I enjoyed watching this conversation between Hotep Jesus and Scott Adams on the topics of the day.
A big reason I enjoyed it is because it showed two people keep a conversation civil and productive when they disagreed.
They agreed on a lot. By rough estimate, maybe 70%.
But, there were points where they disagreed and neither became agitated or frustrated and fell back on tactics that are too common in today’s discourse — like calling each other names, misrepresenting the other’s viewpoint of shutting the other off, entirely.
That is something that you don’t see often enough.
When they disagreed they asked the other to state their case, listened and thoughtfully responded. In a couple of instances, each changed their mind about something as they took a way of thinking about information that they had not previously considered.
Straw man fallacy is used to obstruct discourse. Instead of talking about the merits or demerits of an issue, it diverts the energy of the discussion to clarifying what is actually being said.
It’s also meant to frustrate folks and get them lose their cool. For many, the person who loses their cool, loses the exchange. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
The topic might be the sum of 1 + 1. Jordan Peterson says it’s 2. Newman asks, “Are you saying that people who think it’s 3 are idiots? That’s divisive.”
If Peterson loses his cool, in many people’s eyes he loses, even though 1+1 is actually 2.
From a young age, I noticed I was different than other folks in this regard.
I never cared much whether someone lost their cool or not. I cared what they actually had to say and the reasoning they used. I cared about their points.
I’ve seen people lose their cool, but still make points that I thought were worth considering. For me it’s been, It’s not how you say it, it’s what you say.
I never understood what I had to gain from pretending that 1+1=3 simply because someone lost their cool trying to explain that it doesn’t.
For some, I think it’s the identifying with others. If believing 1+1=3 gets them affiliation with folks they want to be affiliated with, then it’s 3 all day long.
For others, it’s simply that they don’t have skin in the game. If it doesn’t really hurt them to believe that, then why spend too much time thinking about it?
Near the 25 minute mark, Newman uses a combo fallacy — red herring/ad hominem. See if you can spot it.
I’ve read comments from those on the right about the above exchange. They think Jordan did a masterful job of handling himself against the barrage of straw men and came out ahead.
I’d be interested to know what folks on the left thought. I’m guessing many might think Newman came out ahead and may feel like Peterson evaded her questioning (er…false accusations) rather than answered them.
I have found that to convince other people, it is usually best not to assume your own moral superiority but rather to talk with them as equals who just happen to have a different point of view.
He also addresses a logical fallacy.
After the first session was over, one of the hecklers came up to me and asked, “How much money have the Koch brothers paid you?”
If I am wrong, it is sincere wrong-headedness, not the result of being on some plutocrat’s payroll, as some on the left want to believe.
I agree. Address the argument, not the motives. But I’m not so sure about this:
The hecklers probably limit their own effectiveness by questioning the motives of those who disagree with them.
I think they have found that tactic works extremely well to gain acceptance with those who hold similar views. It may also work well to convert those who are on the fence and searching for an easy excuse to decide one way or the other.
And, unfortunately, it’s an effective defense mechanism that prevents the hecklers themselves from evaluating the issue.
Don has been working this lump of clay to articulate his case against the minimum wage for a long-time and I think it’s finally taken shape into something that is compelling. I especially like:
Flaws galore infect Steven Pearlstein’s case for raising the minimum wage (“Big strides could come from a small bump in pay,” Jan. 5) – that is, his case for government intervention to strip low-skilled workers of the most valuable of the few bargaining chips they have when competing for employment, namely, their ability to offer to work for hourly pay below that of other, more qualified workers who are paid the government-stipulated minimum.
I also like his explanation for why the minimum wage studies that folks like Pearlstein use to support their opinions are flawed.
It would be like empirically studying today the effects of a recent rise in the minimum-allowed price of strawberries if strawberries had long ago been made unnecessarily pricey by minimum-strawberry-price legislation. Consumers would long ago have switched their diets away from strawberries; chefs would long ago have begun concocting fewer desserts and recipes with strawberries and more with other fruits and berries. Other ingredients would have become staple substitutes for strawberries in consumers’ diets and in chefs’ dishes and recipes. Farmers, in turn, would have – despite the formal, legislated higher list price for strawberries – either totally abandoned or significantly abandoned strawberry production.
I agree with Yuval Levin, from his EconTalk podcast, about a simple point and an important fact:
I think Conservatives today don’t often enough make the simple point: that, when it comes to economics the market system that we are advocating has been the best thing that has ever happened to the poor in human history. And has dramatically reduced extreme poverty around the world and is still doing it right now; has been the way in which the needy and the vulnerable have been lifted up. It’s worked far better than anything else we’ve every tried, far better than anything the Left has tried to do economically. And that should matter. That’s a very important fact.
I hear this point made on occasion in left/right debates by the right. I find it interesting at how quickly it gets swept under the rug by the left. It’s usually with a red herring like, “but capitalism has its problems, too.” What I find interesting is how uninterested the left is in examining this important fact.
It goes back to the Levin quote in the previous post, “…the left takes for granted a thriving economy that just comes in the background…”
This very important fact, in fact, was key in dislodging my liberal thinking. Before it was pointed out to me, I too, took the thriving economy for granted.
But, when it was pointed out to me, it was eye opening. Rather than sweeping it under the rug, I went silent and thought, if that’s right, how could I be against it? Isn’t it achieving the very thing that I say I want?
Levin went on to say:
Beyond that, the kind of society we are arguing for is a society that for very solid reasons we believe is grounded in a way of life that helps advance the moral good. A way of life that helps people build the sort of lives they want. That makes government more effective at solving problems that people confront. That gives people the room to build the lives they want and protects them from the worst risks that they might confront in modern life, rather than a society that says: This is the way, and you have to do it. Which, again and again, this is how the Left approaches the life of our society: centralize, consolidate, exercise authority to push people into the right grooves.
I couldn’t help to think of this quote when I read this Wall Street Journal op-ed on the politics around the federal nutrition standards for school cafeterias.
The nutrition mandates from 2010 First Lady bill centralizes nutritional choices for school lunches to “push people into the right grooves.”
In this Freakonomics podcast, Steven Levitt discusses his work with companies whose managers resist experimentation to test their beliefs.
In one example, he couldn’t convince a company to stop running newspaper ads in any market to see if that would have an effect on sales. But, they discovered that an intern neglected to buy ads in Pittsburgh one summer. It had no effect on sales. But, the company still buys ads.
In this EconTalk podcast, Yuval Levin made what I expected to be a dull conversation about Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, very interesting. On this, especially, I agree:
I think that there’s a way in which the Left takes for granted a thriving economy that just comes in the background and the question is how to distribute the goods. We have to make the argument that that thriving economy–which makes possible the thriving life of this society–has to be sustained. And it’s a function of certain attitudes toward law and order, of certain kinds of rules, certain kinds of liberties that have to be defended, both because they are right and because they are good. Conservatives are nowhere near good enough at making that kind of case.
The previous post brings to mind discussions I’ve had on the topic in the past. In one such discussion, a person asked:
So, do you want to be the one who tells someone they can’t go to college?
It shows how much of a pedestal we’ve put college education upon. Like home ownership, it’s now a dream, that everyone is entitled to.
In home ownership, we forgot that renting was a good option for many. With college education, we forget that people without college education do fine, too.
Do I want to be the one who tells someone they can’t go to college? No. If I did, I’d apply to be a college admissions officer.
But telling people they can’t go to college or people deciding for themselves that it isn’t for them isn’t bad. How’s it any different from telling people they didn’t get a part in a movie or people deciding that pursuing their dream of acting isn’t panning out so they should try something else?
How’s it any different from kids in sports not making the team or deciding that a certain sport isn’t for them?
The question also shows how unimaginative we’ve become. It’s college or else. We can’t imagine alternatives. Yet, there are many.
I realized that quip to describe the phenomenon where someone of the opposite sex looks attractive from a distance, but less so the closer you get to them, also applies to the poor and needy.
Deserving from afar, far from deserving?
I’ve noticed that the folks who tend to be strong advocates for the generic needy (the needy from afar), become less so the closer they get to specific needy people and to their own wallets.
I, again, recall a conversation with a friend who owned a car lot. He was a strong advocate for the deserving and faceless “minimum wage worker,”, because they were powerless against employers. But, apparently the car salesmen on his lot weren’t deserving of that treatment since he treated them as contractors so he wouldn’t have to be locked into paying them minimum wage.
Health insurance is another example. The faceless uninsured was used to garner support for Obamacare because everyone ‘deserves access to health care’. But, put faces on some of the uninsured and look at some of the choices they’ve made — like paying for an expensive cell phone plan, instead of buying insurance — and the ‘deserving’ moniker starts to make less sense.
This exposes a good tactic to use in conversations with people who have the ‘deserving from a far, but far from deserving’ affliction. First, put some faces on those who they think are deserving.
Their next argument will be that those are only a few abusers or outliers and ‘that should be fixed, but doesn’t take away from the vast majority of the other (faceless) deserving.’
To which, a good response is, “How do you know? Are you guessing?”
Redistribution based on income inequality is a false choice. The reasoning goes something like this:
There are wealthy people and poor people.
Ignore why they are that way. Like many poor people are just kids starting out and many wealthy people have worked hard and saved their whole lives.
Poor people place a higher value on an extra dollar than a rich person who already has plenty.
Ignore that the behavior of rich people and poor people do not support this claim, otherwise poor people may be more interested in doing things that can earn and save them more dollars.
Therefore, we should redistribute more dollars from the wealthy to the poor.
Ignore the already high rate at which this is done.
Why do we only focus on wealthy people in our redistribution schemes?
In my opinion, things mustn’t be too bad if we can afford to support a host of marginal men’s and women’s sports programs from grade school through college, where most people who participate — especially at the higher levels — have few prospects for continuing in those sports after they get past those supported programs, except maybe to teach the next generation of youth to take advantage of those programs or to tell their glory day stories in the break room.
How many poor people could have been helped with the taxpayer money that has been put into all sorts of sports projects? Locally, we have taxpayer-funded pro sports stadiums and amateur sports facilities. Apparently playing soccer on grass is just too hard. Spending millions on fake grass fields for pre-teens to hone their soccer skills is the new norm.
Why don’t we look at more of such things and say if we really take external approaches to helping those in poverty seriously, why don’t we cut out all this other stuff?