Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Futility Of Argument With The Left

     Sarah Hoyt has an impassioned piece at PJ Media about “trickle-up poverty:”

     The discussion was about charter schools funded by government, i.e., tax money.

     The argument against them was the same it’s always been: it privileges a few kids, while the rest remain mired in failing standard government schools. I’d heard it a million times. I’d just never actually stepped back and taken a look at how ridiculous that is.

     Look, there is no comment about the charters costing more (they usually don’t) and no argument about the fact that government schools are failing.

     There is just this outraged screeching that not every kid can get the same thing. Which is kind of amazing when you think about it. Presented with a dysfunctional school system that has resisted every attempt at reform and that turns out increasingly worse educated children every year, the outrage is not that we aren’t coming up with enough ways for children to escape it, but that one of the pathways for escape should be blocked because not every child can leave.

     The same arguments are adduced against homeschooling – when the advocates of government scholastic prisons aren’t shrieking that home schooled children are maladjusted and ignorant – because – and this is almost a verbatim quote from that facebook discussion – a divorced mother of two, making minimum wage can’t give them an appropriate education at home.

     Uh? What?

     So, what you’re saying is that if you can’t rescue everyone from, say, a house fire or the path of a hurricane, you should shoot those trying to escape, so that everyone can die?

     Sarah easily refutes the “argument” – I’d have expected no less – but argument and evidence are irrelevant to the Leftist’s opposition to charter schools. It’s powerfully relevant to the Left’s conception of itself as intellectually and morally superior to the rest of us.

     The Left – include all Democrat Party-aligned voters in this – can be partitioned into three groups:

  • Bottom Level: Persons who uncritically accept what they’ve been told and vote on that basis.
  • Middle Level: Activists, passionate about their “causes” regardless of all arguments or evidence.
  • Top Level: Strategists and tacticians, coldly and exclusively focused on gaining and holding power.

     It’s easy to imagine these ideologically and emotionally distinct categories as a single undifferentiated mass. Yet there are important practical differences among them. The Bottom folks hardly think at all about the “issues” the Left has made center-stage this week; as for “caring,” they tend to leave that to others. The Middle folks believe they’ve done all the thinking they need to do, and can just shriek until they get what they want. The Top folks, who largely hold the Middle and Bottom groups in contempt, are solely concerned with what works to win elections and weaken the opposition.

     Where’s the “thinking” Where’s the “caring?” The Bottom group doesn’t exhibit much; it merely votes. The Middle expends its time and energy on “protests” and “demonstrations;” seldom will you find a Middle Leftist actually arguing for his “cause,” or personally doing anything to advance it. The Top cares about power and nothing else; it concentrates on the activities of political combat and the dynamics of coalitions. If there’s any “thinking” or “caring” in there, it’s invisible to me.

     Persuasion specialist Michael Emerling told a tale about a conversation he had with a passer-by. He had expressed, off-handedly, the opinion that convenience stores ought to be free to sell alcoholic beverages without government interference. The passer-by disagreed; he said that when that was last tried, the rate of assaults on convenience store clerks shot up. Emerling then asked the passer-by a critical question: If he could produce evidence that that was not the case – that the assault rate of convenience store clerks did not rise when alcohol licensure was removed – would the passer-by be willing to re-examine his convictions?

     Put yourself into that dialogue as the passer-by. Were you to answer “No,” what would it say about your conviction that alcohol licensure is necessary for the safety of those clerks? Yet in Emerling’s experience, about 90% of persons would answer “No.” In such a case, the passer-by’s real issue clearly lies elsewhere...possibly not anywhere in the realm of rational argument or evidence.

     Therein lies the “problem” of the Left.

     Rational persuasion is only worthwhile when the object thereof is open to being persuaded. That is: his position must be based on argument and evidence, and thus be addressable with those methods and tools. If his position is founded on something else – e.g., a desire to be included in some group, or the hope of advancement in some hierarchy – there’s no hope of persuading him away from it by arguing against it directly.

     I could sit here all day enumerating the Leftist “causes” whose Bottom and Middle allegiants are entirely unpersuasible by rational means. (The Top group is never persuasible by rational argument. It should be regarded as a surgeon would regard a cancer: rip it out and toss it in the scrap bucket.) The particular case Sarah Hoyt has cited is one of many. Moreover, the current state of affairs arises from the success of persuaders in the Right in previous decades.

     The Left’s proclamation of intellectual and moral superiority is in fact a defense against the Right’s rational arguments. In effect it says to the Middle and Bottom groups that “the thinking is over and done.” There are no longer “two sides” to the “issue;” there are only the anointed who possess superior wisdom and virtue and express it by their Leftist political affiliation, and the benighted who must be dragged toward the light, if necessary by main force (Thomas Sowell).

     Which is why I no longer argue with Leftists, once they’re clearly and unambiguously identified as such.

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