Category Archives: Comment Of The Day

Comment of the Day: The ‘Why Politics Sucks’ Edition

Re: Rand Paul Under Attack from the Left for his ‘Lunch Counter Libertarianism’

This is why politics sucks. When you actually consider what the significance of Paul’s very nuanced view on this is and then juxtapose over what his potential duties as Senator would be, you quickly come to the correct conclusion that this matter means absolutely nothing.

He will be voting on budgets, taxes, appropriations and so on. And yet, while we can debate whether or not it is good or wise or prudent to have so much money and influence voted on in DC (I am opposed), the fact that such a decision about who should be qualified to do all this voting on behalf of the citizens of KY would be seriously and deliberately dumbed down to this irrelevant gotcha argument about civil rights and federal power is just frightening and simply further proof to how bad this process is.

Comment by John V — May 20, 2010 @ 7:32 pm

I think John V did a better job of making this point than I did. What Rachel Maddow was trying to do was use this gotcha play straight out of the Left’s playbook. Anyone who has libertarian leanings who wishes to run for office should be advised that because you have these leanings, you will be asked about your thoughts on the Civil Rights Act, particularly the title that deals with private businesses.

When I watched this interview, at first I was frustrated that Dr. Paul didn’t go into a more detailed explanation of this position that I admit is out of the mainstream* of modern political thought. Why did he keep going back to the gun argument** and why did he focus so much on the other nine titles that he, Maddow, and probably most who have libertarian leanings agree upon?

While I still believe Dr. Paul could have made a more persuasive argument or explained his position better, it has since occurred to me why he chose to respond as he did: he didn’t want to give his opponents too many sound bytes that could be used for attack ads.

Paul’s opponents, if they haven’t already, are busy producing negative campaign ads showing segregated lunch counters and juxtaposing his worst picture they can find next to Bull Connor’s. They will no doubt make the claim that Rand Paul wants to ‘turn back the clock’ on civil rights even though he has repeatedly said that the matter has been settled and that he would do no such thing***.

Rather than have an honest debate about this particular point, this kind of manipulation is what the debate is going to be reduced to.

John V is quite correct: This is why politics suck.

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Comment Of The Day

Walter, commenting on Doug’s post about legal challenges to the health care bill:

The outcome is not as important, one might reason, as it is to exhaust this means of redress by law. It needs to be clear to the people that law has failed so that political redress will be urgently sought. That failing… is not a thing we should wish to see.

The problem with revolution is not the undertaking — it is making the people see that their government is illegitimate and harmful to their interests. Once you’ve accomplished that, the heavy lifting is done.

Is The Free Market Democratic?

In my post on whether America is ungovernable, one comment from CJS stuck out. It illustrates what I think is a common misconception of the average consumer, who sees a Starbucks on every corner, chooses between Microsoft and Apple for their operating system, and chooses whether to shop at the Super Wal-Mart or Costco each weekend.

A free market seems to have its own form of democratic majority rule. It may be a majority of money, but your small sum may be as ineffective at changing the actions of a business as it is at changing the actions of a government.

This view looks at the free market as a lowest-common-denominator, winner-take-all system, when it is the exact opposite. When it comes down to it, any need will be met if the conditions are right.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an engineer, and I work in the electronics industry. I’ve worked at big companies, I’ve worked at small companies, and most recently I worked [and continue to work] for a small company that was acquired by a much larger company. In my role (customer-facing), I’ve seen the ins and outs of business at all levels.

One thing that you see about many small companies is that they work hard to define a niche that they can fill and compete in. At the same time, larger companies tend to use their size, economies of scale, and greater resources to find very large market segments where their advantages allow them to overwhelm their smaller competitors.

I think of that small niche company as a military special forces unit. They’re the SEAL unit. They can deploy quickly, they can accomplish jobs that nobody else can get done, and what they do well, they do better than anyone. But they have very limited capacities. You’re not going to ask them to project force across an entire theatre of battle. The large company, however, is a carrier battle group. When they decide where they’re going, you join them or you get out of the way. They have the power to change the game. But they’re not as nimble. They can’t go in 15 different directions at once. They have enormous power, but they must make strategy in broad strokes, not in fine lines. The SEAL unit won’t defeat a carrier battle group in open combat, yet nobody in their right mind will claim that they’re not a formidable fighting force to accomplish the right-sized objective.

To push it back to the original point, if you have a need and a budget, you have two options. If the big company has something that fits your need, you’re in luck. And as CJS says, if the big company doesn’t have something that fits your need, you’re probably not going to get them to change their mind without a compelling story. But it doesn’t end there. There are entire industries devoted to picking up “the scraps” not serviced by the big companies. They might be a bit more expensive, but they’re there.

Leaving electronics, this is a common refrain all through the business world. If business were democratic, like our government, all restaurants would be McDonald’s, all beer would be Budweiser, all cars would be GM, and all computers would run Windows and use Internet Explorer. In democracy, everyone votes on what everyone else will have access to.

But the free market isn’t democratic. There is no single entity from which you are voting to have your needs met. You have competing entities trying to earn your custom. If I want something cheap, known, and tasty, I’ll stop at McDonald’s. But McDonald’s doesn’t make a burger like St. John’s does. I may drink Miller Lite out of nostalgia for my college days, but The Bruery is a bit more my speed. I love my Ford truck, but I like the fact that I could buy (at varying prices) all sorts of small-production automobiles — and someday hope to buy or build a Shelby Cobra. And while I use Windows for most of my computing, I browse with [free] Firefox and do quite a bit with [also free] ubuntu Linux — not to mention all the options out there that I’ve encountered in business (QNX, VxWorks, Solaris, etc etc).

How powerful is the free market? Well, in a free market, even if what you want is illegal someone will supply it to you. Whether it’s drugs, or sex, or just a bacon-wrapped hot dog, the market will supply what is in demand.

Democracy is a method to work together to make joint decisions. The free market is a place to trade value you’ve created (often money, the proxy for such value) for value others have created. In both, a lot of people choose the same thing. The difference is that in a market, people only choose for themselves. In a democratic government, people choose for themselves, their neighbors, and a whole host of people they’ve never even met. In a market, choosing differently than the majority limits options somewhat, but you can still get your needs met. In a democracy, choosing differently than the majority means that you get what the majority wants you to have.

Comment of the Day: A Welcome Voice from Liberty Papers Past

Re: Mancow gets waterboarded

It’s always a treat to hear from Eric, the founder of The Liberty Papers. Its comments like this one which make me miss his “grumbles.” This comment was in response to a discussion sparked by Stephen Gordon’s post concerning waterboarding:

Interesting discussion. Chris has a very valid point about altering the meaning of the language. He also points out that waterboarding is a form of coercion and that coercion should not be used on prisoners. But, in the heated and traumatic rejection of his assertions about what torture is, the more important point he makes is lost.

The point is, coercive interrogation is wrong to do to someone who we hold prisoner. Chris said that loud and clear, but folks are so incensed that he might not agree that something is torture that they miss the fundamentally more important point. Another fundamentally important issue, if you believe in The Rule of Law, is that we don’t have clear laws on what to do with terrorist combatants and that poses a problem. One of the keys to solving the problems of piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries was to promulgate clear, consistent, logically and legally sound laws and regulations for dealing with pirates.

We don’t have that for terrorists today, and that’s a problem.

P.S. adding to the point about use of language. We used to know that torture meant causing permanent injury to someone. When we talked about the police giving someone the “third degree”, it meant physically injuring someone to coerce them to do something. The reason we said “third degree” is that there were three levels of Inquisition used during the Catholic Inquisition.

1st Degree – Discussing the crimes someone is accused of and informing them that stronger methods of inquisition can be used if they don’t cooperate

2nd Degree – Showing the accused person the methods that can be used, like racks, knives, flails and other implements of torture

3rd Degree – Actually using those implements on the accused person, i.e. the Third Degree of Inquisition.

So, the very tortured definitions of torture that folks are trying to come up are actually changing the meanings of the language in ways that support the individual’s position. This is something that Orwell argued strenuously against and that most “libertarians” argue against, as well. Except, it seems, when being for it supports their personal beliefs.

Causing PTSD does not automatically make something torture. PTSD can be caused by a car accident, by seeing your sibling die, by participating in violent combat and many other things. None of which are “torture”. I suggest that we should return to the traditional definition that doing things which would be considered “the third degree” is torture. Let’s use the language right. AND we can still agree that things which are not torture, but are inhumane or coercive, or both, are wrong for US interrogators to do to our prisoners.

Comment by Eric — June 5, 2009 @ 8:24 am

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