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The Politics of “Why”

Children are always asking "Why?" They want to understand what they observe. They want to know what lies behind things. They want to be able to read some order and sense into the world.

As adults, we get out of the habit of asking why. Why? Because "Why?" can be a very uncomfortable question. Growing up means learning to function in society, which requires keeping our relationships with the people around us running smoothly, avoiding offense. That's great for greasing the gears of surface society. But it's bad for real mutual understanding.

Those of us who are politically engaged find ourselves arguing repetitively during election cycles and times of controversy. Back and forth we pitch our opinions, our arguments, even allowing them to devolve into insults and spitefulness. Why?

Maybe because we've grown out of the habit of asking why.

Instead of taking offense at one another's convictions, let's ask each other why. Why do you believe what you believe? You seem so sure of it. But how is it possible that you are so sure of your position, while I am equally sure of the exact opposite position?

My view seems so obvious to me that it shouldn't even need explanation. Yours seems the same way to you. Clearly, we're both making false assumptions about what's self-evident and what isn't. So let's stop assuming. Let's put our cards on the table. Let's be honest with those we're talking with, and with ourselves, about why we hold our opinions.

Have we thought them through? Or did we just inherit them from our parents or fellow students or teachers? Do we like them because they're aesthetically appealing? Because they come from rhetorically gifted writers or politicians or fake newscasters? Because they appeal on an emotional level? Or because they make logical sense?

Are they based on current information, or on old information?

While we're at it, let's go further. Let's not be ashamed to admit the validity of an opposing argument. It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of using our brains. An argument can be valid, yet weaker than an opposing argument. Just because I'm convinced I'm right doesn't mean everything you think is idiotic, and vice versa.

What makes us disagree about, say, tax policy? If we both possess basic common sense and a normal amount of compassion for the unfortunate – and let's assume we do – what makes you so sure a certain tax policy is beneficial to society, or fair, and me so sure that your policy is hurtful or unfair? Both of us can marshal some evidence to support our positions. But what is it that puts my argument over the top for me, and yours for you? What's our reasoning behind our opinions? And what are our feelings? Feelings are valid too – we're emotional creatures.

To take an even more divisive example, it's "common sense" to me that if a being can't survive outside its mother's body, it's not an individual, so a woman should have the right to end her pregnancy. And even if we do grant the fetus some rights, they obviously have to be subordinate to those of its mother, who is already a functional, independent human being.

I say "obviously" – but what that really means is, it's obvious to me. It's obviously not obvious to everyone. Some people believe that "life begins at conception" – that as soon as there is conception, there exists a new individual being with the full rights of any born person. But if that belief comes from a religious interpretation, which it usually does, wouldn't enshrining it in secular law be imposing your religious beliefs on me? Can't you understand that? I hope you can, because I've just explained the why behind my opinion.

On the other hand, if the law of the land allows abortion, and you believe abortion is murder, how can you help but oppose that law and want to change it? Can't I understand that? Sure I can, since you've explained why.

Let's try to understand. And without getting angry.

We may never agree on some issues, but if we lay out where our convictions come from, we ought to still be able to be civil to each other, get along, and maybe work towards, say, reducing the number of abortions by discouraging teen pregnancy. Or coming up with a tax policy most of us can live with.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • Cannonshop

    Easy one first then…

    Taxes. Everyone pays taxes, right? mmm-kay, now, as the purchasing power of the dollar slides (and it does), shouldn’t the tax-brackets move to reflect ACTUAL purchasing power? Wouldn’t that make, oh…sense, if you’re intent on “Taxing the rich”?

    Right now, and for most of my life, it’s been “Work harder, the numbers get bigger, but what you get with those numbers continues to go down, and you’re taxed MORE.”

    A couple of us actually worked it out-working ten hour days five a week, and weekends (both days)on a two week pay period, the NET-that’s what shows up as Pay, and not taxes, is about two dollars an hour for the last three days in that pay-period.

    You actually LOSE money.

    Last year’s tax return (that’d be for FY 2007) I made 51,000 (rounded up), but in terms of what I could buy with that fifty one grand in terms of net, as in purchasing power, compared to 1997 when I made 32,000…

    LESS purchasing power, and I paid more in taxes.

    Isn’t this the least bit screwed up? work harder, pay more, get less for it?

    Shouldn’t people who work harder, for longer hours, be encouraged instead of punished for doing so?

  • Zedd

    Lets see if we can fix this. I feel like I have to lean to read.

  • Baronius

    Zedd, there really isn’t a difference in who does the gouging. As long as there’s muscle, someone is going to be tempted to use it. The problem is, as often as not they do the gouging through the government. I’d rather that the power not be accumulated by anyone.

    I said that free purchase of goods and services is not always fair. But it’s probably fairer than any intervention could be. And it’s efficient. In the long run, the greater efficiency pays off to everyone in the system.

  • Cindy D


    Thank you for explaining and continuing the conversation.

    Here is what I meant.

    In my town, the real estate taxes (most of the large share for schools, libraries and local police–and they (the police) are in excess of what is needed for a virtually no-crime township) have grown exorbitantly.

    A person who built a home here in the 70s now faces real estate taxes of $9,000 in 2008 and more in 2009. He can’t afford to keep his home. He can’t afford his medications, medical expenses and his taxes.

    So my why was not aimed at anyone in specific.

    But, we (as a society) have designed this system. We decided to create a system so that this man’s wealthy neighbors (most of the ones with children are new and buying at 500k for a home) are having their children’s education subsidized by an older, ill person who has to give up his home because he can no longer (after 35 years of paying real estate taxes here–much of the fruit of which was spent on others) afford to take care of himself AND those others.

    Why do we design a system like this? It’s not like we have no experience with old people.

  • Cindy D


    Do you identify with the rich?

    I would classify you as the middle and in NJ you are below the middle income.

    Why would you have a problem with taxing people who are rich?

    Maybe I don’t understand something.

  • Cindy D


    …free purchase of goods and services is not always fair. But it’s probably fairer than any intervention could be.

    But that supposes that there actually is a free exchange of goods and services. There is no free exchange. Government gives business a lions share of subsidies and breaks (i.e. our money).

  • Baronius

    Cindy, I meant “free” in the context of my comment #33. As for your comment #54, I don’t know the specifics of the case.

  • Cindy D


    Unfortunately our society doesn’t care about and has made no allowance for the specifics of this case or any like it.

    It’s not addressed, so a whole portion of our old people can be forced from their homes and no one seems to have given a thought about it.

    It happened a few years back in Maplewood, NJ The town reassessed taxes to make them “fairer”. The result was news articles about old people being displaced because they couldn’t afford the new tax rates. What action was taken? None.

  • Cindy D

    That free market from #33 can’t exist. It never has for long nor could it ever. That’s why we subsidize business. because it won’t work if we don’t.

  • Cannonshop

    #55 No…not exactly. I’d Like to, but more than that, I’d love it if “tax the rich” schemes didn’t just kind of magically land on people like me. People who aren’t raping the system or winning lotteries. If I work extra hours, or save enough to actually rack up some interest, I get taxed MORE- ’cause I get taxed on the interest in my savings account-which is money that was taxed before I put it in, unless I go with an IRA or other instrument, in which case it’s going to be taxed higher if I let it get too big, or put too much away.

    And it’s even worse if I don’t elect to put myself into thirty-years’ debt (not including ever-increasing property taxes), Hell, I’m not even allowed to opt out of the “Voluntary” ponzi-scheme known as Social Security. the system is structured to punish the frugal and reward the careless, and it’s WRONG.

    Right now, I’m renting-because I refuse to put myself INTO debt to get permission to get into SERIOUS debt. (no debt history=no credit score, no credit score=massive interest on ANY mortgage.)

    Am I the only person out here who thinks this is screwed up??

    Last year we got a bonus-three grand, it was appended to a standard paycheque, and after taxes, (adding up the capital gains tax and the income tax taken out) it ate a week’s wages and the total cheque was about five hundered dollars more than I would have gotten without overtime.

    So, maybe I should Identify with the Rich, since I’m obviously paying the taxes as if I WERE-well, not quite, since I can’t afford the necessary Senator and Congressman to write in the right exemptions to cover ME, the way that “The Rich” do-and even THEY get it wrong (Paging mister Rangel, Mister Charles Rangel…).

    Why is it that I have to pay for it when a crooked banker hires a crooked appraiser to over-estimate the value of a house so he can sell the mortgage paper to Morgan Stanley (a practice that, among other things, increases property taxes and pushes up both rents, and the amount that everyone pays for a house?)And then, why do I have to pay more tax to bail out Morgan Stanley, or Bear Stearns, or WaMu,or Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac, or Lehman Bros. because they bought a fraud and found out too late? Can someone explain to me why these guys aren’t going to jail for fraud, instead of getting big bailout money from taxes I PAID in liew of the taxes they don’t have to because the code’s eighteen thousand pages long with enough exceptions that they don’t have to pay a fucking dime?

    Why, for that matter, am I paying to help people with no income, job, or assets to buy a house when I can’t buy a house myself (and I HAVE an income, and a job) because I didn’t borrow money over-and-over-and-over-again to live beyond my means in order to prove that I CAN borrow money?

    Does this make any sense to you? Our markets are in crisis because people have been encouraged to spend more than they make, which makes it acceptable for government to spend more than it makes, and this situation is exacerbated by bankers who first wrote in, then exploited, rules that allow them to do to each other things that would be termed “Fraud”, and prosecuted if they were done by individuals to banks-rather than by Banks to Banks.

    I don’t get it, I guess. Maybe if I went to Columbia or Yale or Harvard or something this would make sense.

  • Cindy D

    I hear you Cannon, but I think you’re laying the blame at the wrong doorstep. People with no job or income don’t get to by houses.

    Tax the rich, get rid of corporate welfare. Then we (you and I) won’t have to pay all that.

  • Cannonshop

    Why is it then, Cindy, that every time someone actually gets a bill through to “Tax the Rich”…

    MY taxes go up?

  • cuervodeluna

    Somewhere is this mess of spaghetti I THINK someone asked about the rich–should they or should they NOT pay taxes?

    It’s not a question of should or should not.

    There are folks out there called accountants who sometimes even give classes on how NOT to pay taxes.

    When I was an accountant I know I had such an educational business for awhile.

    Funniest darn thing, though–it always seemed to lose money.

    Which, of course, offset my tax liability from my other businesses and salaried employment.

    Rich people can afford to have fistfuls of accountants working for them to the objective that they don’t pay taxes.

    Nothing the least bit mysterious about any of it.

  • Baronius

    Cindy, I think you’d be suprised how many taxes, regulations, and just plain hoops the government puts in front of businesses. But it shouldn’t be a question of who gets mistreated most. You and Zedd both more-or-less asked why some people always oppose governmental involvement. My answer is I guess fourfold:

    - free trade of goods and services is voluntary
    - free trade of goods and services is probably closer to fair than any arbitrary intervention
    - free trade of goods and services, in the long run, is more efficient
    - repeated interventions, in the long run, result in accumulated power

  • Zedd


    “Why is the group that claims to represent the working man so hot to put him out of a job?”

    What group is that? There is no group in America that is hot about putting people out of work. Ask a real question.

    Why do the people who talk a storm about the environment push industry into places that don’t have regulations or rule of law?

    If you make such statements you have to say how industry is being pushed out. Perhaps if we understand who they are being pushed, we can see that environmental regulation is not working. Help us out.

    Why do the people who condemn big business continue to press laws that only favour the largest companies?

    Who is condemning big business?

    Why aren’t the bankers who artificially inflated property values using 125% loans supported by falsified evaluations going to jail for fraud?

    Because they are not the only bad guys. So many people were complicit in this debocle that we would not be able to sustain them in our prisons.

    Why in the fuck are we bailing out Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros…?

    Because they owe other banks and countries all over the world. Those banks owe other banks all over the world. Letting these guys topple would topple the world economy.

    What Imbecile came up with the idea that tourism is an adequate replacement for industry? (it isn’t. It generates a hundered part-time, minimum-wage jobs that disappear for six to nine months out of the year.)

    It depends on the type of weather you have.

    “Why don’t some people understand that “Service Economy” doesn’t WORK???”

    Tell that to the Republicans. That is where we are headed per George Bush.

  • bliffle

    So then Baronius, I take it you are against the Wall Street bailout?

  • Christopher Rose

    Baronius, free trade is voluntary in theory but not in practice. There is not a lot that is voluntary about buying food for example.

    Similarly, there are many examples, if you care to look, where unregulated free trade has been anything but fair.

    Arguably there is greater efficiency in a free trade system, but it can depend on what exactly is meant by efficient.

    Repeated interventions have often proved necessary, as events this week have shown.

    The goals of free trade are not efficiency or fairness but profit, pure and simple.

  • Baronius

    Bliffle – Certainly. The Wall Street bailout is stupid beyond doubt.

    Christopher – I’m not here to prove that I’m right. See above article.

  • Zedd


    I think originally the goal was efficiency. However, just as communism is Utopian so is capitalism. Both ideas omit the impact of human nature. We are greedy AND we have different motives. We are not single minded and rarely do we ever unite and work towards one goal for an extended time. What sustains our systems without regulations is bandwagoning. We get caught up and believe. After a while we burn out or see through the dogma and reality sets in. What makes society work is when we can tweak our systems ever so slightly to accommodate the shifts that will inevitably occur. Sticking with ideas simply because they sound like a good thing even though they don’t work is fatal.

  • Christopher Rose

    B, what’s the point of being wrong though?

  • Clavos

    Letting these guys topple would topple the world economy.

    In the long run, that could be a good thing.

    500,000,000 or bust…

  • Baronius

    Chris, I should have stated that more clearly.

    I believe I’m right. I doubt I’m going to persuade you that I’m right on this thread. I’ve pretty much given up persuading anyone online – but if I can at least state my views coherently, maybe somewhere down the road, they’ll click for someone.

  • troll

    (500000000 or bust…catchy – kinda rolls off one’s tongue)

  • Baronius

    When I say short-term efficiency, I mean efficiency in allocation of resources. Resources go to production of the desired goods. We probably get closer to allocative efficiency with market pricing than with any other economic system. A lucky guess or a proper intervention can do better, but they don’t happen that often. Generally, governments shift resources incorrectly.

    There’s also long-term efficiency, or adaptive efficiency. This is where the free market is indisputably better than any other system. A free market can adapt to changes in technology more efficiently than a managed market.

    Semi-digression: I have no respect for socialism, but I’ll admit to a nostalgia for feudalism. It was a great system for what it was trying to accomplish. But it only worked because every year was identical to the last one. That’s when you can manage an economy. It’s when technology, wealth, and population are changing that you need to adapt as efficiently as possible. And that’s where a free market can outclass socialism, feudalism, and any other system.

  • Zedd


    The challenge with the free market as we experience it is that the market forces are artificial. The manipulation of the indicators which determine the value of products makes the possibility of a truly free market impossible.

    I am interested in the notion that what we have is all there can be. Off course you know that there will be other solutions. Just as the monarchy and land owners could have never imagined the systems that we live under.

  • Christopher Rose

    Baronius, well, you’ve already shown above that your economic understanding is paper thin and your objection to government involvement is based on dogma rather than pragmatism, in addition to your already cloudy faithist approach to life in general.

    You may well be stating your views coherently but those views are so obviously based on theory rather than actual reality that I doubt they will convince anyone other than those who already share your position.

    There is no such thing as a market that is not managed in some way, even if that is only the management of things to suit those running the market in the first place.

    Hedge funds are a great example. These financial derivatives have been so unregulated as to cause a large part of the financial turmoil we have seen recently.

    Yes, they were producing spectacular profits and salaries for those practising them but the end result almost brought down the US economy. That this damage was so profound that Bush 2 was persuaded to go against his own dogma and initiate an economic rescue is eloquent evidence that reality is more demanding than your theories.

    You have no respect at all for the idea that collective action around a shared need or purpose can often be a positive thing but you do approve of the idea of an elite running things independently of the views of everybody else?

    No wonder you don’t believe you can actually influence the debate, your political and economic views are as “special” as your spiritual ones…

  • bliffle

    What astounds me is the alacrity with which all those Free Market Capitalist Milton Friedman guys have thrown over their professed beliefs in order to get their hands on a trillion dollars of tax-payer money.

    I guess it was all hot air all this time.

  • bliffle

    Baronius nonchalantly reveals one of his reasoning flaws:

    “…I’ll admit to a nostalgia for feudalism.”

    Ah feudalism, a system where a nobleman and a serf negotiate while the noble holds a knife to the serfs throat.

    Alas, Baronius himself would be more likely to be serf than noble and find himself in the inferior position.

  • Cannonshop

    MOST people that sigh over the Feudal era would be Peasants in it, Bliffle. One of the things I found out hanging out with SCAdians is that very few of them really want to consider where they would be in a Feudal state for-real. It’s a bit like spending time with Earth Firsters-most of THOSE wouldn’t survive the world they’re advocating either.

    Agreed. (again. damn it.) but I don’t find it astounding in the least. Hypocrisy in the perfumed and tie-wearing cliques is practiced like a special virtue, from the IT dude that protests to get a dam knocked down, to the thousands of fur-prostesters that walk around in toxic-waste generating artificial fibres, to the greenpeacers and their oil-leaking boats, on up to the self-proclaimed “Free Market” advocates who really don’t want to work in a market that’s free-they want just enough regs to keep competition out, to the activists who hate congress, but re-elect THEIR congresscritters because they bring the bacon home, and don’t forget all those ‘anti-war’ people who’re perfectly good with War so long as it’s against “Kapitalizt Pigz”. (oh, and the folks who think Mugabe’s doing a swell job, Chavez is a great guy, and Che Guevarra was anything but a thug that even Castro wanted to be rid of). It’s all part of the same puzzle. It’s disappointing, but far from a surprise.

  • Clavos

    Pretty much everyone in America is of serf/peasant stock. The ruling classes of the countries from whence our ancestors came had no incentive to emigrate, and for the most part, did not do so.

    Those who did were of the underclasses of their respective homelands.

    We are a nation of peasants — a nation whose most pervasive cultural bequest to the world is the garbage produced in Hollywood.

  • Baronius

    Bliffle – Hey! I said “nostalgia”, which by definition isn’t rational. Believe you me, I’m happy I didn’t live then. (Actually, I wouldn’t have lived then, because I’d be dead from a childhood strep infection.)

    Zedd – I can’t imagine a better system. History hasn’t indicated that there is one. I’m open to the possibility.

    Christopher – Again, I’m talking in general terms because I thought that fit the thread better. If you want to talk specifics about polar bear populations, ethanol subsidies, or ACORN, we can. It won’t explain why I think the way I do. But in each case, you’ll see that my principle is completely practical, and that interference in markets by an outside agent is rarely beneficial.

    “You have no respect at all for the idea that collective action around a shared need or purpose can often be a positive thing but you do approve of the idea of an elite running things independently of the views of everybody else?” I have no idea what you’re referring to.

  • Baronius

    OK, I’ve got a “why” question for you, a genuine inquiry for whomever wants to answer. It’s felt like, up until about a month ago, the left-of-center wouldn’t allow any discussion of Obama’s thin resume. Experience didn’t matter; Cheney was often cited as someone who had great qualifications but was wrong for America. But now, Palin is getting slammed for her lack of experience. My question is, is this just campaign spin, or is there a sense that Palin has substantially weaker qualifications than Obama? Please explain.

  • David Black

    I am not surpised that a lib would lament the passing of that childish preoccupation with asking “why” every second about the most mundane occurences.

    Isn’t liberal thinking very much a childish preoccupation in regard to its fantastic idealism and unrealistic hopes for a world that can never exist?

  • Cindy D


  • Jon Sobel

    Baronius #82: the problem is, there is clearly sexism that causes Palin to be scrutinized more closely and perhaps judged more harshly for her lack of experience. This is unfortunate and muddies the waters, but we have to put it aside and think clearly about the actual issue of experience.

    While Obama has little “executive” experience, he has years of lawmaking experience in the the Illinois State Senate and then the US Senate. He has dealt with national issues closely and on a daily basis for a number of years. Those with more experience, like McCain or Cheney, come out of a decade of failed policymaking – but I know that’s not your question.

    Obama has, in fact, been challenged strongly on his lack of experience for many months, in the primaries and now the general election. He’s been “vetted” and found intelligent and capable.

    That’s extremely important. There is another kind of experience besides quantity of years doing a particular job. There’s the experience of being a deeply thinking, highly intelligent, culturally and politically active human being engaging in difficult work – in his case, public service – on planet Earth. In this, Sarah Palin is a wisp of nothing compared to Obama. That’s just plain obvious after listening to her talk for twenty seconds – she’s a lightweight. She could be governor of Alaska for 32 years and she’d still probably be a lightweight. And this isn’t sex-related – there a plenty of equally lightweight males (our current President being the most obvious example, his father’s VP being another). As Jon Stewart puts it (I’m paraphrasing), I don’t want someone for President who’s “like me” and who I’d “like to have a beer with” – I want someone for President who’s smarter and “better” than I am. That’s Obama. It’s not Palin (and it’s not McCain either).

  • Mark Edward Manning

    “Or coming up with a tax policy most of us can live with.”

    17% flat tax, everyone pays the same rate regardless of earnings or income.

  • Cannonshop

    There is another kind of experience besides quantity of years doing a particular job. There’s the experience of being a deeply thinking, highly intelligent, culturally and politically active human being engaging in difficult work -

    And the question of “Can and will deliver”. You’re measuring Obama as some kind of great Philosopher-king archetype, but when it comes to his record on delivery, he DOES fall short-short of the gal from Alaska, short of his vice-president, possibly short of the redneck in the White House now. I know a guy, he’s studied all the books on mechanics and auto maintenance. He can talk the talk, but put a wrench in his hand, and not only will he not succeed, he ends up making the situation worse.

    To me, that’s the kind of guy Obama is. Love, hate, despise, whatever, Palin gets Results, and she gets the results she’s SUPPOSED to get, not necessarily the ones she herself finds pleasing. When there is lots of time, a Philosopher can be very useful-but when the shit is hitting the fan, and work needs doing NOW, a Philosopher winds up being paralyzed (Jimmy Carter, for example) by doubts or indecision.

    And all of that is presuming you’re RIGHT about the man.

    I have a different view. In my view, he’s learned the right psychobabble and he’s a Mirror-man, a con-artist, and a Chicago Politician. he reflects back to his supporters what they want to see in him, and they give him a pass because he’s clean and articulate-and a minority-and that last bit only matters to a Democrat.

    To anyone who really gives not a shit about race, he’s no Martin Luther King, he’s not even Mike Steele, and he certainly isn’t a John Kennedy or Harry Truman. Obama’s books are about…Obama. Doesn’t this strike you the least bit odd? Kennedy wrote “Profiles in Courage” about people who were NOT John Kennedy. he wrote about people he admired and respected, this communicates a lot more about a man’s character than what he writes about himself- look at history, then read, for instance, Westmoreland’s book defending his record in Vietnam. When you write books, and the only books you write are about yourself, that tells quite a story in and of itself about who you REALLY are-not the text, but the ACT.

    Compound that with a look at Obama’s career…

    he’s been running for office the entire time. You talk about his “Community Service”, so, I ask you….

    Is the south ward of Chicago better for having had Barack Obama represent them in the Illinois State Legislature?

    Was Chicago helped in some tangible way by Barack Obama the Community Organizer?

    Did the Chicago Annenberg Challenge succeed in improving Chicago’s schools under Barack Obama’s directorship? did Literacy, Math, or Science scores among ALL the students in the schools his decisions impacted improve?

    Did people get family wage jobs as a result of his community organizing, or NOT?

    Have the Ethics reforms he (co)sponsored in Illinois impacted political corruption or NOT?

    Have the bills he (co)sponsored in the U.S. Senate impacted Senate corruption…or not?

    You speak to what you presume to be his motives, but speak to his ACTIONS-did they have positive impacts, did they deliver what he promised his voters in the past??

    A man who fails to deliver may have deep thoughts and wonderful intent, but there’s that whole failing to deliver thing to consider. Palin’s popular mainly because she DID deliver what she promised when she ran for office. This tends to make her very popular in some quarters. Not yours, obviously, but some.

  • Franco


    The economic principles you expressed throughout this thread are sound, logical, and thus worthy of recognition. They have value for all of us.

    I have read through your discourse with Cindy D, and Zedd, and others, and while it might appear that they do not agree with you, they are a lot closer to it then they, or you, realize.

    I have noted your self-professed frustrations at being unable to express your economic principles to the fullest extent you desire, as noted by your following post to Christopher Rose.

    #72 — September 20, 2008 @ 22:50PM — Baronius

    Chris, I should have stated that more clearly.

    I believe I’m right. I doubt I’m going to persuade you that I’m right on this thread. I’ve pretty much given up persuading anyone online – but if I can at least state my views coherently, maybe somewhere down the road, they’ll click for someone.

    For these reasons I wanted to call your attention to the following economist, Frederic Bastiat.

    Many economists have made important contributions to the discourse on economic liberty, and Frederic Bastiat is among them. But Bastiat’s greatest contribution is that he took the discourse out of the ivory tower and made ideas on economic liberty so clear that even the man/woman on the street can understand them and statists cannot obfuscate them. Clarity is crucial to persuading others of the moral superiority of personal economic liberty.

    I thought maybe Frederic Bastiat might help you do that, for he firmly shared your sentiments, and fare more of Cindy D, and Zedd’s then they, or you, realize, as he answers their concerns as well.

    Bastiat was the author of many works on political economics, generally characterized by their clear organization, forceful argumentation, and acerbic wit. But his most famous work, however, is undoubtedly “The Law“, originally published as a pamphlet in 1850.

    “Self-preservation and self-development are common aspirations among all people. And if everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted, and unfailing.” – from The Law

    “But there is also another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others. This is no rash accusation. Nor does it come from a gloomy and uncharitable spirit. The annals of history bear witness to the truth of it: the mass migrations, religious persecutions, universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies. This fatal desire has its origin in the very nature of man – in that primitive, universal, and insuppressible instinct that impels him to satisfy his desires with the least possible pain. – from The Law

    “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

    You can find these and other selected quotations at the Wikipedia link below, and most all if his writtings in “The Law” at the two other links. The book can be read in one eveining.

    It is from within Bastiat writings in “The Law” that you will find all the purity and power to express how you feel on economic issues and why and in plain launguage. So much so that Christopher Rose will find himself the one who stands on paper thin economic theories, and not you.

    Enjoy :-)

    Frederic Bastiat at Wikipedia

    Frederic Bastiat book “The Law” at the Foundation for Economic Education

    Frederic Bastiat book “The Law” Read Free Online

    This text should be a required reading for those who study political science, civics, government, and law, or those who are employed in government.

  • Christopher Rose

    Franco, you’re obviously very excited about Bastiat but I think you’ve posted these links enough times now. Enough with the repetition and on with the debate…

    For what it is worth, despite his denials, I do find his thinking to be springing from a “gloomy and uncharitable spirit” and personally, despite having met many thousands of people in my life, very few of them have been of the habit or view that “everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else”.

    What you’re doing here is the classic superficial argument of taking a few, usually self-serving, quotes and trying to make them have some universal relevance.

  • Jon Sobel

    Baronius, it doesn’t sound like you’ve looked at Obama’s actual legislative record. Health insurance, ethics, and immigration are some of the issues on which he sponsored bills, some passed, some not. When you’re a legislator, obviously, not every bill you sponsor is going to pass. But some major ones did. You just have to look it up. Health care is one of the major issues facing the country, and he has led on it, for example.

  • Jon Sobel

    Also, I don’t agree with your point about Obama’s books – they’re memoirs. They’re supposed to be about your own life. Do you think Sarah Palin or GW Bush could sit down and write a book about anything? Intellectual featherweights should not be leaders of our nation. Period.

  • bliffle

    Obama and Lugar sponsored a bill dealing with nuclear proliferation that could produce more felicitous results for the USA than all GWBs pre-emptive wars.

    You can check out anyones congressional record at

  • Baronius

    Jon – In terms of big-league experience, Palin has two years as governor. Obama has four years in the Senate: two as the lowest-ranked member of the minority party (on one committee), and two spent campaigning for president. They’ve got about 6 years of experience between them. Between Biden and McCain, they’ve got about 60 years experience in the big leagues. That’s an order of magnitude.

    As for the vetting process, that’s not really the same thing as experience. That’s more about what the press considers important.

    So I’m still stymied. If Obama is considered presidential despite inexperience, how can inexperience be a disqualifier for Palin? Or is it more that the overall impression of the person is positive with Obama and negative with Palin?

  • Baronius

    Bastiat, huh? I’ll look him up.

  • Jon Sobel

    B, I think I explained what is to me a pretty important “Why” in comments 85 and 90. I will note that you’ve just ignored Obama’s state legislative experience, although I know you must be aware of it, so are you leaving it out on purpose to try to bolster a weak point? That experience would seem to be more meaningful in this context than being mayor of a town of 9,000. I think 9,000 people live on my block, ferchrissakes.

    No one’s addressed my point about basic intelligence, either.

  • Baronius

    No, Jon, I’m not ignoring it. I’m just talking about high-level experience. I’ve known state senators and mayors (ok, a mayor), and I wouldn’t consider either job sufficient qualification for a cabinet position, much less President or VP. There’s maybe a dozen cities and zero state legislatures that would be exceptions to that rule.

    Remember, I’m not trying to argue my side, just understand yours. If you want to say that Obama’s more intelligent I’m not going to challenge you.

  • Jon Sobel

    OK… let me step back a bit further to lay out my thinking. For me, experience is only one factor to consider. Counterbalancing a candidate’s lack of experience (e.g. Obama) is his judgment, and that includes judgment on the kinds of advisers he’d surround himself with. Looking at Obama’s published proposals and plans in the campaign, it’s clear to me that he’s done a lot of cogent thinking about both economics and foreign policy, and obviously some very smart people have advised him.

    The same is true of McCain, although it seems to a lesser degree (Carly Fiorina, oy vey), but the proposals that he has come out don’t jibe, in most cases, with my view of how things should best be done. This takes us into the other important factor in deciding who to vote for – the issues. On that, when it comes to decisions a President, specifically, will have to be making, the Democrats align better with how I deeply believe things should be done. (Diplomacy vs. war, tax relief for the middle class before the rich, etc.)

    So that’s how I come down.

  • Baronius

    Jon – Thanks.