Arguing Against Attitudes
Arguments about arguments are being dissected in an Interesting debate between Instapunk, who submits this provocative list of things he believes to be obvious. I wish, because it's a good list and I find nothing there with which I disagree. The premise however, I can't abide. I only wish they were that obvious.
Doc Zero weighs in on item the first: "Corporate taxes are paid by individual taxpayers". His argument is not that this isn't true but that it isn't obvious.
...it’s important to realize the average voter just doesn’t think about politics or economics in precise terms. Those who don’t study these matters as professionals, or enthusiasts, find them repellent and dull. However, they don’t want to come off as uninformed in polite conversation, especially when elections draw near. They construct a set of attitudes, instead of concrete arguments.
From here the essay evolves into an argument about how and what to argue, which counters Instapunk's introductory assertion that belaboring basic concepts is not the best use of conservative's intellectual firepower. I side with Doc on that point, although I have a quibble with another point where he says:
Too many essential truths have become “obvious” enough to turn invisible, because nobody thinks about them any longer.
What I think he is saying here is that essential truths are so prevalent they are taken for granted. I believe they have been taken for granted for so long that they are no longer either prevalent or obvious. I also believe that too many essential truths have been, are being, sacrificed on the alters of political correctness under the guise of pseudo compassion, though I did not make that point in my comments there.
Speaking of which...
Not sure I would agree with Instapunks list as being all that obvious. Now if he were to quantify his assertion that the list "should" be obvious to "those who think" we might get somewhere. If they were so obvious would we be in this mess?
It seems so much of what was assumed to be obvious, that free enterprize and success based on merit is a morally superior economic system for example, no longer gets the institutional reinforcement it once enjoyed, and has been replaced by the counter argument. Commenters here tend to substantiate that observation in mentioning the gaps in their public education. Doc Zero's dedication to repopularizing first principles helps fill that gap and I applaud and share it. The filling of those gaps is the role being filled by the alternative media and it is having a positive affect. Notice I didn't say it was pretty, quite the contrary.
The success of the left came from a heretofore prolonged monopolistic control of the narrative. Corporate taxes, aren't on the average voters radar precisely because the left has successfully posited, incorrectly, that corporate taxes do not affect the average consumer. (How they can justify taxing corporations to kingdom come while trying to limit their freedom of expression via political donations is one of myriad left/liberal incoherencies that somehow remain largely unchallenged in the public debate. But that is a whole different issue) To me, because I think, the incoherency is obvious with a capital O.
The debate therefore, should not be about getting liberals to think, as that labyrinth of aforementioned incoherencies has metastasized into a groupthink impenetrable by logic. So I agree attempts at said penetration are indeed a waste of time and effort. That said, a strong consistent effort should be aimed at self proclaimed moderates, focusing primarily at getting them to think, period. The effort spent there, I believe, would be much more fruitful than preaching to the hopelessly nonconvertible. That effort will facilitate an open debate where truth and logic are allowed as opposed to the fringy lib/left screed where those elements, though never really explained, are foregone conclusions. Instapunk's final "obviousness" captures it perfectly.
I've tried reasoning with a liberal. I've tried reasoning with a brick wall. The latter makes more sense every time. You are on the right track Doc, no pun intended, arguing to assuage an attitude is very different than arguing against a set of attitudes. The open re-examination of first principles, debateable on their own merits, has been an untapped product in the marketplace of ideas for far too long. I'm not sure Al Gore was counting on this when he invented the internets, but bless his carbon trading billionaire heart for accidently providing the forum.
Keep up the good work.
Looks like it's on me to come up with a list of left/lib incoherencies to throw into the mix. Could use some reader input on this.....
UPDATE: No sooner do I make the point that arguing with liberals is pointless than something like this proves it. Liberals Accuse Tea Partiers of Role in Failed Times Square Car Bomb Attack How can you argue with someone who thinks like this, or more to the previous point, why bother?