How are books born? The one you’re reading now was born when a colleague gave me a photocopied page from a book, without identifying information, and asked me to evaluate it as I would a student’s paper. The page offered “summaries” of the first three of St Thomas Aquinas’ five arguments for God’s existence (popularly called the “Five Ways”). The writer of the passage got the arguments wrong – and then objected to them at precisely those points where he got them wrong.
The writer was Richard Dawkins. The book was The God Delusion. The photocopied passage, had Dawkins turned it in to me for a grade, would have earned him a whopping “D.” And for many people, this D-level work may be their only exposure to Aquinas’ arguments for God’s existence.
And so I bought Dawkins’ book. And as I read it, I was taken in by the author’s swagger. Dawkins is clearly confident, writing as if he knows what he’s talking about. The only problem is that, as often as not, he has no idea what he’s talking about.
But one thing to keep in mind is there is no real penalty for respectable lying in our world of intellectual discourse. Ferguson will almost certainly continue to have a field for his thoughts, regardless of how little effort he puts into stringing them together. The Krugman rebuttal in which Ferguson claims he was only talking about the insurance end (it’s detailed in Weisenthal’s piece) is not a debatable opinion, but the sort of thing that would raise a red-flag for any fact-checker worth their weight.
When I first started wading my way into the world of ideas, I thought having a big university on your C.V. along a PhD held said something about your trustworthiness. I would have seen that Ferguson was a historian at Harvard and thought, “No way he’d fudge facts. He’s a Harvard big-shot who publishes in big magazines.” I would have been, of course, dead wrong.
Dishonesty of this sort is insidious. It can’t be dismissed with the ease of plagiarism or manufactured evidence. As long you’re not egregious, you can actually make a career as respectable public intellectual, and occasionally lie. No one will stop you. Almost no one cares.
Now, back to unnamed Republican lawmaker who thinks his party isn’t to blame. The frightening thing is, he probably believes it. When people hold certain ideological beliefs strongly enough, no amount of facts will get in their way. If you believe that the current deficit is the result of excessive government spending (passed by Democrats, even though they only controlled Congress and the White House for four out of the past thirty years*), no pile of charts will be big enough to convince you otherwise — just like if you believe that tax cuts increase tax revenues, that the deficit has produced high interest rates, or that Barack Obama was born on Mars, no amount of evidence will convince you otherwise.
This is just fine if you are my daughter, who is four years old — although, actually, she admits it when she makes a mess (and helps clean it up). But if you are a legislator in the most powerful country in the world –and the one whose debt is the definitionally risk-free asset against which the yield of every other financial asset in the entire world is measured — it’s not good enough.
“So why is it that I have been disdainful of the Tea Party from its first manifestation in early 2009? The main reason is that so many of its members simply don’t know what they are talking about; they seem to think that strong opinions are a substitute for facts, research and analysis. Consequently, many Tea Party members hold views on various topics that are, frankly, nuts, and these views have been embraced by some Republican voters as well.”
Precisely. I have nothing but contempt for Tea Party politics which to date, as far as I can tell, have been a foul mixture of screaming, hate, stupidity and anger which are neither reasonable nor respectable. You can’t govern that way, nor do you deserve to.
….Mr. Bowles had harsh words for fellow Democrats. He dismissed the idea that raising taxes alone might help erase the deficit, saying ‘raising taxes doesnt do a dern thing’ to address health care costs that are projected to be a big driver of future fiscal problems.
If theres anything that could be called a wonkish consensus on the left, its this: we should eliminate the Bush tax cuts in a couple of years when the economy has recovered, and we need to rein in the long-term growth of healthcare costs. Its true that taxes dont address healthcare costs, but its just sophistry on Bowles part to put it like that. Taxes do address the medium-term deficit, and thats important. Quite separately, PPACA makes a start on holding down healthcare costs and thus addressing the long-term deficit, and I hardly know anyone on the left who doesnt agree that more needs to be done.
…Jon Chait has more on this, including a more detailed takedown of Bowles own proposals for healthcare, which are almost laughably inadequate.
I think we make a mistake by talking about this as though the goal of Republicans is actually deficit reduction. Its not, the goal is a reduction in the size of government and once you understand that, its clear why Republicans will not support tax increases of any kind. Theyd rather cut taxes now (and argue its about jobs or long-run growth rather than ideology), and increase the deficit even more because they still believe the beast can be starved. Anything that increases the pressure to reduce spending will be embraced, anything such as a tax increase that might allow the government to grow larger will be opposed. Logic about the best way to close the deficit wont win this argument because it has little to do with the deficit itself.
“And here we reach the limits of my mental horizons as a neoliberal, as a technocrat, and as a mainstream neoclassical economist. Right now, the global economy is suffering a grand mal seizure of slack demand and high unemployment. We know the cures. Yet we seem determined to inflict further suffering on the patient.”
Political ideology trumps technocratic know-how. In other words, non-professionals think they know more than the pros. And we know where that leads.
Family budgets aren’t economies. The government is not our parent nor does it fund the workings of the economy. Yet we keep repeating that damn fool “tighten our belts” meme. The price of ignorance, sophomoric ignorance at that is high.
Recently, I was taken to task about the morality of homosexuality and how the Bible “clearly” teaches it’s practice is a sin. Frankly, I never believed that and having other priorities chose not to bother examining the issue other than cataloguing some verses. Other things are important to me in my faith journey. But given all the proud bigotry surrounding so-called “gay marriage” and the civili rights of LGBT persons I’m seeing, I decided to give it a look see.
UPDATE: The post has been updated for clarity and to reflect an evolving understanding of my LBGT brothers and sisters.
Recently, I was taken to task about the morality of homosexuality gay individuals having intimate relations with their beloved and how the Bible “clearly” teaches such is a sin. Frankly, I never really believed that and having other priorities chose not to bother examining the issue other than cataloguing some verses. Other things are were important to me in my faith journey. But given all the proud bigotry I’m seeing, surrounding so-called “gay marriage” and the civil rights of LGBT persons, I decided to give it a look see.
“It’s telling that, amid all the recent recriminations, even lenders have not fingered CRA. That’s because CRA didn’t bring about the reckless lending at the heart of the crisis. Just as sub-prime lending was exploding, CRA was losing force and relevance. And the worst offenders, the independent mortgage companies, were never subject to CRA — or any federal regulator. Law didn’t make them lend. The profit motive did.”
“It isn’t, for instance, the fact that Sotomayor was raised in an era where government-backed redlining was still legal, it’s the fact that some students at Yale demanded a Chicano history course that’s the issue. Likewise, it isn’t the oppressive identity politics practiced by conservatives for the past 30 years that’s disturbing, but Sotomayor’s response to it. To be a true conservative is to be more disturbed by victimology, than actual victimizing. It is to claim to abhor evil–but to abhor the response to evil even more. It’s like in the NFL–it’s the second [guy sic] who throws the punch who draws the flag. “
Great explanation of why conservatism is morally impoverished. Always standing against change necessarily means you collaborate with evil at some point. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” –Edmund Burke
“Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort. They will oppose it. Can they do so effectively?
Perhaps — if they can find reasons to obstruct and delay. They should do their best not to permit Obama to rush his agenda through this year. They can’t allow Obama to make of 2009 what Franklin Roosevelt made of 1933 or Johnson of 1965.”
How about offering alternative solutions? Oh yeah, you don’t have any that haven’t been offered! That’s when you know the GOP is completely bankrupt of any ideas. People are hip to the tax cut mantra since it did less than nothing to stop our current economic woes. (Quick note: Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.)