Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Little Bit More On The Issue

I think the term "epistemic closure" is overly complicated, and perhaps not even entirely accurate.

The issue for me is this:
On the Right, the people with the biggest megaphones are people who reflexively attack the Left. For them the Left is motivated by power to control people's lives. If the Left advocates a policy with a consequence that the government's power is expanded, then that must be the ultimate goal because people on the Left are evil statists. Full Stop.

Their entire strategy of argument is based around assuming the worst of their interlocutors and then asserting the ulterior motives at every turn. When confronted by a reasoned argument by somebody on the same side, Manzi, their primary means of arguing -- asserting ulterior motives and bad faith on the other side -- fell apart. And so they adapted that bankrupt style of argument into a lack of manners and perhaps a lack of character.

And this is the big problem for me. Maybe Levin et al are correct and many liberal pols are motivated toward power for power's sake and use any excuse anybody puts in front of them to justify that power grab. But simply asserting that point and then getting back to that point as the conclusion through self-referential, circular logic isn't helping anybody. And in fact if this stuff is all the conservative guy in the office is using at the water cooler to convince his coworkers or neighbors or whatever, then I weep for the future of the conservative movement.

Sure, it's red meat for the choir, to mix metaphors. But there's no need for strawmen and to assume bad faith on the part of liberals to win the day. Conservatives have nothing to fear from the best liberal arguments in almost all cases because conservative ideas are simply better.

Are these talk show hosts too stupid or too scared to confront the best liberal arguments? Or do they think their audience is too stupid to understand? Or maybe they think the audience will find it boring, in which case and the one I think makes the most sense, Manzi saying Levin is a mere entertainer hits straight home.

Now, conservative ideas being better doesn't mean that cutting taxes and deregulation, which is what the these nincompoops and the political lackeys who seem to rely upon them believe is the entire preferable extent of conservative policy, is always the answer. And perhaps that's where I find this most upsetting. This Us-vs.-Them, never give an inch because the other side is evil, bullshit constrains potential conservative policies in a way that is deeply unhelpful to the nation and ultimately to the long-term health of the movement.

And I guess I'm back at epistemic closure and will leave this alone.


Withywindle said...

Where I differ is that I think all this leads to the long-term health of the nation in a variety of ways. E.g., you really need a bunch of people who never, ever want to raise taxes, no matter what, or inevitably the taxes will rise and rise and rise. I wish we could keep such tenacity without the Levins, but I'm not convinced it's possible.

FLG said...


Do you really think people would acquiesce to a 100% tax rate if the Levins of the world weren't around?

Withywindle said...


Or rather they would acquiesce to so much that the state then would be able to take the rest.

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