but always compromise their “principles” in exchange for the big government programs they desire (warfare, corporatism, prisons, drug war, etc…).

          The Cold War was built on the myth that the Soviets posed an existential threat to America. The slight Soviet threat was greatly exaggerated by conservatives because it justified what they actually wanted – big Government. After the collapse of the Soviet union, a new “existential threat” had to be created. This was easy enough, just meddle a little more in the middle east and the desired “pearl harbor event” was inevitable.

          “Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” – PNAC Rebuilding America’s Defenses

          The “war on terror” was created to justify the big government that conservatives desire. In the binary sytem we have, both sides favor big government, but one side has to lie about it to perpetuate the scam.

          Jeremy

          • “No, they are just trying to slow it down.”
            I should have clarified – SOME of them are trying to slow down its growth in certain directions.

            • Hi PTB,

              I should clarify as well. By “conservative” I mean politicians and pundits who claim to be conservative. The vast majority of whom genuinely desire Big government. However, they must lie about this fact to keep the support of regular folks who describe themselves as “conservative”. Many of these people genuinely desire less government but they have been bamboozled into accepting the absurd notion that “pro war” and “small government” are compatible, they are not.

              Jeremy

              • “they have been bamboozled into accepting the absurd notion that ‘pro war’ and ‘small government’ are compatible, they are not.”
                Boy, you can sing that ’til the cows come home.
                I had hopes back in 2008 that Ron Paul’s candidacy was an opportunity for the GOP to become what it has long claimed to be. No such chance.

                • Hi PTB,

                  I was also naively hopeful, for awhile.

                  BTW, the libs have been equally bamboozled into accepting the absurd notion that “anti war” and “big government” are compatible, they are not.

                  Jeremy

              • “By ‘conservative’ I mean politicians and pundits who claim to be conservative.”
                My definition of ‘conservative’ is – defending the status quo. Since the status quo is a growing gunvermin, that is what the ‘conservatives’ defend, with possible quibbling about a few details.

                • Hi Phillip,

                  The “conservatives” I’ve known have no real core principles. They espouse a kind of mish-mash of law and order and “liberty” (to an extent defined by their “values”) marinated in nostalgia for the “good old days.”

                  Those are the honest ones, at any rate.

                  Don’t get me started on the ones like Bill Buckley….

      • Hi Jeremy,
        Your thesis and knowledge of history is right on. I know that the original Constitution was a coup against not only the Articles of Confederation but also the idea of States rights and individual liberty. With that said,still, it is the best we have. The real American Revolution was economic in part because it was a rebellion of the American elites of the time against the Bank of England and its fiat currency. Again the Constitution,whether we like it or not,is the Law of the Land. We have to live with that. Unfortunately all of the changes over the years were designed to centralize power in Washington D.C. Unless Americans are ready,which I doubt,for a revolution to change things everything will stay the same but only worse.

        • “the original Constitution was a coup against not only the Articles of Confederation but also the idea of States rights and individual liberty”
          They did accede to the Bill of Rights which allegedly restored those, because they realized the “Con” would probably not be ratified w/o such.
          Gary North differentiates between the ‘Founders’ (from the Declaration of Independence and 1st War of Secession) and the ‘Framers’ (of the CONstitution)
          Check out his book, Conspiracy in Philadelphia, available free online.

        • Hi Jerry,

          “With that said,still, it is the best we have”.

          Respectfully, I have to disagree. If you desire less, or no, government, appealing to the supposed intent of the constitution will not only fail, it will lead to more government. Implicit in such appeals is an assertion that the institution created by the constitution is legitimate, and that the much lauded “checks and balances” are sufficient to limit said government. This carefully cultivated belief, that government can limit itself, prevents the only thing that can limit government: namely, the refusal of people to obey. Democracy, limited government, checks and balances, the chains of the constitution, etc… all obscure the fact that any institution legally entitled to be the sole judge of its’ own actions relative to the law, necessarily exists outside of the law.

          “Unfortunately all of the changes over the years were designed to centralize power in Washington D.C.”.

          Well, of course. Those who seek political power are not generally interested in limiting it.

          Jeremy

  5. Ah, mandated fuel economy of 54mpg. This is an easily achievable goal, but the “vehicles” that would achieve this will not really be cars, but instead simulacra that will be painfully unpleasant to drive and ride in. But maybe that’s the whole point?

    • Hi Erik,

      I think it is the point. That is, to render cars either so unpleasant or so expensive as to cause most people to opt out.

      It’s the “nudge” strategy propounded by Cass Sunstein and others like him (though he coined that particular term and made a lot of money selling a book of that name).

  6. The problem with a principled argument is it destroys the idea of ruling class wisdom. Going down this road would expose that things like safety and fuel economy come from engineers and customers who demand it. That the government has no part in it and actually harms progress and results in sub-optimal solutions.

    Politicians want to appear as those that grant things. Like gods or some such. They take credit for what others do. Hence this myth there was no auto safety before they waddled in. Of course advancements in auto safety started immediately. Car companies did and financed research that lead to improvements. Automobile safety increased dramatically between the beginning and the 1960s. So did efficiency when measured by more than mpg.

    That’s the thing, mpg is only one way to measure it. Technically efficiency is energy out / energy in. So you can find inefficient engines in cars with relatively high mpg figures. Often because they are simply small and lack power.

    To explain this and more to people pulls back the curtain and the wizard becomes exposed for what he really is. The system starts to fall apart. Republicans defend the system first, republicans in charge of it second.

    Bush the elder is voting for HRC. Why? System first. Party second.

  7. The free market in the United States is about as controlled as you can get. Otherwise you’d be reviewing the latest Dongfeng (3.5 million cars sold last year in China but I doubt anyone here has ever heard of them), instead of the usual SUVs and other US-only s***boxes…

    The people in the emerald city discount the wisdom of the crowds, although with good reason since it seems the crowds are easily manipulated to do their bidding. It is a strange phenomenon, possibly due to the impact of mass media and mass marketing. Maybe more due to lazy consumers who aren’t willing to do even a few minutes of research when they make a purchasing (or voting) decision. “Choice” becomes 25 different brands of water, all of which has a clever marketing campaign, but 2 health care plans (that both suck). I’ve always been fairly skeptical of salesmen, politicians and most middle managers. But I’ve been around long enough to see how people allow themselves to be drawn into “hope” by what amounts to a marketing campaign, and I’ve been suckered more times than I care to admit.

    Then again, maybe we’ve over-complicated society to the point that people just give up. Yes, we know that we could get a better deal if we sat down and did our homework, but the kids have a baseball game this weekend and I have to work late and what the hell am I going to do with dad now that he’s got Alzheimer’s? So screw it, I know I’m not getting a deal on the new Ford, but Ford is a brand I know and the dealer is nearby so what the hell. I can tell you more than you’ll ever want or need to know about the Internet and cable television, but you don’t care and besides, as long as it works when you push the power button that’s all that matters to you. Just like I don’t really care how a pancreas works, just that it does.

  8. While I always abhorred the political correctness that led the Washington Bullets to change their name to the Wizards, at least it had the advantage of alliteration. After all, the Bullets originated in Baltimore (also alliterative)
    I had not considered the appropriateness of the name for this location in Mordor on the Potomac.
    btw, given the homocide rates in Baltimore, bullets was an appropriate name. But what should we call the Chicago Bulls? the ‘Chooters’?

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