An unsettled dogma

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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145 Responses

  1. ThatPirateGuy says:

    Jonah Goldberg? Really?? Really???

    I doublechecked with wikipedia and yes he is the dumb hack that wrote liberal fascism. Even if he did have a good point he is the definition of someone not worth paying attention to except for mocking.

    Can we find out what the opinion of code pink’s head is next? I’m sure they will be just as insightful and rational especially when discussing former president Bush’s foreign policy.Report

    • Dave in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

      Would you consider me closedminded because I decided not to engage a point you brought up made by Naomi Klein on the basis that I wouldn’t wipe my ass with The Shock Doctrine let alone read it?Report

    • Koz in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

      Ah yes, another intelligent liberal wasting valuable hours of time on politics better spent playing foosball.Report

      • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Koz says:

        It isn’t my fault that Jonah Goldberg disqualifies himself from rational conversation.Report

        • Koz in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

          I wish I could laugh but unfortunately my guess is you’re not joking.Report

          • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Koz says:

            The guy wrote a book length godwin. What else does a man need to do to not be taken seriously? Kick a puppy?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

              Disclaimer: The following ought not be considered a defense of Jonah Goldberg’s book as I have not read it.

              The attitude towards “Hitler” (as opposed to a quoteless Hitler) is one that doesn’t do a whole lot of good. Now, I agree that frivolous comparisons to Hitler hinder, rather than help, any given conversation… especially when the comparison is between the opposition and Hitler (Greg Gutfield, if you ask me, does a brilliant job of sending this up by ending many of his monologues with “and if you don’t agree with me, you are worse than Hitler”).

              My problem is that Godwin’s Corollary (“the first person to bring up Hitler ends the thread and loses the argument”) has been seen as an effective tool to end serious arguments revolving around government excess, totalitarianism, totalitarian thought, hate, and such.

              In the days that followed 9/11, there was much discussion of the “real” motivations of OBL and why he would mastermind such a thing. Conservatives argued it was because we weren’t Conservative enough, Progressives argued it was because we weren’t Progressive enough, Christians argued it was because we weren’t Christian enough, Ice Cream manufacturers argued it was because we didn’t eat enough Ice Cream. Osama sent out an open letter a couple of months later and I read through it and called it his “Mein Kampf”. Wouldn’t you know it, I was told that I had lost the argument. As if Osama’s true motivations depended on the arguments of the people on the internet!

              All that to say: Discussions of totalitarianism, government excess, hate, and so on are not won and lost based on whether “Hitler” is brought up. If someone is freaking out and starts screaming about “Hitler”, sure. Make a joke about Reducto Ad Hitlerum and leave it at that.

              However: He’s not some totem. He oughtn’t be given godlike power to end a conversation and certainly not one involving government and absolutely certainly not one involving totalitarianism, government excess, and hate.

              Goldberg’s book may or may not be crap. He may or may not be a sloppy writer who makes fallacious comparisons unfairly to an opposition who deserves better.

              But squawking about Godwin in response to someone squawking about Hitler make me notice the squawking, not the incisiveness of either argument.

              Jeez louise.Report

              • zic in reply to Jaybird says:

                loud applause.Report

              • North in reply to Jaybird says:

                It’s a good screed Jay. I like it. But I have also read Goldbergs book. It really is a book length Goodwin designed primarily to piss off liberals and sell to conservatives. It is of the same literary pedigree as Coulter.

                More’s the pity really, Goldberg can write some pretty clever and amusing stuff. He’s been sliding ever since he stopped talking to his couch.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to North says:

                They strike me as a bunch of people who believe progressives are bad because they want to tell you how to live your lives like *THIS* when, really, they should be telling you to live your lives like *THAT*. No self-awareness whatsoever.

                I do enjoy Jay Nordlinger, however.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                And Derb. Can’t forget Derb.Report

              • North in reply to Jaybird says:

                I am love/hate with Nordlinger but I do love Derb in that “Oh Grandpa” way.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                That’s fine Jay, but most uses of “Hitler” are meant either as petty insults or some gigantic slippery slope fallacy. I would prefer that discussion of Hitler be related to leaders of large, militarily powerful, expansionist Central European states. T. Coates has discussed use of “the n-word”. He said he really doesn’t mind people using it, he just wonders why people choose to use it. I’m sort of the same way about Hitler/Stalin, why do people choose to use it. Its rarely to illuminate, but more to insult, avoid or to hop on the slippery slope. If somebody wants to communicate an idea so that another person will understand it, why do they choose inflammatory language or insults? Its usually laziness or inability to argue better.

                Is calling out Stalin the same phenomenon as calling out Hitler?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                I *WISH* that Iosif Vissarionovich Dzughashvili’s name carried the same moral weight as Adolf Hitler’s. I wish that, immediately, people would feel the same revulsion when they heard it and immediately fell off the rails due to anger.

                Duranty still has his Pulitzer, though.

                Stalin still has his apologists.

                There was a recent poll in Russia that asked about greatest leaders and one out of six people said that things were better under Stalin than today. One out of six.

                Calling out Stalin is, sadly, not the same phenomenon as calling out Hitler. There are too damn many people who take it as a compliment.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                perhaps then the cries of “Stalin” are better aimed at current Russian’s.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                No, not just them. Stalin came up with a wonderful category of “enemies of the state” called “Wreckers”.

                Wrecking was an amazing portmanteau. If a train conductor was in charge of a train that had absolutely full boxcars, he could be accused of “wrecking” because he was trying to increase the wear and tear of the engine, the wear and tear of the tracks, the wear and tear of the wheels… and if he was in charge of a train that had 75% full boxcars, he could be accused of wrecking because he was wasting capacity, wasting time, and otherwise undermining the glorious people’s revolution.

                It was a term that could be thrown against anyone, at any time.

                That mindset of how the other guys are “wrecking” is one that shows up quite often even in the US.

                If for nothing else, that’s a decent reason to keep Uncle Joe’s name dusted off to throw around from time to time. It’s not like throwing it does any damage, anyway. Fewer and fewer even know who he was or what he did.Report

              • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird says:

                So were we supposed to take seriously the people who held up signs of bush with Hitler mustaches? Are they our go to guys on what conservatives actually think?

                I think there is a rather large difference between saying you political opponent is like Hilter and saying that mass-murdering terrorist is like Hilter. Why would anyone waste their time with someone who would write that book when there are plenty of conservative voices/liberal voices etc. who aren’t that much of an asshole hack.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

                I’m just asking you to use a different argument than yelling “GODWIN!” at the top of your lungs.

                Mock the ever-living crap out of them. Hell, do whatever you want. I’m not telling you to take them seriously.

                Just don’t say “Godwin” as if it’s an argument in and of itself.Report

            • Koz in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

              That’s such crap. What Jonah’s book says is that fascism in the US, to the extent that it exists, is a phenomenon of the Left, not the Right. If you can’t figure out the difference between that and Godwin, it’s not Jonah’s lack of intelligence at fault.Report

  2. greginak says:

    Maybe Johan makes sense about conservatives, but about what liberals think he’s a bucket full of Meh.

    I think you are correct about the tendencies to argue/discuss philosophical /ideological points on the right and to wonk out on the left. Part of that may be an unconscious reason why some of us are drawn to one belief or another.

    One of the things I find so empty about some ideological debate is that without looking at how ideas are implemented it is often just hot air. Not that ideas and such shouldn’t be debated but that the same idea can be implanted in a variety of ways some of which are effective or ineffective, gov centric or non-gov centric,etc. Details matter and ideological debates often ignore those things which don’t fit.

    It is just too easy to wallow in self-importance in ideological debates and hurl epithets at each other unless you have discipline or assume good will among the people you are debating. Ideological debates are typically free of the need to actually know details about the specific policies that the ideas may involve and are certainly free from actual evidence that ones ideas are correct. Ideological debates end up being religious arguments, which is fine. Except nowadays most people don’t expect everyone to agree with their religion or that their religions is inherently correct. Well at least most people won’t admit that kind of thing in public.

    On the other hand if you can just proclaim how you are for Freedom, or Individuals or (insert conservative buzzword) then I’m sure that feels great. And if you are for Freedom then the other side must be against it. Cue epithet hurling.Report

    • Kyle in reply to greginak says:

      I would agree for the most part, though when I hear “i’m for the X” and X is a person, around these parts I tend to associate that thought with Freddie.

      I think there’s a fair bit of overlap here between E.D.’s comments, yours, and some things I talked about some months back in the Reagan’s Succession Crisis guest post.

      That said, I think there is a difference between pedestrian value disagreements and more pedantic discussions about ideology and policy. In my view liberals do themselves a disservice by being less (intellectually) critical of the role of government in a way that leads them – generally – to focus on the benefits of action and minimize or miss completely some of the costs. Which (I’m trying to word this and not be insulting here) doesn’t mean that, “OMG Government will destroy us all,” but a greater examination of the non-financial costs of government action, which in the world of the Huffington Post are non-existent.

      Erik is right that the right lacks a grounded policy apparatus that would connect where we are with where they want to go. It lends itself easily to an all too self-flattering view of their own “proposals” and more importantly gets so caught up in the big direction that it leaves members of the right uninterested in more immediate actions and steps that can be taken. So while the left might be too reactionary, the right might not be reactionary enough.Report

      • Koz in reply to Kyle says:

        “Erik is right that the right lacks a grounded policy apparatus that would connect where we are with where they want to go.”

        That might be a fair cop eighteen months from now but it’s more or less bogus now. As things stand, being the Party of No is a substantive policy agenda and actually quite an aggressive one.Report

        • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

          There’s an election in 9 months. We’ve already had primaries for it. The Dems have pissed a lot of people off with their governance, which means there’s a nonzero chance that the Republicans could claim a majority in at least one house of Congress. “Party of No” won’t work then, and it’s not easy to suddenly develop an affirmative policy agenda after an election. This says nothing of the problems with lacking an affirmative policy agenda even on the state level beyond “we’re not Democrats” (I’m looking at you, Gov. Christie!).Report

          • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            That’s exactly right, and if the GOP is just a one-trick pony Party of No then, that’s a legit beef. But, let’s note two other things.

            First, we could have an affirmative defense of the status quo. That’s essentially what happened to get us out of the early 90s recession. I don’t think that will be sufficient this time but it is worth noting. The point being, that in that case (in contrast to today) it’s plausible to assert the GOP as the favoring the status quo.

            Second, it’s at least a little bit preposterous to blame the GOP for being the Party of No when people such as yourself have argued diligently against the GOP winning enough political offices where we might reasonably expect something more proactive out of them.Report

            • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

              Of course, my arguments against the GOP are precisely that they aren’t presenting an affirmative agenda. The GOP has to convince me, the voter, that they are worth supporting – not the other way around.Report

              • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                That makes a lot of sense, unfortunately it’s not completely true. The success of achieving prosperity and limited government (or anything else for that matter) is not just an accomplishment of the political establishment, but of the citizens themselves.

                I believe the policies that the GOP will put in place if they are elected are significantly better than any alternative. But even if I didn’t, I would still argue the GOP is worthy of our support, because of what such support means about us.

                For everything that’s happened so far in the Great Recession, there are still some Americans, probably a majority, who are going to do what they can to win at life, whatever the obstacles in front of them happen to be. There are others who are going to wait in line and hope to get a bailout. This latter group supports the other team.

                We are a better country, and one that’s more likely to prosper, if there are more of the former and fewer of the latter. And that goes no matter what happens to tax policy, or health care, or cap-and-trade.

                The GOP is the party of citizens, for citizenship. In recent times, the GOP has failed in its obligations toward citizenship. But even so, it is the party of citizens. Hopefully there are still enough to count.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

                “The GOP is the party of citizens, for citizenship.” [Citation needed].Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

                I don’t find articles that argue for a more powerful government (even while claiming to be promoting limited government, no less!) very persuasive. Simply saying “we’re for the citizens” doesn’t make it so. The Left says similar such things while advocating for their policies as well. Me? I just see two groups having a difference of opinion as to which areas are appropriate for government intrusion – one side’s in favor of government intrusion in health care (not that it would be much more than that which already exists), employment practices, etc., while the other side’s in favor of intrusions into reproductive decision-making, monitoring private phone calls without a warrant, and freedom of movement. Each side opposes the intrusions that the other side supports. At least the Left is honest enough to discard the limited government rhetoric. And, of course, when someone on the Right actually puts forward a credible limited government proposal, the Right’s leaders – the ones who actually matter – won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole:

                None of that says anything, by the way, about the behavior of a certain Senator from Alabama in blocking 70 nominations in order for him to bring home a couple billion in pork.

                I think I’ll remain pretty happy taking elections on a case-by-case basis and voting only for candidates I find palatable. When neither the GOPer or the Dem is palatable, I’ll stick with the third party route.Report

              • Koz in reply to Koz says:

                “And, of course, when someone on the Right actually puts forward a credible limited government proposal, the Right’s leaders – the ones who actually matter – won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole….”

                I’ll pick up on the rest of this later, but for now I want to mention that as far as the Ryan plan goes, I agree with Boehner. There’s nothing in it that’s particularly objectionable, and if we get the chance to enact it, we probably should. But of course we are not getting that chance, and even if we like the plan we should avoid taking it too literally. It’s at least a little bit fanciful to think that anything done today will be controlling fifty or eighty years from now, and especially so for the GOP caucus who represents 180-some seats out of 435 in the House.

                It’s far more important to resist the expansion of the welfare state today. And the House Republicans are doing just that, and effectively as well, even if there public explanations are less than stirring. To that end, people who support limited government are with us.Report

              • Koz in reply to Koz says:

                “Simply saying “we’re for the citizens” doesn’t make it so. The Left says similar such things while advocating for their policies as well.”

                I probably should make a couple things explicit here. Most of the time I am using “citizen” (and its derivatives) in a particular way. That is, citizens are the people who, because of their personal circumstances, have the means and intent to contribute to interest of the community as a whole. Therefore, metaphorically at least, they are entitled to full participation in the public life of the nation. If we live in a republic, the citizens are sovereign. Arlen Specter and Maxine Waters are literally citizens of the USA, but they don’t represent the interest of citizenship. Sarah Palin does.

                As a practical matter, the citizen model is opposed to the patron-client model which is dominant in the Latin America and the social democracies of Europe.

                The Left usually doesn’t claim, even for rhetorical purposes, to be for the citizens. They are “for the people” which is an important difference (I’d also argue that being for the people is also a fraud for other reasons, but I’ll save that for another time). That is, Left tells the people, we’ll give you Social Security, Medicare, midnight basketball and all the rest of it. Ie, it’s a really great thing that you get to be our client.Report

              • North in reply to Koz says:

                Palin, Koz? Seriously? Palin?Report

              • Koz in reply to Koz says:

                Of course I am.

                Unfortunately, there are certain people irritate the Left so much that they seem to paralyze liberals’ ability to evaluate them as anything other than a caricature. Sarah Palin is one (and Jonah Goldberg is another).

                For anyone who’s paying attention, Sarah Palin represents the possibility of the American people asserting sovereignty over apparatchik class.Report

              • Bob Cheeks in reply to Koz says:

                You go Koz!
                Sarah’s looking more and more a whole lot smarter than Dear Leader! Alas, Koz, my friend she may be a RINO and I don’t do RINO’s, not even Sarah!Report

              • Koz in reply to Koz says:

                Who cares? RINO is a lame word that conservatives get themselves in trouble by using in situations where it doesn’t apply. I agree with the other team that her political career is probably over. But she will still be an important cultural figure nonetheless.Report

              • North in reply to Koz says:

                I have no hatred of Sarah Koz actually liberals owe her a bit, I dare say, for her vacuous run as a Veep candidate which put the final nails in McCain’s campaign. Certainly she was clever quitting from her governorship before they ran her out of Alaska and I think she’ll be very happy doing the Anne Coulter bit on the media circuits. I wish her well though if she keeps pressing her throw down with Rush I suspect she’s going to get smacked down hard.Report

              • greginak in reply to Koz says:

                gee can we be citizens if we’re not on your team…pretty pleaseReport

        • Kyle in reply to Koz says:

          Obviously, I disagree.

          There’s a wonk gap between the left and the right. In numerical and institutional terms and it makes sense, there’s a fair chunk of the right that believes the government shouldn’t be doing this, that, or the other and therefore won’t expend resources trying to figure out novel ways to do them.Report

    • Koz in reply to greginak says:

      “It is just too easy to wallow in self-importance in ideological debates and hurl epithets at each other unless you have discipline or assume good will among the people you are debating.”

      That’s a very good point. In fact, that’s a strength of some of the prominent libertarian-influenced sorta-Rightish bloggers: Megan McArdle, Tyler Cowen, the guys at econlog. It’s a weakness of my own writing.

      But, somehow there needs to be a way to get some fundamental assumptions on the table and avoid the delusion that somehow they are beyond discussion. In the current health care debate, we’ve seen lots of sturm und drang from the typical liberal quarters about the impending failure of the health care bill, eg from Ezra Klein, Jonathan Chait, Matthew Yglesias or Freddie DeBoer right here. They say, “we can’t fold the health care bill, that would mean a repudiation of what we’ve believed as liberals for almost 100 years.”

      I reply, “Maybe, but what you’ve thought for that long is wrong, and can persuasively be demonstrated to be so.”

      “On the other hand if you can just proclaim how you are for Freedom, or Individuals or (insert conservative buzzword) then I’m sure that feels great.”

      No no no. It just seems that way because you and other liberals can’t or won’t open your ears to hear detailed, comprehensive, persuasive evidence of the failure of contemporary liberalism.Report

      • SumGi in reply to Koz says:

        I reply, “Maybe, but what you’ve thought for that long is wrong, and can persuasively be demonstrated to be so.”

        And they say the same thing back to you and you are both wrong. If it could be persuasively demonstrated then there would be few, if any, who believe it. Obviously it cannot be so demonstrated. One may be right and the other wrong but it’s make an undeniable objective case for either. Politics exists in the gaps of human knowledge.Report

  3. Kirk says:

    “What unites most, if not all, factions of the Left, from socialists to DLC moderates is a dogmatic acceptance that the government should do good when it can and where it can.”
    So JG thinks the left is dogmatic because it supports government action that helps people when that action is effective? And then he accuses that position of being dogmatic? Isn’t opposing beneficial government action because of one’s “philosophical assumptions” the definition of dogma?

    And Jonah Goldberg? Really? I’d rather read Sara Palin on higher maths.Report

  4. zic says:

    Do you mean that things like cutting taxes, invading other countries, deregulating industry, and selling health insurance across state lines aren’t policies, they’re ideology, instead?

    But moving beyond snark, this bothers me:

    What unites most, if not all, factions of the Left, from socialists to DLC moderates is a dogmatic acceptance that the government should do good when it can and where it can.

    I’m constantly amused by definitions of the left. But I’d opt for a different definition of what bands the left together; not that it should do good where and when it can, but that government is of the people, and it should do what the people opt for well. The wonkishness of the left stems out of a desire to govern well. ‘Cause you know, it’s policy, not ideology, that form the basis of government.

    If GWB’s demonstrates anything, it’s that those who believe government is bad create bad governments. Their hearts aren’t in it.Report

    • Art Deco in reply to zic says:

      but that government is of the people, and it should do what the people opt for well.

      I will remember that when the next ‘landmark’ decision of some appellate court arbitrarily annuls duly enacted statutory legislation which has been on the books for decades (or centuries).

      The wonkishness of the left stems out of a desire to govern well.

      I will remember that the next time the United Auto Workers or Local 1199 get a sweetheart deal (at public expense).Report

      • zic in reply to Art Deco says:

        Please do. And remember the difference the next time you hear a Republican politician blather on about deficits and balancing the budget.

        I really have a hard time seeing the sweetheart deal in the UAW the way you do; there was much about saving GM that had to do with the American supply chain’s stability and our industrial capacity. Since the UAW had a contract, they had every bit as much right to their deal as did Goldman’s managers to their bonuses. But because they’re workers, it’s socialism and poor governing by your sights.

        And while I’m not a fan of the SC’s recent decision, I think I’ve said I agreed with it here; the speech shouldn’t be limited. All political advertising should, however, be transparent, and laws defining that ought to be adopted. You have the right to know if the Saudi government is supporting the attack ad on a Republican candidate who’s pro-drilling.

        Again, it’s policy vs. ideology.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to zic says:

          Or a Democratic politician blather on about the importance of reforming Health Care?Report

          • zic in reply to Jaybird says:

            Perhaps your ideology is my policy, Jaybird. You see, I need health care reform, but I have to buy private insurance in Maine or risk losing my home if I become seriously ill. That’s HCR ground zero — shortage of providers, shortage of insurers, and aging, sparse population.

            But I’d prefer less blather and more policy that’s well articulated, so yes, Republicans on deficits, Dems on health care, libertarians on taxes, etc. etc. etc.,Report

            • Jaybird in reply to zic says:

              I can think of a handful of things that the government might do to address a shortage of providers. For example, they could offer more scholarships for doctors who promise to go to Maine or offer to pay off the bills of doctors who go to Maine.

              I can think of a handful of things that the government might do to address the shortage of insurers. Tax breaks, maybe. Free office space in the parts of government buildings that aren’t getting used, maybe.

              I can’t think of much that the government could do to address an aging, sparse population. Homesteading, maybe? Loosening Immigration Law requirements for people who are willing to move to Maineofallplaces?

              Because, at the end of the day, if the aging, sparse population issue becomes too much of one, the problem will have the answer of “move”.Report

        • Art Deco in reply to zic says:

          Since the UAW had a contract, they had every bit as much right to their deal as did Goldman’s managers to their bonuses.

          The management of Goldman, Sachs & Co. should on their own except in so far as credit default swaps on their bond issues create trouble for the rest of the economy.

          One ought to note that GM’s bondholders were secured creditors, which the employees were not. It availed them nothing. If you are concerned about the supply chain, a pre-packaged bankruptcy wherein the workforce and legatees take deep compensation cuts in return for equity stakes would have been prudent and fair.Report

  5. td says:

    What unites the left to the extent that any one thing does is the belief that good is good regardless of the source and it doesn’t demonize the outcome based on the primary motivation. The right is far more comfortable with the idea that the *type* of hose that puts out the fire is more important than putting out that fire, and if that’s not dogma then I guess I’ve never understood really what the word means.Report

  6. Koz says:

    “The “unsettled dogma” concept seems so far removed from the conservative movement’s attempts at purity tests and activism that it’s a bit hard to reconcile the two.”

    Really? Should those of us on the Right opposed the health care bill because we don’t like the inefficiency of massive government bureacracy or because we don’t like left-wing power grabs? Does it make a difference.Report

  7. Kyle says:

    isn’t that the kind of sweeping, self-important statement greg was just describing as a part of. You’re basically saying that what motivates the left is that government is of the people and should do what they want. How’s that solid majority opposition to the health care bill? Or perhaps the majority of Americans that are warming to Gitmo?

    It’s a fair definition that isn’t pejorative in any sense that the left broadly shares an activist view of government one that does good when and where it can. That if anything was the guiding vision of the New Deal and Great Society and every Democratic programmatic package of the past century. So I can’t imagine why one would be bothered by it.

    Kirk, I think Jonah’s suggestion is that it’s dogmatic because it never questions whether the government should be doing the things, whether they’re beneficial or not. That acceptance of the nearly unlimited appropriateness of government action is what he’s calling dogmatic.

    For example, if you proposed a new government program to do X, the disagreements on the left will be over whether X is cost-effective, will accomplish its goals, is a comparatively useful allocation of resources, etc.. Few would address whether the government ought to do it in the first place. IOW the central questions on the left are can and how, because there’s broad agreement that should has already been answered.Report

    • Kyle in reply to Kyle says:

      “greg was describing as a part of ideological/religious discussions.”Report

    • greginak in reply to Kyle says:

      Kyle- I think you are party rebutting your own argument. Yes liberals would : “For example, if you proposed a new government program to do X, the disagreements on the left will be over whether X is cost-effective, will accomplish its goals, is a comparatively useful allocation of resources, etc..”

      The thing is, I would say discussing whether something is cost effective, is a useful allocation of resources and will it accomplish its goals are a way of discussing whether the gov should do something or not. While phrased in wonkish terms, those questions are, is this a good idea that the gov should do?

      I’m sure Conservatives would phrase the question a bit differently, which actually is where I think where the disagreement is. Its more about framing the discussion. The lib wonkish terms are a practical application of the question, “is this something for the gov to do?”

      And just to be clear, Lib’s will come the answer that X is not worthwhile, can’t work or just not worth the expense, so the cry of dogmatism by jonah seems a bit weak. I could easily find lib’s who think it would be the bee’s knees to do all sorts of things, but either get no support or admit that their ideas are not workable. I’m thinking of a few local examples as I type this.Report

      • Kyle in reply to greginak says:

        I guess what I’m seeing is something it bit deeper and more esoteric than “liberals are always in favor of big government or see government as the solution to all problems.”

        However, I’ll admit that Goldberg’s framing isn’t 100% true, I just think it’s a surprisingly good view of how much of the left approaches domestic policy.

        With respect to the questions I think there are substantive differences between the wonky ones and the conservative one and I’ll use torture to illustrate what I mean. (an instance when I don’t think goldberg’s hypothesis is true)

        The question of whether the government should/has the right to torture is a separate question from whether torture is the best way to extract information from suspects.

        The former question is if we sit in a room discuss torture and conclude that the gov’t doesn’t have the right because of principle X. We either don’t know or don’t care whether it’s effective because it’s just something the United States doesn’t do, categorically.

        The latter/wonky option looks like we sit in a room, discuss the pros and cons of torture as if it were a viable option and then decide not to do it because warrantless wiretaps are more reliable.

        I’m actually not 100% sold on one being more dogmatic than the other, but I do think not deciding to do something because it’s a waste of money is a different thing than not deciding to something because it would be inappropriate or because one lacks the right to.Report

        • greginak in reply to Kyle says:

          I think everybody has some areas/ limits where government must not go. Torture would be one of them. I might be an interesting, purely theoretical argument, whether it works, which I doubt, but it should not be done regardless. Just because Lib’s frame arguments in one way or believe gov can do some things in no way implies that Lib’s think gov has no limits. I think there is, on a bunch of things, agreement between liberals and libertarian oriented conservatives about the limits of what gov should do.

          One of the oddest shibboleths of conservative discourse on Lib’s is the seeming belief that Lib’s don’t think there should be limits on gov. I can think of many, many criticism of gov by liberals and libs complaining about gov overreach. It appears to me conservatives easily fall into, “its just a power grab” like explanations for what liberal think. That might make con’s feel good and righteous but it exudes assuming bad faith among people that disagree and religious/ideological name-calling.Report

          • Kyle in reply to greginak says:

            I would’ve agreed with you on the liberal/libertarian thing circa 2000. Not so much these days (hello health care mandates).

            There’s kind of a slight difference here but I see what you’re responding to because there is a strain of conservative criticism that says exactly what you’re saying.

            There’s a fair case to be made that the liberal limit of government falls suspiciously close to the terminal line of where liberals stop seeing problems worth dealing with. Which wouldn’t be contradictory at all.

            I would guess, though reserve the right to be completely wrong here, that there’s a fairly strong correlation between what a liberal views is a problem and their support for government action to correct it. We saw this with health care, the base thinks its a big issue, it’s a major problem facing America and therefore the government should act and do so in fairly dramatic, constitutionally unprecedented ways (using progressive solutions not the Senate/House bills) to solve this problem. Some Democrats ala South Africa wanted to include a right to health care in the constitution. In this case, to fix the problem, there was a fair amount of disagreement on which problems to address and how. Yet I’d be shocked if members of this grand liberal consensus seriously considered whether despite the enormity of the problem the government shouldn’t take steps to address it. Or what steps, however useful they may be, might be too broad. Like the mandate, did anyone say well it’d be useful but the government shouldn’t do it? No, liberal criticisms of the mandate didn’t appear until it became not useful, i.e. a gift to the insurance industries.

            Which isn’t to rehash an argument about health care but to lay out what I view as a policy-making approach that looks at problems and then takes an expansive view of government to approach that problem without spending quality time on whether government ought to address it in the first place.

            Whereas in an area of government action where liberals don’t agree that a problem exists or is a fairly significant threat. I think you’re more likely to find support for limits on government action. Like, the global war on terror/executive powers. The gays getting married isn’t a problem so the government shouldn’t prevent them from being married.

            As a worldview – or governmentview – it’s very retro New Deal and there’s clearly a place for it in political discourse and the landscape but I don’t think the charge is about always choosing statist solutions or taxing and spending or not having limits on government power or any of those cliche talking points.

            What it boils down to is a view that skips over questioning whether because we can do a thing it stands that we should do that thing, particularly when it would conveniently solve this problem that I happen to care a lot about.

            None of these means conservatives can’t be guilty of the same or anything else just this is something I see that’s common enough from the state house to washington.Report

            • greginak in reply to Kyle says:

              “There’s a fair case to be made that the liberal limit of government falls suspiciously close to the terminal line of where liberals stop seeing problems worth dealing with.”

              This is interesting. I think where I see libertarian /conservative arguments going, is that they decide something shouldn’t be done, without looking at what the problem is and the seriousness of the problem. I can see a time when the government should take draconian steps to control peoples movements. Like if the Andromeda Strain, or for you young bucks, the Rage Virus breaks out. But other then a massive movie based crisis the gov shouldn’t’ be telling people where to go.

              But more seriously I think the issues, like smoking trans fats or banning semi-auto condoms, are less about “does the gov do this?” and more “where do we draw the line?” But it is often framed as the evil gov is oppressing us. Well public health measures are generally accepted a public good by most/all. That doesn’t mean any particular push to do this or that is correct, just that the concept is not all that controversial.

              FWIW I know plenty of libs who don’t particular like some of these kind of “nanny state” measures. So like every political grouping, there is a wide variety of beliefs.Report

  8. Rufus says:

    Would Christopher Lasch have been on the “unsettled” left? Also, what about the radical left? Sure, there are lots of socialists there, but aren’t anarchists still considered “left”? I do like the idea of an unsettled right.Report

  9. Here’s the problem I have with Goldberg’s characterization of the Left – I think it at least arguably works on a domestic level, but utterly fails on the international relations level. Passionate liberals, especially, are completely opposed to the use of government tools like sanctions and, of course, invading other countries (the center-left is a different story, of course). They’re also pretty firmly opposed to the World Bank, and especially to the strings that the World Bank attaches to its loans.

    Even on the domestic front, I’m not at all sure that it works, particularly given passionate liberals’ views of the War on Drugs, civil liberties, immigration reform, etc.

    Additionally, his claim that conservatives are willing to acknowledge the good faith of their opponents in a way that liberals are not is simply bizarre – I remember a little too well the accusations that opponents of the Iraq War, civil libertarians, and critics of even some actions of Israel were anti-American, supporters of terrorism, and anti-Semitic.Report

    • North in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      Yeah I agree Mark, also he seems to ignore (or be trying earnestly hard to ignore) how much influence the center has had on the left since the 90’s. They’ve become considerably less “statist for the sake of statism” than they once were (before Jay verbally tears my skin off and whips me with it; I’m not implying that they’ve become libertarians or anything, just that the party has moved right a lot).Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to North says:

        Also very true. At the very least, nowadays many liberals pay homage to the notion that market-based solutions work, even if I think what they claim is market-based totally misses the point.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        I think that 9/11 made everybody hardcore statist for a while.

        Had 9/11 not happened, I’m pretty sure that I would live in a world where I could enthusiastically agree with you.Report

      • Kyle in reply to North says:

        On an unrelated note, North, are you watching Caprica?Report

        • North in reply to Kyle says:

          Kyle, I have considered it but the final episode of BSG revolted me so volently that I fear it has poisoned me against the writers so I’ve been neglecting Caprica. Do you have any opinions on it? Perhaps I will buy the first season in a set and watch it all in one fell swoop (or maybe one swell foop).Report

          • Kyle in reply to North says:

            It’s so different that it’s hard to compare. I mean it’s interesting and set up to be a science and religion focused family drama so it’s unfolding at a slower pace than I’d like but it has potential. I think the jury is still out (kind of like the ratings) but I’m optimistic.Report

            • North in reply to Kyle says:

              Well I’ll consider it. But their sudden retarded-luddite left plot hook left me with an aching jaw and I resent it.Report

              • Bob Cheeks in reply to North says:

                North, you’re not allowed to say “retarded” anymore, it’s the new “N” word…that just came in from the gummint!Report

              • North in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

                Odd Bob, from what I hear the dictat about the word retarded came from right wing icon Sara Palin. Last I checked she’s not in government.Report

              • Bob Cheeks in reply to North says:

                North, YOU ARE CORRECT! I was wrong! However, you do know the gummint goin’ to get involved in this one, too!
                BTW, why IS the left so fixated on her? She’s not smart, not like Dear Leader, she’s not particularly articulate, not like Dear Leader. What is it about her that drives the Left boinkers? Is it the baby she didn’t offer to Moloch? What?Report

              • North in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

                Bob, I have to either denounce or justify the things government does already without having to also do either with things that the government is doing only in the imagination of the right. No big though.

                As for Sarah; she has some kind of manner that makes our far and near lefties dislike her a lot. She also revels in her ignorance. I don’t think they much care about that baby she’s always waving around (part of being pro-choice is, ya know, being pro-choice. There are very few pro-abortion people out there). It might be connected to how she was one election and a geriatric president away from the presidency. Perhaps that she reminded them of nothing so much as Bush minor with more tits and less charm.

                Now me, I view her clinically in a pretty positive light. I dearly hope that the right nominates her for president as many times as possible. Power to ya, nominate Palin all night long, that’ll show them libruls.Report

              • Bob Cheeks in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

                Well, my friend, I am very curious as to why the left has fits when her name is mentioned. You’d think that given just how stoopid she is the libruls would keep quiet and let her slide right on in to the nomination. Frankly, I don’t trust her, no matter how lovely she is…and she is lovely. I’m truely fearful she’s a neocon with breasts and a fine arse! The truth is, no matter how incompetent Dear Leader is, or how resourceful in his destruction of the American economy the right has no one to counter…no Reagan, no Buchanan, …no one! And, North my pal, that makes me very sad because without substantive leadership the right can not govern while the Left is determined to make Romania West out of us.
                So it looks in the long run, unless things change, you guys win!Report

            • JosephFM in reply to Kyle says:

              I’ve been enjoying it so far. It really is pretty different. I can’t quite put my finger on what it reminds me of, but it’s not BSG. Definitely better than the promos made it look though.Report

    • Kyle in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      I think that’s a good point vis a vis domestic/foreign policy. Generally though, I think the left/right or liberal/conservative divide is a bit clearer on domestic issues than foreign policy.

      That said nanny-state liberalism is something of a bizarre phenomenon. Liberals aren’t the biggest supporters of the War on Drugs but are behind recent legislative trends banning trans fats and cell phone usage while driving. Civil liberties are awesome until the McDonald v. Chicago is delivered later this year.

      I don’t think the good faith thing is at all measurable nor meaningful even if it were. So I agree with you there, Mark.

      Maybe I’m reading too much into Goldberg’s comments but I took him to be saying – to use a crude reduction – that a liberal will desire the government to be sized appropriately to solve the problems it can fix. A conservative will desire the government to fit a in a box and worries (perhaps to paranoia) that by letting it out to fix a problem, it’ll cause more problems down the road.

      In that case the difference between liberals’ reticence to ban recreational drugs and a lack of reticence to ban trans fats stems not from differing views on what the government ought to be able to do but instead from divergent views on how much of a problem trans fats are compared to the ganja.

      I just have a hard time seeing Goldberg’s statement as being terribly off the mark.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Kyle says:

        Like I said, it’s arguably true on the domestic front, and certainly true more often than not (although liberal views on criminal procedure and government immunity from suit, as opposed to just substantive nanny-statism, are decidedly anti-government).

        Moreover, I think the domestic/foreign policy distinction is one that can’t be easily glossed over given just how big a part of the federal government military spending is.Report

      • North in reply to Kyle says:

        Correct me if I’m mistaken but isn’t it reversed domestically on the issue of social policy? Liberals being generally content to let the people do whatever and the conservatives convinced that sexually the people must be strictly leashed and regulated?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to North says:

          So long as they don’t smoke, don’t use too much salt, don’t use trans-fats, don’t use e-cigarettes, don’t own a handgun, and don’t ever make the beast with one/two back(s) without wearing a prophylactic, they can do whatever they want.Report

          • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

            i smell straw burning.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

              Better put it out before the liberals mistake it for a cigarette and start fining people.Report

            • Kyle in reply to greginak says:

              But not really, greg, *shrug* cigarette bans, calorie labeling requirements, trans-fat bans, these are measures advocated by an alliance of Democrats and public health experts targeting obesity and using the regulatory power of local and state government to do it.

              I’m not saying it’s good or bad merely that it does exist and that it falls inline with a series of policies that infringe upon individual liberty in the service of the public good, in this case public health.

              I live in California we get these measures all the time, last year we were talking about banning “too large” televisions. It’s not the Republican party promoting these bills.Report

              • greginak in reply to Kyle says:

                I live in Alaska so I don’t have much of that. I don’t have a problem with saying that liberals believe in the use of regulation to fix some problems, is that really in question. The rub is always that we disagree on what is a problem and whether is can, or should, be fixed. I can tell you, from what I know of Cali, I think I would be bugged by some “nanny state liberalism.”

                Yeah some public health measures infringe on individual liberty. When we get down to it, most people would agree on some infringements ( no drunk driving), most would agree some infringement are way out of line ( no nude driving) and there a bunch where there would be wide disagreement.

                So in reference to Jay’s straw post:

                “don’t ever make the beast with one/two back(s) without wearing a prophylactic,”—huh, what am I missing. Liberals, in general, are considered pro-f***ing. Long haired hippie types. Have I missed something.

                “don’t use too much salt”- isn’t this what docs say? Are liberals breaking down doors ripping the salt shakers out of peoples cold dead hands?

                “cigarette bans”—aren’t’ we talking about public smoking really? Smoking is still legal. I could make a personal freedom, don’t tread on me argument for people not blowing their stinky smoke in my general direction.

                “don’t own a handgun”—doesn’t that in practice mean, lets register and have waiting periods for guns. That’s a bit different.Report

              • Kyle in reply to greginak says:

                I’ll 3.5/1.5 with you. No gripes on the first two. On smoking bans I’m mixed ( I recognize the social utility of public smoking bans and personally can’t stand it. Still, it’s one thing to mandate smoke-free zones or in areas where it stands a legitimate public health problem.

                Still San Jose and other cities banned smoking in city parks, San Diego banned smoking at the beach. Calabasas banned it everywhere except designated zones. Those seem a bit extreme to me. Though I found it amusing – maybe you will too, greg – that in one of the upper midwest states, the smoking ban contained an exception for performance art and filming. So smokers would dress theatrically when they went out to circumvent the ban.

                As for the handgun ban, the District’s…actual (and unconstitutional) ban on handguns goes a bit further than waiting periods and registration.Report

              • greginak in reply to Kyle says:

                I don’t smoke and fine with most public smoking bans. But bans in parks and on the beach seem a overboard to me. Then again both my parents smoked when I was a kid and I grew up in New Jersey, so I’m pretty much immune to disgusting smells.

                Guns are….. well guns are a touchy subject where it seems hard to discuss. I think its easier to talk about religion then guns.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                Am I the only one who remembers the AIDS crisis?Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                wasn’t that the crisis with a tom hanks movie?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                There was a play or two about it as well.Report

          • North in reply to Jaybird says:

            Uh, Jay, I don’t object to most of your characterizations but the beast with two backs one inot fair. Regulating sex and administering fines and punishment for sexual behavior is very strongly the domain of the right, not the left.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to North says:

              Making the beast with two backs *WITHOUT A CONDOM*.

              Wrap it up and knock yourself out. Don’t wrap it up? Attempted murder!Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                So if you’re not going to Sack It, Whack It.

                but what are you talking about? Really and truly, what are you referring to?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                When I came of age, having sex without a condom was considered on par with smoking in restaurants.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                So you risked getting pregnant from smoking in restaurants?

                Ahhhh okay, so I’m still not quite getting the overbearing gov angle. I am aware that adults have strongly advised young people to use French Ticklers or whatever to prevent pregnancy and disease, but I’ll admit as a liberal, I’m actually fine with that advice.

                Where’s the oppression?Report

              • Kyle in reply to greginak says:

                I don’t know where the oppression is but maybe it’s coming from the demon sheep? You know the new congresslizards. Greg, north, jay, et. al. if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourselves a three minute favor and watch the ad.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                I had less risk of getting pregnant than the average person.

                Additionally, there was no legislation regarding wrapping it up (thank heaven for small favors) and, yes, that does make it significantly different than the liberal attitudes toward cigarettes, salt, trans-fat, e-cigs, and handguns.

                But, on a moral busybody level, the sermons about “don’t have sex without a condom” were very much like the “don’t have sex” sermons.Report

              • North in reply to greginak says:

                Gonna have to disagree with ya there Jay. The safe sex message: “If you’re going to have sex you’d be better off doing it with condoms” Is scoring a lot lower on the busybody meter than “If you have sex before marriage you’ll burn in hell and here are five million laws to make sure you don’t.”Report

              • greginak in reply to greginak says:

                Kyle- That ad brought the weird, thats for sure. it did its job, get a lot of free plays. The other guy could dress up former HP employees in that same sheep suit and say what they think of carly.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                What’s weird is that I don’t think that “If you’re going to have sex you’d be better off doing it with condoms” was the message.

                It strikes me more that the message was “when you have sex, which is the most natural thing in the world, be sure to wear a condom lest you kill them and/or yourself”.

                The “you’ll go to hell” message is one that I’ve always preferred.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                But, yes, I ought to have left “wear a rubber” off the list.Report

          • Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

            Preach it bro!Report

        • Kyle in reply to North says:

          It’s more of a mixed bag than a standard. Like I said I find nanny-state liberalism to be really bizarre because the standard seems to be government can step in and fix problems, provided we all agree that X is a problem. So liberals don’t think pot smoking is a problem enter not a big deal, but “evil” corporations using their trisky trans fats = ban.

          Also there’s a regulatory regime that leads to such restrictions. The left is all for boards of experts helping determine policies and regulations but a fair amount of those filter down into personal choices that are restricted for public health issues.

          Preemptively, this isn’t saying that regulations are bad or the public health isn’t a concern. Merely that it’s the same party’s politicians that are saying yes to bans on trans fats and driving while using the cell phone…Carolyn Maloney of NY.Report

          • zic in reply to Kyle says:

            Maybe you should move to another state; CA goes over the top in liberalism most of the time. But judging from the liberals I know (mostly of the NorthEast educated elites and pot-smoking hippies varities,) there’s a fervent desire to protect personal rights, and to make limits on those rights balanced with corporate responsibility. That’s where conservatives totally loose me.

            Trans fats, tobacco (I have been known to smoke on occasion,) alcohol, CO2 emissions, dioxin, credit-card contracts are all examples of places where, in many liberal minds, legislation has or should be developed because of a failure of corporate responsibility. I owned a coffee shop for a few years, and I didn’t use crisco — high in trans fats at the time, though no longer (it’s got other issues, now) — I used olive oil or coconut oil, depending on the application. You may look at this as taking responsibility away from the individual; I looked at it as accepting responsibility for my business and the consequences of my business.

            Saying liberals are comfortable limiting personal liberties to solve problems only tells half the story. I don’t think most liberals would feel they needed to solve problems if the corporations were acting responsibly. But we rarely hear conservatives calling for corporate responsibility anymore. The makers of crisco don’t tell you that they’ve replaced trans fats with indigestible, highly refined fats from the rape seed, cotton seeds, and soybean, and that there’s no such thing as a ‘canola.’ They still make diet sodas though they know they’re a leading contributor to obesity.

            Maybe that will change now that we know corporations are people, too.

            But here’s the kicker — the paper industry (that bad business that polluted the river I grew up on) took a terrible hit when it had to clean up it’s pollution after the clean water and air acts passed. They began to recycle, working toward a more closed-loop manufacturing cycle. And actually found it was cheaper to make paper this way then by just dumping everything down the drain. The regulation that they fought tooth and nail was, in the end, helpful to the industry. And when I talk to industry insiders now, what they tell me is they don’t want a loosening of regulation; they simply want a regulatory environment that’s predictable so they can do their business planning. What they don’t want is sudden change.

            The whole discussion of personal liberties too often fails to include corporate responsibility; and discussions of corporate regulation totally fails to recognize the importance of long-term planning. Both extremes need to find this middle ground that links the two, where there could be some fruitful and worthwhile discussion.Report

            • Art Deco in reply to zic says:

              What you refer to as ‘corporate [ir]responsiblity’ is ordinary human behavior with regard to unregulated commons. With industrial effluvia (and to that you might include carbon dioxide emissions), the problem you have is that the production process generates externalities – costs not borne by the producer. You can more nearly approach a social optimum by imposing an excise on emissions or imposing a global ceiling and having tradable permits. The trouble is, the interactive effects of various pollutants are such that it is often well-nigh impossible to calculate the optimal tax rate. You know the optimal rate is non-zero, but that is it.Report

              • zic in reply to Art Deco says:

                You oversimplify, but that’s close.

                It goes beyond pollutants; and much of it does slip right down into the slimy hot tub where marketeers and marks slither around together. Conservatives, in my view, put too much of the ‘responsibility’ on the individual without shouldering enough. (And this is, of course, a generalization. There are wonderful, responsible companies out there.) And then they turn around and argue for tort reform.

                To me, it always sounds like they’re arguing as share-holders with an eye on profit but no interest in the credentials or morals of the members of the board.Report

              • zic in reply to Art Deco says:

                Art Deco, I’ll give you a direct example of what I mean, funded from my pocket. We have an angel investment in a company that produces diagnostic tests. One test has already been approved by the FDA, but we were funding another round of clinical trails to refine information on the hopes of generating a exit via sale to a larger company.

                It became apparent that the trails had not been handled correctly, and some of the data was in question. We had to make a choice, proceed with potentially (it was unknown) faulty data, or redo the trails. We opted for the latter, though it meant another six months in a competitive environment, and a lot more money.

                Now, we have data to stand on, and we’ll skip the sale exit, and have an IPO. Luck, perhaps, but because we did the right and responsible thing and redid the trail with stricter controls. Could have had the opposite result, and we’d have realized the risk of the investment instead of the opportunity.

                Another important piece of this is that we set the tone of the company with this move — do it right, don’t fudge, and be responsible.Report

            • Art Deco in reply to zic says:

              there’s a fervent desire to protect personal rights

              By which you mean the rights of people not acting as producers of goods and services other than words and images.Report

              • zic in reply to Art Deco says:

                I’ll probably have to rethink this, since the supremes ruled corporations are people, too. But yes. Because as a corporation, I have legal protection for my personal belongings. The whole point of incorporating is to create that separation. And since I’ve been in the business of words and images, I’d include those things if they’re intellectual property and used to garner income.Report

            • Kyle in reply to zic says:

              Wait did you really just say that if I don’t like nanny-state liberalism, I should just move to another state? I don’t know whether to laugh or be insulted.

              I wish you would respond to what I’m saying rather than using sloppy anti-corporate stereotypes and relying on your anecdote of the day to some how illustrate that because you and your friends have an idea, something that is – in fact – a verifiable characteristic of Democratic legislation in other states and at the federal level is somehow the purview of crazy California.

              Also, I’m not complaining about it so much as demonstrating both how bizarre it is and that it’s a fairly solid demonstration of what I see as a liberal framework.

              “legislation has or should be developed because of a failure of corporate responsibility…You may look at this as taking responsibility away from the individual; I looked at it as accepting responsibility for my business and the consequences of my business.”

              That first sentence is exactly what I was saying. I specifically refuted the idea that it was liberal love power and government solutions for their own sake. Instead I said when it comes to things that are problems they assume the government ought to act without strong consideration of whether it is appropriate or not. So yes, “oh look at all the pretty corporate failures, we must regulate to fix them,” is precisely that.

              What makes it an infringement upon personal liberty is that the government – in the case of trans fats – is saying people ought to be healthier and less obese in the first place.

              Except, what if I, for personal, potentially cultural or religious regions, choose not to value whatever optimal public choice has been determined to be desirable by the party of Mr. Fix-It? Then, my freedom has been significantly curtailed. That may be done “for the greater good” but it’s not a protection of personal rights, it’s a codification of the values and priorities of a politically powerful faction.

              I find it absolutely strange that you think there’s some kind of principle of personal freedom and corporate irresponsibility that makes it acceptable for someone to sell pot but not a donut with transfats.

              All that talk of the failures of corporate responsibility is unconvincing, there’s no corporate irresponsibility when it comes to cell phone driving bans, just personal irresponsibility. Drinking/smoking bans on city beaches, yet still more personal irresponsibility the Democrats have saved us from. There is little to suggest that when there are “public consequences” there’s a differential impetus to act whether the irresponsible party was corporate or personal.

              There’s no principle here at all only a manifestation of the capricious desires of people to fix the things they think are wrong with other people. If there’s a limit is on government action at all, it’s where there is no liberal policy-making consensus that there’s a problem worth dealing with to begin with.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kyle says:

                If you don’t like any of the other states, there’s always Somalia!

                Now shut up and help us pass health care reform nationally. It’s shameful that we don’t have one like all of those other countries that have one.Report

              • zic in reply to Kyle says:

                Kyle, you’re pretty funny. And the more strident you get, the funnier you are.

                What makes it an infringement upon personal liberty is that the government – in the case of trans fats – is saying people ought to be healthier and less obese in the first place.

                Well, since the government will have to pick up the tab when they hit Medicare age, it is something to consider.

                But when it comes to corporate responsibility, I mean specifically that there are alternatives to trans fats for your Krispy Kremes. They’re just not oils supported by the food bill (but they do make a better-tasting product, fyi). And if you took your personal responsibility seriously, you’d know what you’re eating. But since you can’t be bothered, I’m suggesting that the use of trans fats is, in fact, a corporate responsibility — if you’re going to sell a poisonous product, you’ve got responsibility for it. So let’s let Oreo’s owner pony up the money for your health care treatment when you’re 65, or let’s set a tone of expecting them to be a bit more responsible for their behavior.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to zic says:

                “Well, since the government will have to pick up the tab when they hit Medicare age, it is something to consider.”

                Stuff like this is why I repeat myself.Report

              • zic in reply to Jaybird says:

                You know they’re not gonna repeal Medicare.

                Personally, I blame it in Wal-mart for selling those cheap, stretchy sweat pants so that you can be comfy no matter how fat you get. If everyone had to wear uncomfortable, stiff blue denim like they do in China, folks would watch their weight just for their comfort.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to zic says:

                Now you’re just trolling me.Report

              • Kyle in reply to zic says:

                Ugh. It’s not a terribly sophisticated comment, but it’s appropriate.

                I’m actually insulted by your comment, “And if you took your personal responsibility seriously, you’d know what you’re eating. But since you can’t be bothered.” I made it clear that dietary choices can be importantly linked to culture, religion and identity. You choose to label choices that you find sub-optimal as irresponsible and find your attitude to be if not racially insensitive certainly one of cultural superiority.

                You know nothing about me and I do take my eating habits seriously but I don’t feel pressing need to force others to adopt my sensibilities.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kyle says:

                People always seem to identify with the people giving orders about who is allowed to read what books.

                They never identify with the people being told what they can and cannot read.

                I don’t understand it.Report

              • Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

                JB, I love ya, dude!Report

              • zic in reply to Jaybird says:

                That’s right, you don’t. Because I don’t care what anyone eats, smokes, drinks, reads. . . but I do care what you and I have to pay for as a result.

                Since we’re not going to make shared cost for behaviors go away, I would like the right to discuss behaviors and the impacts they have. It’s not my fault you opt to call the right to discuss something bossing.

                You react like a boy-almost-man being lectured, I react like a mom saying it’s important to talk about stuff so that we can make wise personal decisions. I suspect more of the perceived difference is role based than philosophy or ideology.

                But I’m only marginally welcome here, for this is a gathering of gentleman. And I most certainly am not a gentleman steeped in philosophy and classics. I’m grandmother spider.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                One man’s modus ponens is another man’s modus tollens.

                When you say “That’s right, you don’t. Because I don’t care what anyone eats, smokes, drinks, reads. . . but I do care what you and I have to pay for as a result.”

                I agree. But my conclusion is that “well, I shouldn’t have to pay for your excesses… and you shouldn’t have to pay for mine.”

                You point out that we already have Medicare and it’s not going to go away so you might as well run with it.

                I remain adamant that I shouldn’t have to pay for your excesses… and you shouldn’t have to pay for mine.

                As for your “right to discuss”, please understand that I am not trying to infringe upon your freedom of speech, or of the press, or of your right to peacefully assemble, or of your right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

                I am just saying that I shouldn’t have to pay for your excesses… and you shouldn’t have to pay for mine.

                And my disagreeing with you ought not be seen as censorship.

                There’s only one person in this conversation talking about making decisions for other people.

                But let’s flip this around. Let’s talk about making wise personal decisions.

                Do you think it’s wise to teach children then teenagers then young adults that other people are and will likely always be in charge of them? Do you think it’s wise to train moral agents to remain constantly in a state of stunted growth… a perpetual adolescence? Do you think that it’s good to train a subset of other people that, if they play their cards right, they can become a member of the group of people responsible for making the decisions of others?

                Do you think that wise? Sustainable?

                Can you think of any historical examples where this was done culturally as a matter of course?

                Do you identify with the patriarchs or with the women?

                “But I’m only marginally welcome here, for this is a gathering of gentleman.”

                This is a platonic gathering of minds. I don’t know if you’re a man, a woman, or a particularly advanced artificial construct held in a beowolf cluster of quantum computers. I don’t know if you are a single person or group of friends who share a handle. We’re all just words, here. We’re only arguments. Genderless, fleshless, bloodless, boneless arguments. The only requirement that I’ve seen is a request for a particular level of syntactical expertise (a standard you not only meet but exceed handsomely).Report

              • Kyle in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jay is right.

                Not that I think that zic is a standard issue liberal, but I think the reasoning here is instructive.

                Liberals push for collective solutions to problems affecting a number in our society, like Medicare, then using the leverage of our collective liability – the solution – suggest that things that contribute to the scope of our problem, addressed by Medicare, are then subject to collective discussion and action. It’s sound logic, but one need not be a heartless, selfish person, to reject such a scheme or be untrustworthy of promises to self-limit our what is on the table for discussion.

                Moreover, such logic is at once not the kind used to justify the bans I brought up and is eerily similar to the same logic used to ban the donation of blood by bisexual and gay men for two decades, a policy maintained not privately but by the FDA in the face of overwhelming evidence and argument from private institutions like the American Red Cross challenging the ban as discriminatory. I am told that liberals like thought and evidence, yet in this case, such evidence has not led to a change in the regulations and government continues to enforce discrimination.

                It’s not the logic behind trans fat bans or smoking bans because the levels of government where such bans are passed aren’t on the hook for Medicare costs and thus neither benefit directly from such bans nor indirectly.

                I could engage in some reductio ad absurdum here but the point is that the principle at hand leaves nothing off the table of what society has a say in determining except what the society thinks shouldn’t be on the table and, as we’ve seen over the last 200 odd years, society changes its mind. If we have a collective say about what we allow to be eaten, it stands to reason that we have a collective say about any matter that affects health, even if not directly causal – like trans fats – including reproductive health (are women who have abortions more likely to suffer medical complications? if so, perhaps we should ban it…to be safe) and sexual health, as well as a full range of working, entertainment, and dietary habits.

                Perhaps I’m channelling a bit of Freddie here but I really do wish progressives/liberals would be more upfront and less circumspect about this aspect of their political preferences.

                Zic, you ask to be able to exercise your right to discuss behaviours and their impacts but a ban isn’t a discussion, in fact, it’s really the opposite of that. Once you get behind the coy self-flattering framing here, you haven’t been defending talking about addressing problems, you’ve been defending actions to address problems. Those are separate things.

                Just like not caring about what you do, but caring about the results of what you do, are not so separate things. You’re saying you care about the medical costs of “irresponsible eaters,” but not what they’re irresponsibly eating. Yet, if you support a ban on what they’re eating, by definition you have to care about their eating choices, particularly the ones you deem “irresponsible.” If you didn’t, you would just charge unhealthy people more, not try to modify their behaviour by specifically targeting items.Report

              • zic in reply to Kyle says:

                Kyle, I know of no culture where eating trans fats is tradition, though it was becoming a tradition in American culture. You’ve set up a false dichotomy, there. And totally ignored my questioning why conservatives don’t call for greater corporate responsibility; for instance calling for corporations offering culturally traditional foods filled with trans fats instead of the more traditional fats that would have been used, and been better for all our wallets given the burgeoning costs of health care and the almost-zero-possibility that we’re going to do away with Medicare any time soon.Report

              • Kyle in reply to zic says:

                First, we’re not talking about conservatives and corporate responsibility but to address it, I’ll say this. Conservatives and liberals have different views of what exactly corporations should be responsible for. Therefore, the other ideological side will come up lacking in how they address government action with respect to corporate responsibility. Your question without accounting for the differentiating views is tantamount to asking why the Chinese don’t write legibly. Because they’re using a different standard.

                “I know of no culture where eating trans fats is tradition.” Your non-apology aside, everywhere trans fats bans have been considered one of the major sticking points – often leading to legal exceptions – is over what to do about ethnic restaurants, which are often squeezed by the higher costs of switching to new oils. From an LA Times article on the subject,

                “The group said ethnic restaurants and bakeries would be hardest hit by the ban, because many ethnic dishes are more difficult to prepare with trans fat-free substitutes.

                Rod White, the owner of Bertha’s Soul Food in Los Angeles, estimated that it would cost him $30 more a week to buy cooking oil without trans fat, and he was angry.

                “The government is infringing too much on the rights of people to even eat what they want,” he said. “Are they going to outlaw salt next because it causes hypertension?”

                So, your non-apology aside, just because you aren’t aware of issues doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

                As I stated before none of the authorities banning these fats are on the hook for Medicare costs so your theoretical argument is just not grounded in reality.Report

    • Art Deco in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      Can you locate a social milieux of much consequence where the left-of-center occupies just one seat in twelve at the table? That is the situation with regard to arts-and-sciences faculties and also the national press corps, and there is no counterpart to it elsewhere (except perhaps the executive board of the Southern Baptist Convention).Report

  10. Steve says:

    So … where do statist conservatives fall in this paradigm? Unless I’m missing something a problem w/ Mr Goldberg’s comments is that he assumes they don’t exist; that there are no conservatives who want to use the power of the state to enforce social norms. I would submit that this is as much ‘big government’ (the Daddy State) as is the liberal version (Mommy State).Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Steve says:

      My take is that we see all of it in such agencies as the HSA and TSA.

      This promise of national security in exchange for something as small as making you take your shoes off and your belt off and please turn your cell phone on and I’m sorry your eight-year old’s name is on the no-fly list is very much one of the victories of “Conservative” Statism. (Hey, are you ready? “PAPERS, PLEASE!!!”)

      The Conservative tendency to believe that laws against abortion will curb abortion and that laws against sodomy will curb sodomy are two spectacular examples of hope triumphing over experience… and, more importantly, examples of Conservatives engaging in social engineering through use of government force.

      And then they get surprised when the genie doesn’t want to go back in the bottle…Report

    • zic in reply to Steve says:

      Good point. It’s where I consider myself libertarian.Report

  11. SumGi says:

    This intellectual wing of conservatives, where can I find them. No, I’m not being cute. I want links.Report