Cowboys and Indians

by Don Boudreaux on May 26, 2011

in Hubris and humility, Intervention, War

Tales told about good guys battling bad guys.

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{ 133 comments }

Shirley Knott May 26, 2011 at 8:46 am

A very silly article, rehashing the well-known for the choir.
And fundamentally wrong, or at least radically incomplete, in its assessment.
The issue is far less one of ‘focus on the bad guys’ than it is one of defining the good guys as ‘anyone who asserts opposition to the bad guys’.
Finding bad guys isn’t particularly hard. Nor is finding agreement on who the bad guys are, at least in the primary cases. What’s hard is finding who the good guys are, and what it is that makes them good guys rather than bad.

no hugs for thugs,
Shirley Knott

David Shaw May 26, 2011 at 9:09 am

Did you purposely say nothing of substance, or did you just confuse yourself?

Care to explain why you find Don’s assessment “fundamentally wrong” and/or “radically incomplete”?

If the issue is defining the good guys, care to give it a crack? I think that’s part of Don’s point – its easy to say someone is a good guy or bad guy if you judge on motives, but much harder looking at results. Especially when negative outcomes are easily predictable, yet the “good guys” choose to ignore the predictions.

Methinks1776 May 26, 2011 at 9:09 am

no hugs for thugs,

Totally agree. You are talking about our political class, yes? These are the terrorists I worry about most.

indianajim May 26, 2011 at 10:15 am

LIked!

Harold Cockerill May 27, 2011 at 6:35 pm

ditto

Dick Fitzwell May 26, 2011 at 9:42 am

I think Friedman said it best when he said, “Who are these angels who are going to organize society for us?”

indianajim May 26, 2011 at 10:16 am

Thanks for recalling Friedman’s Donahue throw down.

muirgeo May 26, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Yeah how ridiculous. There ARE no angles, only Invisible Hand Gods.

Dick Fitzwell May 27, 2011 at 9:08 am

No angles? I think you’re being a little obtuse.

brotio May 27, 2011 at 11:43 am

LMAO!

yet another Dave May 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Your acute observation is definitely right!

vikingvista May 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm

At the risk of protractoring this thread, I must say your responses en-compass a very high degree of humor. It’s both straight, and edgey.

Sam Grove May 27, 2011 at 10:50 am

and muirdiots.

What a stupid straw man.

They really got you.

yet another Dave May 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm

That’s right george – there are no Angles any more, but there most certainly used to be.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angles

BZ May 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Well, Ms. Knott makes Don’s point exactly. In fact, republications of the article might do well to include that last paragraph as an introductory quotation to better illustrate the mentality Dr. Boudreaux is talking about.

Stone Glasgow May 27, 2011 at 3:35 am

“What’s hard is finding who the good guys are, and what it is that makes them good guys”

And this is the fundamental reason that you will not agree with any of the commentary here, excepting Mao Dung and Muirgeo. Most here feel that it is a fool’s errand to attempt the discovery of men who are “good guys,” instead preferring to assume that all men are capable of sin, and that no one can be trusted to tell others what to do by force, no matter how “good” they may be discovered or judged to be.

Harold Cockerill May 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm

like

Richard Stands June 1, 2011 at 8:18 am

“Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.”

- Milton Friedman

Frank33328 May 26, 2011 at 9:00 am

Great article and one that should be required reading for every American. It certainly causes introspection regardless of which side of the political spectrum you belong to. My favorite line was “Saddam’s (dictator X’s) rule was very much a result—and certainly not the principal cause—of Iraq’s (country Y’s) anti-liberal culture and dysfunctional social institutions.” It’s amazing to me how often Cubans, Venezuleans, etc., blame misfortune for their Castros and Chavezes.

B.Stone May 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm

“Great article and one that [b]should be required reading for every American.”[/b]
That phrase always gives me shudders, no matter how much I might agree with or envision greater societal benefit from the material in question. Perhaps you don’t mean it literally, but maybe you do.

Frank33328 May 26, 2011 at 5:04 pm

You’re right and honestly no one had ever pointed out that my phrasing considerably less than optimal. Let me phrase as “Great article and one that I wish more Americans would read.”

W.E. Heasley May 26, 2011 at 9:17 am

Ah, the Luskin Axiom:

“If markets fail, governments fail too. Government is the only enterprise on earth that when it fails, it merely does the same thing over again, just bigger” – Don Luskin, TrendMacro

RC May 26, 2011 at 10:28 am

Don,

“However, contrary to the “liberals,” nonintervention rests on at least three truths: First, the complexities of modern economies are so great, and hard to discern, that it is absurdly fanciful to suppose that government officials can intervene without causing more harm than good. Even the most well-meaning government is akin to a bull in a china shop: Out of its natural element, even government’s most careful actions will be so sweeping and awkward that the net result will be unintentionally destructive.”

Since the government acts by the very fact that it exists – so then, the only solution to avoid “destruction” and “awkwardness” is… no government? And yet, I am pretty sure that a economy with a government will outperform a economy without it. Of course, one may always be wrong.

“While most “liberals” are obsessed with the “distribution” of income and believe that people of modest means must be especially disturbed by the fact that some other people earn more than they earn, in fact the typical American of modest means is far less bothered by “unequal” income “distribution” than are members of the “liberal” academy and punditry. This latter fact… ”

But if this is truly a fact, then perhaps some evidence would be helpful?

Regards,
RC

nailheadtom May 26, 2011 at 11:03 am

“. . . I am pretty sure that a economy with a government will outperform a economy without it.”
————————————-
“. . . perhaps some evidence would be helpful?”

RC May 26, 2011 at 11:31 am

Nailheadtom,

Since a stateless economy does not exist (I am not counting Somalia), then how can I provide evidence against it?

I can only make arguments against it. (Besides, I conceded that I could be wrong, if you didn’t notice)

Regards,
RC

Dick Fitzwell May 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Who is arguing for a “stateless economy?”

Sam Grove May 27, 2011 at 10:52 am

No, who is arguing for an ungoverned society?

States are monopoly governments. Perhaps we can grow into a wider arrangement.

vikingvista May 28, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Since I oppose the bullying of innocent people, I couldn’t in good conscience argue otherwise. Unlike most libertarians, I find evil inevitable, not necessary.

Economiser May 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm

You’re (intentionally?) conflating libertarianism with anarchism. Classical liberals come in many flavors, but most of the ones here don’t advocate for no government, just for smaller, less intrusive government.

RC May 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Economiser & Dick Fitzwell,

I know perfectly well that most libertarians here support a small government (and not anarchy).

However, that was not my point. I just noticed that every government – even a strict minarchist government – acts. Since Mr. Boudreaux argues that government action is always awkward and destructive, therefore no government is the only solution. After all, who wants destruction?

Regards,
RC

Economiser May 26, 2011 at 4:37 pm

RC,

Where is Don arguing that “every” government action, even the most base ones, is destructive? When Don says “intervention,” I don’t think he means every action. Without attempting to speak for Don, most everyone here would agree that there are legitimate functions for government. Defense of national borders, for example. Courts of law. Things of that nature.

Tim May 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm

“Destruction” is only destruction where it’s unwanted and useless, and government is very good at this because it exercises monopoly power over government services, imposing one-size-fits-all services on people with very little consumer feedback. In a market system, where government services are bought and sold in a competitive market, the consequences of government action can be abstained from if the consumer considers the service to be more destructive than its utility warrants. In such contexts, the “destruction” from government is merely the opportunity cost of government, and is in an entirely different class from the ineptitude which arises from central planning which Don is critiquing.

RC May 26, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Economiser, Tim & RCP,

Perhaps I have misunderstood Don, although the part of his text that I quoted can be interpreted in more than one way, IMO.

Anyway, I generally prefer using words like “waste” and “inefficiency” in regards to government action, instead of “harm” or “destruction”. I think stronger words should be reserved for stronger cases, like Zimbabwe, Cuba or Burma.

Regards,
RC

muirgeo May 26, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Good point… there is no country with out a government to compare to the other 195 that DO have one… so no data.

crossofcrimson May 27, 2011 at 2:57 pm

“Good point… there is no country with out a government to compare to the other 195 that DO have one… so no data.”

Right…and next we’ll start to conduct double-blind studies using only placebos.

vikingvista May 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm

There are no free actions to compare to coerced actions? Nowhere in the world? Never?

PoliteEdward May 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm

“no government? And yet, I am pretty sure that a economy with a government will outperform a economy without it. Of course, one may always be wrong.”

Sounds like you might be interested in books like…

Practical Anarchy: http://www.freedomainradio.com/FreeBooks/PracticalAnarchy.aspx

Machinery of Freedom: http://daviddfriedman.com/The_Machinery_of_Freedom_.pdf

For a New Liberty: http://mises.org/rothbard/newlibertywhole.asp

They provide some perspectives and proposals on how a stateless society could function.

Sam Grove May 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I think an economy governed by a minimal state will outperform an economy governed by an expansive state.

RC May 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Sam Grove,

That may be very well true. Nevertheless, don’t you think that it is an exaggeration to describe every government action as destructon?

Regards,
RC

RCP in NYC May 26, 2011 at 4:11 pm

RC,

There is a distinction between government action that protects the ability of a market to function, and government action which seeks to direct the market. You won’t find much objection to the protection of personal property rights, but plenty of objection to eminent domain.

RC May 26, 2011 at 4:39 pm

RCP,

Nevertheless, even a government that does nothing but protect the ability of a market to function requires funding. Therefore, it still (in a small way) directs the market.

Of course, I do not object to the government performing a small number of tasks, since I consider them beneficial, not destructive.

Regards,
RC

Economiser May 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm

This is exactly right. Government action that protects (and enhances) the functioning of a market is generally beneficial. Government action that seeks to alter the results of a market is generally harmful.

RCP in NYC May 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm

And in that small way, it is still a destructive force, however it is less destructive in protecting equality before the law than in attempting to impose equality in outcome. No one claims that a system that protects a market based rule of law will be perfect, just that it is preferable.

vikingvista May 26, 2011 at 11:45 pm

It takes blind faith to believe those so empowered would long restrain themselves. There are market solutions to protect market functions, and they do not rely upon the granting of violent monopoly powers to the Nancy Pelosis and John Edwards of the world.

One day I hope market advocates will realize that markets exist to supply people with what they desire. People routinely voluntarily pay large sums of money for security.

RCP in NYC May 27, 2011 at 9:55 am

Society will always have those with a desire to have dominion over others and people who will subvert the rule of law if they can benefit from the rule of man. Federalism, and other competitive measures (i.e. removing universal tax jurisdiction) can be adopted to stifle the ability of individuals in government from being successful in such aims. We will never find a time, or a society where we will be free from the requirement to remain vigilant against such dangers.

Do you conflate the actions of government to protect a market based rule of law and actions to direct the market, or are you suggesting that government should not serve any role in society? I haven’t heard of too many market solutions to things like the adjudication of tortious acts or crimes against persons/property, but I’m going away for the weekend and would love a book recommendation before I go.

vikingvista May 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Yes, there will always be those who desire dominion over others. Just as there will always be those who oddly think the solution is to give those authoritarians a leviathan monopoly with a large army to back it.

A man of conscience is greatful to those with the incentive and courage to subvert violently imposed unagreed to rules by their unwanted overlords. Subversion of the law can be a great virtue. Though I cannot recommend it, because the risks to the hero are very high.

There is no moral law, but the law of agreement.

Sam Grove May 27, 2011 at 11:04 am

In the libertarian model, government may only act within that same limits imposed upon individuals, and so may act as an agent of the right of individuals to defend themselves against injury caused by others, or to exact just compensation for such injury.

So, individuals have no right to use force to determine the functioning of the market having no right to determine market share except by earning it.

Since individuals, acting in concert with others, are economic actors, it is not appropriate to delegate productive activity to the government.

The proper purpose of government is to prohibit interpersonal aggression and fraud so that individuals may engage in production and trade with each other.

Much can be said about this, but I’ll close with support for the argument that any activity of government that lies outside of the previously described proper sphere is likely to be destructive because its only tool is the use of force.

brotio May 27, 2011 at 11:46 am

*like*

vikingvista May 28, 2011 at 1:54 pm

It is a crucially important, risky, and highly demanded service. All the more reason why it shouldn’t be monopolized or given explicit authority to violate any individual’s rights.

Ken May 26, 2011 at 11:15 am

Don,

“conservatives believe the national government to be ignorant, bumbling, and corrupt when it meddles in the U.S. economy, but sagacious, sure-footed, and righteous when it meddles in foreign-government affairs.”

“modern American “liberals” believe the national government to be sagacious, sure-footed, and righteous when it meddles in the U.S. economy, but ignorant, bumbling, and corrupt when it meddles in foreign-government affairs.”

Neither one of these statements is true. Conservatives don’t think the US government is “sagacious” or “sure footed” internationally, nor do liberals believe this for the US economy (although I do agree with the “righteous” part). Both simply think it’s better than the alternative. The statements above are absurdly simplified, terribly weakening your argument.

Also, actions of the US government are more like a broadsword, rather than a scalpel, far better at dealing with extremes like deposing a dictator, rather than dealing with details like guaranteeing equal incomes.

“Saddam’s rule was very much a result—and certainly not the principal cause—of Iraq’s anti-liberal culture and dysfunctional social institutions,”

This is not at all clear. All cultures have anti-liberal tendencies (muirgeo visits this site almost daily), but they don’t always become the dominant tendency of a society. It’s as absurd to say that North Korea isn’t illiberal due to the communist party, but because the typical North Korean wanted an illiberal society. Korean was one country and now is two with diametrically opposed societies, a result of a mere 60 years. The claim above would have you believe this has nothing to do with the ruling class or US intervention into the south.

Regards,
Ken

James May 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I wager the article is an oversimplification by design. To really capture the dynamics of American politics would require nuance to a degree that makes impossible any type of generalization. For example, how does one factor in the special election results from the NY 26th congressional district? By most accounts, dyed-in-the-wool conservatives found absolutely revolting the idea of altering government intervention into medial care for the elderly. What conclusions is one to draw about “conservatives” or “liberals”?

Ken May 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm

James,

Don typically does a better job at explaining things rather than relying on caricature. I expect better of him. In this article he succumbs to the wrong, but tempting tendency to generalize a heterogeneous and treat it as if it is homogeneous. Basically, it’s non-sense from the outset. Garbage in, garbage out.

Simplification and even caricature helps to clarify an issue sometimes. Other times it doesn’t, as in this article. If the purpose was to convince, it fails. If it’s just to preach to the choir, I’m sure it succeeded.

The basic message of the article is the government is likely to do more harm than good. A message with which I agree. Don usually does an outstanding job at conveying this message. He didn’t do a good job in this article. He failed because of his ludicrous oversimplification, which amounts to a straw man: he defined liberals and conservatives in such a way that it is easy to tear down, rather than deal with the very real and very consequential heterogeneity in both groups.

Regards,
Ken

Tim May 26, 2011 at 5:20 pm

If you think the article was about whether government is good or bad, you’ve entirely missed the point. The point is that “liberals” and conservatives suffer from profound cognitive dissonance concerning government intervention.

As so often happens with cognitive dissonance, when this conflict of ideas is pointed out, people tend to get ticked off and object that their views are being grossly mangled, so as to avoid acknowledging the fact that their philosophy is imploding. Given most of the negative responses here amount to nothing more than “nuh uh”s, I regard these responses as foundationally validating Don’s thesis.

Ken May 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Tim,

My point is that he is wrong about the cognitive dissonance. Both liberals and conservative think nothing of using government to intervene wherever and whenever they want. Neither group suffers from cognitive dissonance in this regards. Liberals like the US government to intervene at home AND abroad, whereas conservatives like the US government to intervene at home AND abroad.

Don’s usual point, as is here, that government usually does more harm than good no matter whether it’s at home or abroad. This is the primary point of this article. He’s trying to say that liberals recognize this for gov intervention abroad, but not at home, whereas conservative recognize this at home, but not abroad.

He’s attempting to say there is cognitive dissonance in liberals and conservative because of this apparent disconnect in thinking that gov intervention is effective in one place, but not another. This is incorrect. Both modern liberals and conservative belief very thoroughly in gov intervention everywhere.

Regards,
Ken

Tim May 26, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Pardon, but it strikes me that you’re overriding the entirety of political discourse over the last half century and determining what liberal and conservative mean based on the actions of those people actually in places of political power at the time. By all means, nearly all politicians are in favor of having all power domestic and abroad, but said people must represent something like .0001% of all “liberals” and conservatives, and therefore are largely irrelevant in determining what the positions mean. It’s like saying that the millions of Tea Party members must necessarily be in favor of more domestic spending because congressional Republicans won’t cut the budget. Political philosophies can’t be defined that way.

Ken May 26, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Tim,

“you’re overriding the entirety of political discourse over the last half century”

Not at all. Don is making the absurd claim that “liberals” aren’t interested in foreign intervention, which is a crock. Many people who claim to be liberals were very much in favor of the invasion of Afghansistan, the military intervention in Eastern Europe in the late 90′s, and even though you may not like to admit it many favored the invasion of Iraq. Then there’s the vocal wing on the left who opposed that suddenly went silent on January 21, 2009.

Don also made the absurd claim that conservatives are interested in government intervention domestically, particularly the economy. But of course this is wrong as it is conservative voters that leads the charge to make and keep drugs, prostitution, and gambling illegal (and there is plenty on the left who these kept illegal). Conservative voters, particularly old conservatives, very much support the wealth transfers of SS, medicaid, and medicare. The overwhelmingly conservative military think that after working for just 20 years, they are entitled to a paycheck for life, free medical treatment, and access to all sorts of resources available on any military installation, all paid for by someone else.

It is true that many conservatives say they are against government intervention into the economy, but then they go to the polls and vote for politicians who do exactly that. These politicians know something you don’t: that while many conservatives say they believe in free markets, they don’t. Liberals say they are against wars, but they go to the polls and vote for politicians who do exactly that. These politicians know you don’t: that while many conservatives say they don’t want foreign wars, they only mean when a republican is in the White House.

Regards,
Ken

Tim May 26, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Again, those are all things done by politicians, who by their very paucity cannot be considered to constitute the whole, or even a significant part, of the political discussion.

Ken May 27, 2011 at 1:18 am

Tim,

“Again, those are all things done by politicians, who by their very paucity cannot be considered to constitute the whole, or even a significant part, of the political discussion.”

You say this like you mean it. Politicians get re-elected because they do what their constituents want. Yes, on average, politicians do exactly what they are elected to do, otherwise they would be voted out of office. Yet you keep insisting that what politicians do and what they are voted into office to do are somehow not very related.

Assholes like Barney Frank and Harry Reid keep getting elected because they do what the voters want, on average. Bush was re-elected BECAUSE of his hard line stance on terrorism AND his expansion of medicare; this is exactly what voters wanted. The fact that you can find a lot of people who disagree with what a politician does misses the fact that half of them disagree with the action, but the other half doesn’t think that action was extreme enough.

When overreach occurs, turnover occurs, but not much. What percentage of congressmen returned to Washington after Nov 6, 2010? It was around 90%. And that was considered a tsunami of change.

True incumbents stack the deck in their favor, but always with an eye to please their constituents. What politics should tell you is not so much how crooked politicians are, but how crooked the average voter is for tolerating and even expecting these “things done by politicians.” This is why politics is so disheartening.

Regards,
Ken

Sam Grove May 27, 2011 at 11:07 am

The main distinction between so-called liberals and conservatives is the justifications or intentions they believe are necessary to ensure success.

vidyohs May 26, 2011 at 11:44 am

Excellent article, Don. Except…..

“. “Liberals” (and liberals) who adhere to a doctrine of U.S. government nonintervention in foreign affairs raise the same three objections that conservatives (and liberals) raise against government intervention in the economy.”

Seems to me that FDR (uber-liberal) had to work real hard to get the Congress and the American people behind him to enter WWII, why an outright attack on Pearl Harbor (American soil, yet not the CONUS) was necessary to motivate the people.

Korean War, Harry Truman (uber-liberal) was in charge of the nation then.

Vietnam war, L BJ (Ultra-uber-liberal) created that one.

Bombing the Balkans, bombing Afghanistan, bombing the Sudan, Bill Clinton (uber-liberal) did that on his watch.

Libya, (Commie) Barry Obama has that one, as well as the not unreluctant continuation of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

True, sir, that I only address the leaders and not the great confused mass that constitutes liberaldom. Still, there you are. Liberals quite happy to meddle in foreign affairs. They just like to start their own wars to advance their own agenda.

James May 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Nice bit of ad hominem here.

vidyohs May 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Sheeesh, I am sorry, that was an ad hominen?

Here let me correct the offensive part with something more accurate – “I only address the looney left leaders and not the great confused mass of loonies that follow them and who constitute liberaldom”

James May 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Bravo! Very nice demonstrations of what’s why the left AND the right are sending this country down the tubes! Bravo!

vidyohs May 26, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Why James, so tsk tsk on me!

Tell me James were you raised in this kind of environment?
http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/babiespregnancy/babies/article/995112–parents-keep-child-s-gender-secret

So you think the word liberal is an ad hominem? Very telling of your mindset. However, the lengths I have seen the looney left go to avoid being so labeled does indicate to me that they attach the same stigma to it that I do……so now we have the label regressives that they substitute for the word liberal. LOL, poor critters have no f.cking clue as to what they should be called because they just have no f.cking clue.

Go back to the previous post from Don and reread the article that Sally Kohn wrote, then come back here and read the last sentence of my previous paragraph again.

Kinda of pointless to even think that Sally and I are ever going to bridge that chasm, isn’t it? I won’t go over to her side because to do so would be to commit to stupidity. She won’t come to my side because she is stupid.

With that in mind, I don’t even think being nice to those who impose, or want to impose, their stupidity on me is an intelligent idea. I much prefer just kicking their ass to the curb and driving on by.

Which is it James? Do you want to stand with Sally in her stupidity? I hope you like curb.

Gil May 26, 2011 at 10:05 pm

It’s not ad hominem because Liberals aren’t humans thus there can be no fallacy when dealing with them.

vidyohs May 26, 2011 at 10:17 pm

@GIL

Holy crap, Gil! You finally got something!

It is not an ad hominem if it is true, and damned if you didn’t get that! I am so proud of you!

Gil May 27, 2011 at 1:00 am

It’s ad hominem because it’s the argument of group A is retarded therefore and everything they say or do is going to be retarded.

Ken May 27, 2011 at 1:22 am

Gil,

It’s not ad hominem since liberals are retarded BECAUSE of how much they say is wrong; not the other way around. Maybe you and James should study together to try to piece together one whole brain and stitch together a common understanding of ad hominem.

Regards,
Ken

Ken May 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm

James,

Look up what ad hominem is. vidyohs decidedly is NOT employing it here.

vidyohs quite correctly points out the errors in Don’s argument that “liberals” are just a blood-lustful as conservatives using EVIDENCE. Ad hominem would be vidyohs attacking Don personally, then drawing the conclusion that this article is wrong because of this personal attack.

People sound so dumb when trying to use words they don’t understand, as you do here James.

Regards,
Ken

James May 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Or perhaps as you do Ken when you fail to realize that my comment was directed at vidyohs’ insistence on attaching the “liberal” moniker as a way to mock and, apparently undercut such people by referencing this “characteristic or belief of the person advocating the, [in vidyohs' opinion offending] premise.” Given your attempts above to help Don make a better argument….why not also try to help vidyohs by insisting that such useless particles are left out of otherwise reasonable writing?

yet another Dave May 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Ken is correct; vidyohs comment was clearly NOT ad hominem.

Further, your argument that including the “liberal moniker” weakened vidyohs’ point fails because vid was specifically addressing Don’s description of liberal attitudes using a number of liberals as examples.

Ken May 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm

James,

“my comment was directed at vidyohs’ insistence on attaching the “liberal” moniker”

It was no such thing. In case your browser or memory aren’t working correctly here is your previous comment in its entirety:

“Nice bit of ad hominem here.”

No where do you clarify or qualify this statement. Now you’re back pedaling with all sorts of qualifications and dissembling, but you’re backpedaling farther into the corner looking even dumber now that you’ve got the deer in headlights look on your face. Here is vidyohs statement:

“Liberals quite happy to meddle in foreign affairs.”

Also he describes, quire correctly various liberal presidents as “uber-liberal” as a way to show that liberals really are “quite happy to meddle in foreign affairs.” At no time did he use “the “liberal” moniker as a way to mock”, but I can see why a liberal would feel mocked by having someone, you know, call them a “liberal”. Brain dead liberals are typically defensive about being referred to as liberals.

Regards,
Ken

yet another Dave May 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm

At no time did he use “the “liberal” moniker as a way to mock”

I agree, but even if he had it still is not ad hominem. (Ken – I’m sure you understand this, but James evidently does not)

Ken May 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm

YADave,

“I agree, but even if he had it still is not ad hominem.”

I thought about making this very same statement.

People like James seem to think the following is ad hominem:

1. H makes claim C
2. K shows C to be false
3. K laughs and mocks C for making a false assertion

That is not ad hominem despite James desperately wanting this. The following is ad hominem:

1. H makes claim C
2. K mocks and ridicules H
3. K claims that since H has been mocked and ridiculed C is false.

So, yes, even if vidyohs had mocked liberals, he mocked them because they are wrong. He doesn’t claim they are wrong because people mock them. Hence he is not committing ad hominem.

Regards,
Ken

vidyohs May 26, 2011 at 6:49 pm

BTW James I did not attach the word “liberal, or the words uber liberal, or ultra-uber liberal, to anyone to mock them. It is what I am required to do by the Truth In Labeling laws of the nation. Those leaders where/are universally known and recognized to be what I labeled them as. No mockery. Contempt, disgust, dislike, maybe a smattering of stronger emotion for FDR, LBJ, and now BHO, but no mockery.

You see James, you can’t come here thinking that you represent the intellectual elite of the political/social spectrum as your liberal teachers told you you would always be as a liberal; because, as you can see from the response to your inanity, you are way behind the intellectual curve.

Gil May 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Think of it like this James if a White supremacist say “those damn niggers are sending this society to Hell” then his friends would say it’s not ad hominem because it’s a true statement to them. Hence when Libertarians are saying “those damn Liberals (and/or Conservatives depending on the day) are sending this society to Hell” then it’s not ad hominem.

Tim May 26, 2011 at 11:28 pm

An Ad hominem is not the same thing as ridicule, scorn, or a personal attack. To be an ad hominem, a personal attack needs to be used as a substitute for a premise in a formal logical argument. Even in your above example, that’s not an ad hominem, because it isn’t part of a defective syllogism.

vikingvista May 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Ken,

Well said. The reason I never accuse people of argumentum ad hominem, is that it is one of the least common fallacies that I encounter.

Gil May 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm

* spit take! * Yeah right!

Ryan Vann May 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Everyone loves a good war, so long as they came up with the idea.

James May 26, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Thanks for the lesson on logical fallacy. The point still stands however, that the incessant mocking of liberals so characteristic of this page adds nothing productive to the discussion and is far better left out of postings.

brotio May 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm

So, it is mocking to use the same modifiers for liberals that the AP, and the NY Slimes (and the rest of the dominant liberal media) use when describing conservatives? Newt Gingrich is often labeled as ultra-conservative, or right-wing by the DLM. Ted Kennedy was usually labeled, “Democrat”.

Ken May 26, 2011 at 8:53 pm

James,

“The point still stands however, that the incessant mocking of liberals so characteristic of this page adds nothing productive…”

It is very productive. I get a kick out of it, particularly when lefties like you get a kick in the intellectual balls and have your smugness rubbed in the rot that lefties have the audacity to call intelligence. It makes me happy to see whine little pussies to have to come to grips with the fact that you are a whiny pussy.

But what I really like is that you think our mocking tones are only reserved for the left. Maybe you’ve never heard of a president names George W. Bush, or possibly a wannabe politician names Newt Gingrich. The self-centeredness you’ve put on display for thinking mine or anyone else’s condescension is reserved for exclusively or even predominately for the left is totally and utterly mockable, for which I say thank you.

Now grow a pair, learn a little logic, and learn a few facts, then come back and you might not be such a bitch.

Regards,
Ken

vidyohs May 26, 2011 at 8:58 pm

:-) like

James May 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Oh Kennie boy…feels good to say that sitting in front of a monitor doesn’t it? I love your assumptions, I really do. The thing I get the biggest kick out of……knowing that everything you think you know about me is wrong! You wanna dance? We can dance.

Ken May 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm

James,

Do I “wanna dance”? Are you really getting worked up over what a faceless person online who you’ve never met has to say? To the point you want to fight? You really are a thin-skinned bitch.

And yes, I know enough about you from what you’ve wrote that 1) you have a poor understanding of what liberals do; 2) you have a weak grasp on logic; 3) you are a weak minded invalid who gets upset at bits on a screen for pointing out what a weak minded invalid you are.

Also, I’ve read plenty of inauthentic please to be “civil” from clowns like you to know just what hypocritical jackasses you really are, particularly after casting the first stone and it bounced off a brick wall instead of shattering glass like you hoped. You insulted, or attempted to, vidyohs by condescendingly and wrongly using a term which you clearly didn’t understand. Then you had your ass handed to you by me and a couple of other commenters and like Lt. Kaffee you can’t handle the truth.

Regards,
Ken

vikingvista May 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm

It is productive, because it makes me feel better.

Scott G May 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm

From Rasmussen Reports: “46% Rate Obama’s Leadership Style As Good or Excellent…Positive marks for the President are up six points from last month, two weeks prior to the killing of Osama bin Laden”

DG Lesvic May 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Those who point to “liberal” war-lords as evidence against Don’s thesis are confusing the lords with their subjects. As far as the “subjects” themselves are concerned, and despite the fact that it doesn’t hold true in every last case, Don’s thesis is essentially correct, interesting, and useful.

It’s alright to criticize it. That’s what he put it up there for. But let’s at least recognize that he accomplished what he set out to, to create a framework for a worthwhile productive discussion.

Ken May 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm

DG,

“Don’s thesis is essentially correct”

Is it? Only if you take people at their word. Looking at their actions, his thesis is essentially wrong. Liberals have always been happy to use government force overseas, just as conservatives have always been happy to use government force at home for their economic ends. Don has a correct concurrent argument, that government usually does more harm than good, in the article, but this is directly undermined by using examples that directly contradict reality, i.e., liberals don’t like overseas interventions and conservatives don’t like national intervention.

It’s unwise and unconvincing to use an obviously incorrect assertion as an example of something else, even when that something else is correct.

Regards,
Ken

James May 27, 2011 at 12:59 am

Face it Ken…you are the same as the people you try so hard to insult. It’s not about the quality of the argument…you would be no more willing to abandon your priors as would any of the people you so self righteously castigate. You are the same…and that, more than anything else, is what makes you whip out the torrent of mindless insults. Sleep well my boy and enjoy the dream that you are different.

Ken May 27, 2011 at 1:27 am

James,

Did I insult anyone in the comment to which you replied above? No. The fact that you see one shows what an insecure weak fool you are.

If this comment is simply a continuation of the previous thread, why not continue it up there? Why drag DG into it by attempting to hijack this thread?

I am different from you because I actually know things, like what ad hominem is, and how to must a logical argument. Something you obviously struggle with since you are taking this thread in a whole different thread simply because you have a personal beef with me.

Grow up little man.

Regards,
Ken

James May 27, 2011 at 8:35 am

Well hey there Ken. Love how your silence conceded my point. Hope your things are well for you….buddy. ;-)

Ken May 27, 2011 at 11:56 am

James,

Your comment in this thread had no point. There was nothing to concede.

You really are just a horses ass.

Regards,
Ken

James May 27, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Na…just getting a huge kick out of taking you for a ride. Out of curiosity, how far back through the archives do you go to make sure you get the last word there Kennie Boy? Tell you what….let’s find out…. ;-)

Ken May 27, 2011 at 9:36 pm

” how far back through the archives do you go to make sure you get the last word”

Maybe as far as you.

Regards,
Ken

James May 27, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Maybe….as I said….we shall see.

John Dewey May 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm

“For modern American conservatives the oppressed masses consist of foreign peoples yearning for American-style freedom and political franchise.”

Don, do you think the majority of “modern American conservatives” would used oppression of the masses as justification for using American troops to wage war against another nation? I don’t think that’s true for most American conservatives.

Don Boudreaux May 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm

John,
I normally see eye-to-eye with you, but here I believe we see differently. True, few American conservatives regard ‘being oppressed’ as a sufficient condition for sending in the stars’n'stripes, but the justification for many foreign expeditions does seem to me to be quite frequently justified by the claim that America has a moral obligation to stand up to foreign bullies who are lording it over their captive populations. But perhaps I read the WSJ too much :-)

whotrustedus May 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm

This might be a bit of bootlegger/baptist going on here. I do think that this is the public argument that is most often given for foreign intervention. That argument usually sells well. But I think the actual motivations are good deal more complex: pandering for votes, belief in the role of the US as the world’s policemen, support for military suppliers, etc. etc.

John Dewey May 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I do not believe conservative U.S. elected officials have recently used the argument that we should free an oppressed nation from bullies as a justification for engaging U.S. soldiers in war. William Kristol may have done so, but he is not an elected official.

vidyohs May 26, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Or perhaps Don, when you read the words, “People get the kind of government they deserve” they actually meant something to you.

John Dewey May 26, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I don’t like it when we disagree, Don, but I understand such disagreements will occur.

As I remember it, we waged war against Afghanistan because the terrorists who directed the destruction of the World Trade Center were operating from Afghanistan. I think most American conservatives cared very little about the oppressed masses in Afghanistan prior to September 11. 2001.

The justification for invading Iraq was to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists. I will agree that our government leaders either lied or were misled about that threat. But I feel reasonably certain that the alleged weapons of mass destruction and their threat to the U.S. were the reason American conservatives supported the Iraq invasion.

I think American intervention in the Bosnian War qualifies as an action justified by a moral obligation to stand up to foreign bullies. In that case, the armies were engaged in systematic mass rape and genocide. I would disagree that the victims of mass rape and genocide believed such situations to be superior to likely alternatives.

I think some American conservatives would justify war in order to rid the oppressed masses of bullies. But I do not believe such thinking is the norm for American conservatives.

Methinks1776 May 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm

John,

I believe that you justified the intervention in the Bosnian war by claiming a moral obligation to stand up to bullies and then claimed the that most American conservatives don’t justify war on this basis.

You might be making a distinction between foreign and domestic bullies (that’s how I read it), but I don’t see much difference myself. Why would it be less morally repugnant if a domestic bully were murdering his population versus an import?

John Dewey May 26, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Just to be clear, I do not think it less morally repugnant that a bully would be murdering his own population. That doesn’t mean I would support every intervention in a situation where a tyrant is murdering a population.

Don argued that recent foreign interventions were frequently:

“justified by the claim that America has a moral obligation to stand up to foreign bullies who are lording it over their captive populations.”

I simply reviewed the three most recent foreign interventions in which large numbers of American soldiers were put at risk. As I see it, two had little to do with freeing captive populations. One did.

Methinks1776 May 26, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Got it. Thank you. But, did the conservatives justify the intervention in Bosnia on moral grounds the way they’re justifying the intervention in Libya and justified Kosovo and WWII? It seems to be the norm for conservatives to believe we should fight wars on moral grounds – even if most realize that we haven’t the resources to fight all of them.

John Dewey May 26, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Not sure I’m qualified to answer for all American conservatives. For me, the moral issue is only one factor in determining whether to intervene. Equally important is the estimates of cost (casualties) and the likelihood of success. Bosnia was not going to cost NATO very much, and it was hoped to pay big benefits in dealings with Muslim nations.

I’m not so familiar with the rationale for Kosovo.

I think American entry into WWII had little to do with freeing oppressed people. Japan first killed 2,402 Americans at Pearl Harbor, and America was going to avenge those deaths.

I don’t think America intervened in Europe in WWII until forced to. Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. four days after Pearl Harbor. Germany immediately started sinking both military and merchant ships off the U.S. coast.

Methinks1776 May 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Sorry, John, I didn’t mean that the U.S. entered the war to free the oppressed. If it did that, it may have gone to war against itself to free the Japanese from internment camps. Ha!

It’s just that it’s usually cited as a great moral war, and not a great American defensive war.

I know you’re not qualified to answer for all conservatives. It’s a question of perception. This is how I perceive it based on everything I’ve heard and read.

John Dewey May 26, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Perhaps this statement:

“I think American intervention in the Bosnian War qualifies as an action justified by a moral obligation to stand up to foreign bullies.”

was confusing. What I should have written, and what I intended, was:

“I think American intervention in the Bosnian War qualifies as a case in which American conservatives justified the intervention by a moral obligation to stand up to foreign bullies.”

I wasn’t making the claim that intervention was justified. I only meant that this intervention did actually come about for the reason Don has stated.

John Dewey May 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm

methinks: “I believe that you justified the intervention in the Bosnian war by claiming a moral obligation to stand up to bullies”

I was only pointing out that thelast part of one argument Don made – that

“many situations that appear to well-meaning outsiders to be so undesirable that someone simply must intervene are understood by many of the people most closely affected by these situations to be superior to likely alternatives”

probably does not apply to the Bosnian War.

methinks: “You might be making a distinction between foreign and domestic bullies”

I do not understand what you are meaning, methinks. Did I somewhere in my response refer to domestic bullies?

Methinks1776 May 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm

You know this reminds me that pay for utterly useless UN “peace keepers”. What the heck is the point of these blue-helmeted layabouts?

Economiser May 26, 2011 at 6:07 pm

They’re a human trip wire. If enough different countries have unarmed blue helmeted people standing around, the local warring factions won’t engage in all-out carnage lest they start killing blue-helmets and prompt an invasion from said blue-helmeted peoples’ native lands.

That’s the theory, anyway.

Methinks1776 May 26, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Certainly worked in Rwanda and Srebrenica! I’m sure they’re similarly successful everywhere.

BTW, I think they’re armed. They just can’t shoot. Trust the collective of collectives that is the UN to dream up something this absurd.

vidyohs May 26, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Ah m’lady,

It didn’t work so well in the Congo though. Wouldn’t that long ago, less than 5 years, when French soldiers wearing the blue helmet and manning a post in the Congo spent a couple of days warning their “Blue Helmet” command that they were in serious danger where they were, only to be ignored.

Guess where they ended up? Yep, that’s right, killed and in the ole cook pot. Literally in the cook pot. The Congolese rebels killed them and ate them, and this in the 21st century.

Not good to wear the “Blue Helmet” in places where people don’t give a shit about being nice.

Methinks1776 May 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Vid, you missed my sarcasm.

The UN “peacekeepers” don’t keep the peace. They are a complete waste of time and money.

Methinks1776 May 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Although, delightful story as I head off to dinner. Glad I’m a vegetarian.

vidyohs May 26, 2011 at 7:55 pm

@Methinks,

Shucks m’lady, you’re entirely right. I did miss the sarcasm.

Just ignore the “long pork” on the menu and stick to the veggies.

:-)

brotio May 26, 2011 at 8:55 pm

They just can’t shoot.

Another French joke?

Stone Glasgow May 27, 2011 at 4:17 am

Methinks, why are you a vegetarian?

Nevada Doctor May 26, 2011 at 5:54 pm
Mark Anthem May 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Brilliant. If you re-read Genesis and here the insider joke voice it all becomse clear. “Now he has become like one of us, knowing the difference between good and evil” This is something a Father says to children to keep them occupied for his own amusement.
Obviously, there is only chaos, and things that were created from chaos. “He looked at what he created and saw that it was good.”
Good is anything that developed into order from what formerly was chaos. Evil is an anti-concept and any logical reasoning you attempt using that idea will only lead to irrationality and frustration.
Are suns good and moons evil? Who cares it won’t get you anywhere contemplating the question.

vidyohs May 26, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Mark Anthem,

Could I suggest to you that we have historic proof that the only mistake made by good, the only problem ever in the thinking of good, is that good has actually thought at times that bad was defeated.

Big Huuuge mistake.

Mark Anthem May 26, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Yes I definitely agree with that. To not think that way is to commit the black and white fallacy. It always feels overly good when we succeed in “substituting a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory.” It is axiomatic of being alivelife I’d say.
Say you come home to find you have ants in your kitchen. You might kill them manually, use bug spray, call an exterminator, and temporarily alleviate your unease.
More “bad” ants can still enter your home. The insectide may kill your dog. Your shoe you kill them with might break. You’re checking account might go overdrawn.
You as an individual cowboy may have some problems dealing this problem, most likely through the I-Pencil miracle of cheap bug spray, but there can still be problems.
If you are a second hand indian, unfortunately, you are in a bad place unless you personally have the skill and knowledge to solve your problem. When you don’t, you’ll try an anti-pest dance. Or pray to the great bug spirit. You’ll call the ministry of infestation eradication. You’ll visit the Imam and accuse your neighbor of immoral practices resulting in a plague. None of these will improve your unease, leaving you no choice but to attempt to coerce someone who has the answer to do it for you.

muirgeo May 26, 2011 at 6:58 pm

“Modern “liberals” dismiss these three objections to economic intervention as being fanciful excuses used by the economically powerful—and, even worse, also by the economically naive free-market faithful—to provide (flimsy) intellectual cover for predations by capitalist bad guys. The realistic assessments by modern “liberals” indicate to them that economic intervention is necessary and righteous.” Don

That’s me… you’ve been reading me haven’t. You got that from me.

muirgeo May 26, 2011 at 7:04 pm

So libertarians have no “bad guys”? Oh waith the bad guys are the government? But then who are the good guys?

“…even government’s most careful actions will be so sweeping and awkward that the net result will be unintentionally destructive.”

Reallly??? Does that make sense to anyone? Places with governments have unitentionally destructive results? What compared to places with out governements… Citations please…..

Seriously I think your bad guy is evolved human nature…. some one needs to intervene.

Ken May 26, 2011 at 8:58 pm

” Places with governments have unitentionally destructive results?? What compared to places with out governements”

As is plain in all of Don’s writing he never calls for no government, merely a limited government, something for which you seem to hate. Maybe you don’t know what happened to the inner city black family as a direct result of the government “helping” them. Maybe you’re just an ass. Me, I think it’s the latter.

Regards,
Ken

Gil May 26, 2011 at 9:16 pm

There are no bad Libertarians, ever (if one does go rogue they’ll be relabelled a Liberal or Conservative anway).

crossofcrimson May 27, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I know plenty of bad libertarians. They don’t self-identify though. Usually they just call themselves “Objectivists.” But (practically) they could be considered minarchists =)

muirgeo May 26, 2011 at 7:16 pm

First, the complexities of governments’ relationships with their citizens are so great and hard to discern that it is absurdly fanciful to suppose that Libertarians can NOT intervene without causing more harm than good. Even the most well-meaning non-intervention is akin to a bull in a china shop: Out of its natural element, even Libertarians most careful inactions will be so sweeping and awkward that the net result will be unintentionally destructive.

I think what the libertarian hates to admit is that the invisible hand is NOT just a market phenomenon. It involves all endevors of the human enterprise. You try to seperate government and economies and it hasn’t been done. It CAN’T be done. They are like conjoined twins sharing a common brains or heart…inseperable.
Indeed we have evolved these brains specifically to intervene and THAT is what makes us so successful. There is no evidence to support your thesis. It is contrary to human nature. What republicans and democratic people are attempting is appropriate. What mattersis who has the best ideas and plans.

A libertarian society would take a beating from a Republican society or from a Progressive society. You would come in a distant third.

indianajim May 26, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Muir,

What has given rise to massive increases in human living standards is the replacement of RAID with TRADE. Violence among humans has declined only over a very long period of time; still, the level in the 20th century pales by comparison to the levels indicated by archeologists to have characterized our distant ancestors. Our evolve tendencies are not determinant, they are merely influential. Sweets are an evolved taste in humans, but not all are obese are they? No, of course not.

Captain Profit May 26, 2011 at 11:57 pm

“A libertarian society would take a beating from a Republican society or from a Progressive society.”

Felicitous choice of words, Tex.

crossofcrimson May 27, 2011 at 3:17 pm

“Even the most well-meaning non-intervention is akin to a bull in a china shop”

It’s surely the sign of the best as well as the most compassionate physicians; to give their “patients” no choice in the composition or actual pursuit of treatment.

As has been said thousands of times before, the confusion (and more appropriately, delusion) that people with anti-libertarian sentiments suffer from – that we oppose action itself instead of what we actually oppose, forced action – is responsible not only for the poor logic they try to pass off as arguments, but also, unfortunately, for the larger part of the social and cultural disposition that exists that pushes us to out each other in shackles at every turn. It would be a miracle if the supposed defenders of peace and compassion woke up one day to suddenly ACTUALLY believe in them and not simply pay lip-service to them as rhetorical shivs. Humanity deserves better (and actual) solutions.

Denno May 26, 2011 at 8:23 pm

The comments are all very interesting. Still, the editorial is very, very good. Of course, I think so because I believe it too. Republican & Democrat politics are more about subjectivism than substance.

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