Saturday, October 27, 2012

On Politics, Part II, "I Don't Like Either Candidate"

The way I see it there are three types of I-don't-like-either-candidate voters.

The Slouch- This person simply  lacks interest and has not taken the time to be informed.  What he does know is based on what the candidate looks like, campaign ads, friends and so on.  This person can be characterized by his discomfort or dislike of discussing politics for fear of his ignorance being revealed.  I would say that this constitutes almost all "independents" and explains why the same state can elect a president that wants to go in one direction and a senator that wants to go the opposite direction.  Oh yes, they then complain about the "partisan divide".

The Utopian - This person views the world through a lens of perfection.  While being sufficiently informed about what the two candidates stand for, this person rejects both because neither comes close enough to his idea of perfection.  This person's understanding of politics reflects the vision he hopes to achieve through an election in that both his vision and his candidate can be defined as narrow.  His candidate will never win a primary because the candidate must appeal to a group with little to no tolerance for those who see the world differently.  The election process for them, after their guy looses the primary, is to trash the winner in order to create a platform to vent their frustration about reality.   Their numbers include people from both the right and left.  I would say however that most are from the right because, in my opinion,  the right contains greater numbers of informed and principled people.  I base this opinion on the fact that the left extracts most of its appeal and power by the promise of redistributed (read free) wealth; which means all anyone really need be informed about is who is promising more free stuff.  This is a question easily answered by party affiliation.   

The Principled - This person rejects both candidates on principle.  He sees himself as not being able to cast a vote for any person who does not meet a minimum level of morality... come what may.  This type understands the ramifications of not voting.  He understands that there will always be a "better" candidate that will serve any given person better than the other, and therefore will be a better candidate for his own sake.  But he shuns the perceived advantage and rejects both anyway.  This person differs from the "Utopian" in that he understands the political realities within which he exists.  He has a high tolerance for differing opinions because he realizes that his vision is meaningless unless it can be converted to meaningful reform by winning elections.  That tolerance has its limits however, and the limits are exceeded when neither candidate can stand or appeal to the same or similar principles. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On Politics, Part I, The Reality Of Politics

This series of posts is in response to Facebook and personal discussions I've seen and have been involved in.  In short, I hear things that simply do not make any sense.  Please note that I write this, not from a perspective of having all the answers but rather that the answers are more simple than they may seem once the fog of emotion clears and the clarity of reality emerges.

In a discussion once a friend told me the reason that he left his previous church was because it was too political. (Political as in church politics.) Now it might well have been to political, but when I hear something like this I generally assume there is more to it than I'm getting, or even than the person telling me is aware of.

The truth is that politics are very much a part of life.  We all engage in them daily though we do so unaware.   When you and a friend go out to dinner you both discuss and agree on a place and a time to go.  There is give and take on both sides because it is your goal is to have dinner together.  You can't, then, very well go to different places or at different times. You have a common goal.  This is politics in its simplest form.  Sure, it's easy because you both desire the other's company.  But no matter if it is the politics of a complex society like this upcoming election or deciding on dinner, the process is the same.

Yes, it is the same, but it's not always warm and friendly or agreeable; and as such not always easy.  Suppose you were handcuffed to your friend... Who am I kidding. If he was your friend when you were handcuffed, he wouldn't be for long. We all know that.   This would bring about drastic changes.  Still, one thing in the end would be true: where the one went the other would go also. 

This is one reason I am leery of the "I don't like either candidate" response to a question.  It is not like the outcome is not going to impact the person that says this.  They're going with the majority like it or not.  Their choices are clear, even if neither choice is good.

Next time I will discuss a legitimate "I don't like either candidate" position.   

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When You Hear The "He Does It Too" Argument, Realize You've Heard A He-Does-It-Too Argument

In the right column on this page, toward the bottom and under the heading "Helpful Links" there is a couple of links to "logical fallacies".  It is my opinion that every person should be at least familiar enough with these fallacies to realize when someone is using one.

Of interest to me today is an all too common fallacy called the "You Too" fallacy. 1 The meme above is a great example of this.  Here are several points to consider when encountering this sort of thing:

1. "You do it too" is not an argument.  It doesn't discuss the issue.  In this meme the issue would appear to be deficits, but it's not.  Notice that there is no position being taken.  Neither are there any explanations as to why or if deficits are good or bad or what to do to fix them.  It is simply a veiled accusation of hypocrisy to anyone who decries them.   

2. This fallacy has a tinge of another fallacy called the "Red Herring Fallacy", because it introduces non-pertinent information.

3. Using this meme as an example, consider that this "You Too" argument cuts both ways by raising two questions:
  • Does the person who created this meme approve of massive deficits?
  • If he does, should we assume therefore that he approved of Bush because of his deficits?

4. This fallacy is designed to put the person who argues against something in the awkward position of having to defend the very thing that he is now against. No matter the issue, this will generally be the case. In this respect, this tactic is normally successful only in obscuring the real issue... which is its purpose.  As noted in "3" however, the one using this tactic has his own explaining to do.  Keep that in mind if you employ it yourself.

Now, to respond to this meme.  First, I was very worried about the deficits when Bush was president, that was Bush 1 and of course 2.

Second, the president is not king.  Every president, if he honors the constitution, is either asked to exercise fiscal restraint or cast it off by congress.  If the deficits were tracked by who holds both houses of congress it reveals a totally different picture than is commonly painted.

Third, deficits are not in their own right bad.  To borrow money to build, say a bridge, that will help future generations to be more productive, then that generation should have to share in the cost.  Nothing wrong with that.  On the other hand, to strap future generations with the cost of lavish pensions for government workers is not ethical, moral or fiscally wise.  And, when there develops an alliance between those who enjoy the pensions and those who give them because the former keeps the latter's campaign coffers full, corruption is now in full bloom.

Forth, the very nature of politics imposes compromise on all .  In representative governments the governments reflect a collective position, not my position.  Therefore, if I hated America and wanted it destroyed, no deficit would be large enough.  I would have to settle for deficits that were palatable for 51% of the people.  Therefore, when Bush was elected I had a choice in degree.  I recognized this has a harsh fact..  I could vote for the big spender, or I could vote for the run-America-off-the-fiscal-cliff-so-it-could-then-be-fundamentally-transformed spender.  In that respect John Kerry was no different than Barak Obama.

Fifth, the wars that Bush entered into did not come from nothing.  We were attacked.  The attack itself brought on its own economic turmoil that effected government revenues.

Sixth, tax cuts don't necessarily amount to reduced revenues, rather, they can increase revenues.  How can the government taxing and spending money in so called "stimulus programs" help the economy more than just letting the people who earned that same money spend it themselves?  It can't. What it does do is give politicians credit, and therefore votes, for giving away other people's money.  In other words, how much would the government take in if it levied 100% tax?  The answer is zero.

And finally, there simply is no comparison between Obama's deficits and any previous administration's deficits, and if Obama has his way, he is just getting started.

1.  Fallacies are known by Latin names.  The "You Too" fallacy is called tu quoque.