Rational Ignorance, Fairy Dust and Pissing Away the Future: Libertarians are Selfish and Stupid

Note: I did nothing to re-post or stop the re-posting of this old thing on my blog. It got to the head of my (short ) list today without any intervention from me. Its author is an adept engineer of the Intergalaxy. Again, I have no objection to this being here because my censoring fiber is thin. J.D. 8/26/14

Hello all,

I thought I’d take up Dr J’s invitation to write something for his blog. This post is largely inspired by the comments thread from his recent post on bombing Syria (for Syrians’ sake, of course) and his latest post on the supposed differences between conservatives and liberals. Ultimately, my goal is to show you how full of shit everybody that participates on this blog really is.

That won’t be hard to do.

Dr J makes the following, factually correct, observation about Leftists (“liberals”):

Conservatives are well informed about liberal programs because they cannot help but be. Few liberals however avoid being pathetically dependent on gross stereotypes of conservatism as a political doctrine. Few even know that it’s a political doctrine based on a well-defined moral stance.

If there is one thing that Leftists are known for, it is being rationally ignorant: the less you know about your opponent, the easier it is to dismiss him as a “right-wing nut job,” a “Korporate Klown,” or a “Teabagger.” The less you know about your opponent, the easier it becomes to swallow the fall of the Berlin Wall and the stagflation of the 1970s. The less you know about your opponent, the easier it is to forgive Barack Obama for his trespasses (see also this post by an economist, Bryan Caplan, on Leftist ignorance of conservative and libertarian arguments).

Conservatives are indeed more well-informed about Leftist programs and Leftist thought, but this is hardly something to be proud of. Being proud of such a fact is like Cuba being proud about the fact that it is not considered to be the worst violator of human rights in the world.

Conservative ignorance – rational and erudite – is just as bad as the Leftist’s, especially when it bumps up against the morally and intellectually superior ideology of libertarianism. Consider two of Dr J’s most recent responses to my vigorous critiques of his bumblesome and ill-informed piece on bombing Syria for Syrians’ sake. Dr J writes:

McHenry is not a member of the “baby-boom generation.” (And, neither am I, for opposite reasons.) And here goes your sociological intuition, again!

Dr J thinks he has delivered a clever blow to my argument, but what he has really demonstrated is an inability to read and comprehend any views that he opposes. If you go back and actually read my argument, you’ll see that I was critiquing the ideals of the Baby Boomer generation. The fact that McHenry sounds like an old man says much – sociologically – about not only the continued irrelevance of Leftism but also the types of people that Baby Boomer liberalism (academics call it ‘corporatism,’ or state-managed capitalism) now attracts.

Dr J doesn’t care about this, of course. Either he cannot grasp my argument, or he grasps it and chooses to ignore it by changing the subject. If it is indeed the latter, then I’ll leave it up Dr J’s readers to Google the relevant logical fallacy.

Speaking of logical fallacies, and riffing off of examples that rely on rational ignorance to satiate the primal desire for power, Dr J also writes, in the same comment thread, the following:

Look in on this blog archive and you will conclude from other exchanges that Brandon is against fighting until those who want to kill us specifically have said so officially and until they are on the Jersey Shore or in Santa Monica with large tanks. Even then, we would have to “declare war” (whatever that means).

This is another great example of rational ignorance at work. If my argument is as simple and stupid as Dr J makes it out to be, how could he possibly be wrong about his views on foreign policy? Who needs “right-wing nut jobs” and “Korporate Klowns” when you have libertarians that make arguments like the one Dr J created (in his mind, all by himself) above?

To Dr J’s readers: can you not spot the gross misrepresentations in the quoted paragraph above? If you seriously cannot spot them, then I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you. I will again leave it up to you, Dr J’s readers, to Google the relevant logical fallacy in the above-quoted passage.

The rational ignorance displayed by conservatives is not always as clever as the two quoted passages above. Sometimes conservatives simply lie. In December of 2011, Dr J wrote the following sentence:

Although the regretted Bin Laden had threatened the US in connection with American military presence in Saudi Arabia, the 9/11 attack took place after the US forces had vacated that country, not as a means to make them move.

This is, of course, patently false. The BBC reported on US troop withdrawal (in 2003) here.  USA Today‘s report is here.  The New York Times has something on it here.  Fox News reported on the 2003 withdrawal here. The bald-faced lie Dr J has told himself, and his readers, is understandable once it is remembered that imperialists want the US to be a global hegemon. If there is a hot girl that I want really badly, and I am butt-ugly, am I going to lie to myself (and, perhaps, to her) in order to squeeze her breasts?

Now I have yet another question I’d like to ask Dr J’s readers: if Dr J relies on straw men, red herrings and outright lies to bolster his arguments in favor of US imperialism, what does that tell you about yourselves when you find yourselves in agreement with his sophistry? Are you a fool? A dunce? A faithful member of the fold?

If imperialist logic relies upon logical fallacies and lies to justify its morality, and you intuitively gravitate towards imperialist arguments, what does that tell you about your intuitions?

None of this is to suggest that conservatives are somehow more immoral than Leftists. When prompted to give his justifications for bombing, killing, maiming and starving Syrians for their own sake, Dr Amburgey, the house liberal of this blog, writes:

But other nation states & groups have intervened. On the side of the Assad regime there is Russia, Iran, & Hezbollah. On the side of the opposition the Gulf states and to some extent Turkey. The intervention on the regime side has, to date, been much more effective.

Indeed. Dr A cares so much about the good name of the United States that he is wondering aloud why our republic is not on such a prestigious list of active states in the conflict. And what a list it is, too: Russia, Hizbollah, Iran, the murderous Gulf states and Turkey. I had, until I read this justification for imperialism, often thought that the old conservative charge of “liberals hating America” to be an ugly rhetorical weapon used during political fights, but otherwise completely empty of substance. Given that Dr A wants the republic to achieve the same high standards of foreign policy set by the human rights violators he cites above, now I am not so sure.

I assume that the al-Qaeda militants Barack Obama is going to arm will first be sprinkled with fairy dust, too, so that they won’t misbehave themselves in the future.

Notice, too, that old liberal canard of fairness in Dr A’s justification for imperialism: “B-b-but Russia and Saudi Arabia are arming Syrian factions…”

James Madison, one of the most underrated libertarian theorists of all time, wrote in 1787, of war, the following:

A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.

While conservatives and liberals continue to conjure up straw men, red herrings and outright lies to bolster their rational ignorance about the domestic and foreign political affairs of the republic, tyrants act.

Less than 1% of the Syrian population has died in a civil war that is being fought between fascists and Islamists domestically, and between fascists and Islamists regionally. Therefore, the United States government should make everything right in the world by bombing one side and arming the other. Washington can accomplish this task in the same manner that it has accomplished all of its other successful tasks over the years: by sprinkling fairy dust over everything it does.

Or, in other words, you are a stupid, selfish meanie if you don’t believe in magic.

About Brandon Christensen

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30 Responses to Rational Ignorance, Fairy Dust and Pissing Away the Future: Libertarians are Selfish and Stupid

  1. Terry Amburgey says:

    “When prompted to give his justifications for bombing, killing, maiming and starving Syrians for their own sake, Dr Amburgey, the house liberal of this blog, writes:…”

    Thank you. I prefer ‘progressive’ to liberal but I’ll accept the compliment as written.

    “Given that Dr A wants the republic to achieve the same high standards of foreign policy set by the human rights violators he cites above, now I am not so sure.”

    The list of nation-states involved in the Syrian are not role models to be emulated. They are, however, involved in the Syrian civil war. I’m glad that you now recognize that it is not purely an ‘internal’ matter of Syrian against Syrian working out self-determination.

    “Notice, too, that old liberal canard of fairness in Dr A’s justification for imperialism: “B-b-but Russia and Saudi Arabia are arming Syrian factions…”

    It has nothing to do with fairness. I’m simply describing the state of affairs in Syria. It’s my opinion that the US should provide military support to the opposition for two reasons. First, it’s in our national interest that the opposition wins the civil war. Second, we should stop the mass murder (by the regime) taking place for humanitarian reasons.

    “Less than 1% of the Syrian population has died in a civil war that is being fought between fascists and Islamists domestically, and between fascists and Islamists regionally.”

    I would request two clarifications. First, are you stating that the entirety of the Syrian opposition are ‘Islamists’? Second, what percentage of a population dying constitutes a humanitarian issue?

  2. david says:

    so i take it that any information found on google is to be considered accurate and worth disseminating as such? i think i’ll google the effect fairy unicorns and ewoks are having on the chinese prolitariat’s involvment in iran, syria and martians. that should get me lots of factual information….

  3. Terry Amburgey says:

    @David

    Google is a search engine. It finds stuff on the internet. The accuracy of what it finds depends a whole lot on where it finds it. When you do your google search and provide us with results be sure to include the url so we can evaluate the accuracy of your findings for ourselves.

  4. Terry Amburgey says:

    @Brandon

    “If there is a hot girl that I want really badly, and I am butt-ugly, am I going to lie to myself (and, perhaps, to her) in order to squeeze her breasts?”

    The answer to this question can be found in: I Used to Be French: An Immature Autobiography.

  5. Brandon’s rant sounds familiar because I am well versed in the history of the Catholic Church. At the height of the Inquisition’s depredations, it was quite tolerant of Muslims and even of fetishists and idol worshipers. But make a single deviant statement about whether it was literally Christ’s flesh in the Eucharist, or only metaphorically so, and off you went to the wood pile (not to be spanked there but to be burnt alive).

    Brandon sounds so fierce toward me, he feels free to insult me crudely because I am to him a traitorous member of a close-knit family. The treason is easy to define: I will not let what dogmatic libertarians think of as reason determine alone, entirely the actions or positions I favor. The differences between us seem to be these:

    I don’t think all nation-states are morally equal. Switzerland is not Pakistan. Democratic societies are better, more human, more just in every way, preferable to others. They are more capable of acting fairly than others.

    The largest democratic societies are also comparatively powerful, militarily and in every other way.

    The United States is the major example of a democratic and fair society that is also powerful.

    The combination of fairness and of power creates a duty to intervene.

    The physical integrity of democratic society is worth defending with arms. The justness of such societies is worth defending with arms.

    I may be more persuaded of these basic truths than most because I was born in the middle of the brutal Nazi occupation of France. I have thus lived all my adult life minus the first two years under the Pax Americana. I see not substitute anywhere. Does anyone?

    Now, a comparison to explain military intervention that I know to be imperfect in one important way. If I am aware of someone two streets over who regularly whips his children until they bleed, I have a duty to take my Taser to him. I will hope someone else, the police, for example does it before I have to. If there is no police force…. (There is no world police force. I hope for none.)

    This comparison makes the general moral obligation clear. As I said, it’s less than perfect however. That is because, in my example, any debate about intervention takes place entirely within my head. There is no compulsion involved. By contrast, when a nation-state goes to war some are forcing others to devote resources to the action. (In our case, only money is involved.) I am proposing to take Brandon’s cigarette excise taxes to buy weapons for Syrian rebels. That is clearly also a moral problem; there is no debating it and I don’t deny it.

    In a democratic polity, this kind of serious question is decided according to well understood rules that are mostly well accepted. The decision to go to war does not differ in this respect from any others, such as whether or not to have the death penalty, the legality of abortion, or the extent of welfare payments, etc.

    Dogmatic libertarians seem to treat the decision to go to war as somehow in a category of its own. I think they are confused. It’s simply a collective decision that involves compulsion against those who don’t agree. Nevertheless, it’s easy to make the argument that war is especially destructive of libertarian aspirations. I have said it here before, I repeat it now: I agree with this estimation.

    I too believe that nothing increases the power and scope of government, its prevalence over civil society, than war.

    Here, I just told you that I am often in favor of actions that, I agree with Brandon and his ilk, will undoubtedly retard, make more difficult progress toward the kind of weak government society to which we all aspire, I think.

    The reason for this apparent inconsistency has everything to do with how one answers the following question:

    Wiil the weak government society of our dreams be birthed in chaos or in progress, in already pretty just societies or in countries that are hell on earth? Will the libertarian desire be realized in Switzerland, in Finland, in Denmark, or in Somalia, or in Pakistan, or in the permanent disaster that is Afghanistan?

    To my knowledge, consistently libertarian organs studiously avoid this central issue, this issue that should be central to their ideals. The otherwise good blog Notes on Liberty, over which Brandon has complete control, has not made any effort in that direction, as far as I know. Once, I put in it a small piece drawing attention to the existence of much evidence that historically the prevalence of violence is inversely related to the power of states: The bigger, the more powerful the state the less likely one is to die a violent death.

    There were no takers, or almost no taker to argue against, to discuss this vigorous contradiction of the main libertarian line of reasoning. Amazingly, the simple affirmation had no traction in a major libertarian blog. In his comment on this blog, Brandon shows why: Burning the heretic is more satisfying than showing him to be wrong in a meaningful way. That’s especially true when the heretic is not wrong.

    Note: “Wrong in a meaningful way ” because Brandon does show me to be wrong, in a meaningless technical way. See below.

    In the comment to which I am now responding, Brandon does not quite burn me. He does the next best thing: He allows himself to slip down into the gutter and to call me a liar.

    That is an ignoble accusation, of course, because there is no defense against it. What can I say? “I am not a liar.”
    “Ah, ah, lying again!”

    Worse, it’s silly, of course.

    So, for the record, I took the trouble to follow the links Brandon obligingly provides to demonstrate that I was” lying” when I said that the 9/11 massacre was not a response to US presence in Saudi Arabia because there was no American military presence there in September 2003.

    Here is what I found: The NY Times of 4/30/ 2002, more than four months before the massacre, states that there were then “400 to 500” American military personnel in Saudi Arabia.Fox News of 4/29/2003, says “400”. That’s down from 10,000 earlier. All the sources Brandon proposes indicate further that American forces were in the process of evacuating Saudi Arabia in the months preceding 9/11/2003.

    Strictly speaking, I was mistaken in saying that there was no American military by presence in Saudi Arabia by 9/11. (“No” means “zero.”) I think, and I may have thought at the time, that there is no material difference between 500 military and zero for a country the size of Saudi Arabia. Note that following Brandon’s logic, one single, lone American soldier in Saudi Arabia would have been a sufficient explanation for the massive Al Qaida attack on civilians in America in 2003 and before.

    Brandon has made repeated statements to the effect that the reasons Al Qaida insists on killing Americans are the reasons Al Qaida itself gives.

    Surely, to call me a liar is far-fetched, the product of a fevered and fanatical imagination. One might think instead that I was merely a little careless; I don’t even think so. In short, there is no difference in the difference between Brandon and me. At any rate, leaving the issue of my honesty aside, those who read me probably know that I am not stupid enough deliberately to affirm something false that could so easily be contradicted.

    I think my original reasoning remains intact: The mass murderer Bin Laden did not force US civilians (including Muslims) to jump from sky- scrappers on 9/11/2003 because we had a few military personnel left in Saudi Arabia. By the same token, terrorists who call themselves Al Qaida members, are not currently slaughtering Shiite Muslims in Iraq because of the non-existent American military presence in that country. The departure of American troops from that unhappy country notably was not followed or tracked by a reduction in Al Qaida atrocities there. By the same token, Sunni Muslims in Pakistan are not murdering local Christians during prayer meetings because of the non-existent American military presence there. And insulting the Prophet did not become a capital crime in the same country because of America or because of any of its doings. There were no American troops, and only a handful of French troops, there when a branch of Al Qaida violently tried to take over a whole country, Mali, recently. Etc.

    One can keep on dreaming. It’s no exactly lying but it ‘s a falsely innocent cousin to lying.

    The simple, obvious truth is that the very existence of our democratic, and reasonably fair societies is an insult to some Muslims who live in very bad societies.* Rather than attempt the arduous feat of emulating us, they would rather try to undermine our success. In fact, the second goal is probably more realistic than the first. Democratic, capitalist, just societies are fairly fragile. Bringing them down might take less effort than building equivalent institutions and even than erecting pale copies of our good institutions.

    Throughout this kind of discussions, I keep in mind that fanatical Muslims of all breeds massacre many more fellow-Muslims than they do anyone else.Violent jihadists hate us but they hate pretty much everyone else.

    * For a lively recent document on the intrinsic badness of a contemporary Muslim society, see the excellent autobiographical account of Algeria by Djaffar Chetouane:
    “Donkey Heart; Donkey Mind.” The author is not my accomplice in any way. He describes himself as a man of the left. (Chetouane did no solicit this plug. He might resent it. I did not ask for his permission.)

  6. Bruce says:

    Interesting arguments from all sides. Just wanted to add a general comment. In my past career, when thinking about individuals, I would ask myself if I would want to lead or follow them into combat. These days I boil it down to whether I would like them to be a neighbor. In each scenario, the answer is pretty much the same. I don’t get the impression that Brandon would ride toward the sound of guns, or answer my wife’s screams during a home invasion. (Note: If it were a home invasion, there might well be the sound of guns). Dr. J would, in my opinion do both. There is a huge difference. Both are smart but one has guts. That’s all.

  7. Terry Amburgey says:

    @Brandon
    Keep in mind that Bruce’s scenario is purely hypothetical. He doesn’t need either you or Jacques to ride toward the sound of guns. As I recall he lives in a part of the country where armed vigilan….err ‘neighborhood watch volunteers’ execute strangers well before any home invasions occur.

    • Terry: Why can’t you resist temptation better? You are talking about a case that is on trial right now. Why pronounce your own judgment about what happened when in a couple of days, we will have the judgment of six jurors who will have actually heard the facts of the case?

      You are the one who sounds like he favors summary anything.

  8. Terry Amburgey says:

    @Jacques
    I’m not required to follow the same rules and procedures as a court and I’m free to follow the same burden of proof used in civil cases rather than criminal cases since my judgments have no consequences. I do apologize for using the term ‘execute’. It was second degree murder, not first.

    Btw, I also believe that O.J. Simpson killed his wife despite the verdict of the jury.

    • Sure thing in general but there is a part of me that believes that if there were no vigilantes, you would want to invent them.
      Of course, I can’t prove it in a court of law.

      Incidentally, I was not giving you the old, usually misapplied saw about “innocent until….” I was commenting on your impatience to find the accused guilty given how close a court finding is.

      • Bruce says:

        Dr. Terry suffers from the white liberal guilt complex. Sounds like it pains him a little to say O.J. Simpson was guilty. Notice how he uses the word “killed” instead of “murdered”. Now he can’t get the picture taken of the sweet defenseless Travon Martin when he was five years old out of his self-loathing priviledged white mind. It kind of muddies the water that George Zimmerman turned out to be Hispanic and a registered Democrat. A white Tea Party guy would have been much easier for him to profile. I hope the jury decides the case on hard evidence and that there won’t be riots if Zimmerman is acquitted.

      • Bruc e: YOu have a long way to go to understand Terry (whom I did not invent contrary to some irresponsible accusations). When he says he believes African-American O.J. was guilty, he is bragging”

        “See I am able to say aloud that a black man is a criminal; I am afraid of retribution by my whitelib peers but I overcome my fear.”

  9. Terry Amburgey says:

    @Bruce

    Wow, hit a real sore spot with you eh? Watch some vigilante movies
    and cheer up
    http://www.amazon.com/Vigilante-Western-Collection-Franco-Nero/dp/B002ID097G

  10. Martin Anding says:

    Did Dr. J actually advocate ” … bombing Syria for Syrians’ sake.”? Didn’t we do that to Iraq and Afganistan? Actually the U.S. has a history of bombing countries and killing peoples for their own sake going back 200+ years. It’s never worked out for the people and we have not made many friends. Every time we “help” we get blamed for the outcome.

  11. Don’t sound absurd, Martin! It worked for me. The US Army Air Corps bombed large swatches of France in 1944. I say “Thank you. My parents said the same until they died. And, by the way, look it up: It was not the Emperor that turned Japan into a democracy but US General MacArthur. And Hitler unfortunately died before he had a chance to call for an election. It was others who turned Germany into the democratic and prosperous country it is today. That was thanks to the US, and quite specifically, to the US military.

    Your kind of bad faith gives the libertarian label a bad name.

  12. Terry Amburgey says:

    One thing seems clear to me: the US may dilly dally but the Israelis won’t. They can’t afford to….
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/16/u-s-intelligence-confirms-latest-israeli-strike-inside-syria.html

  13. The title of this piece is the writer’s own. I am not Brandon. I would not have qualified libertarians the way he does in his title.

  14. Brandon has posting privileges on this blog. He does not have the right, however, to have every one of his repetitious jeremiads answered. I might be too busy, sharpening my pencils, for example, to answer.

  15. Pingback: My Latest Op-Ed: “…Libertarians Are Selfish and Stupid” | Notes On Liberty

    • REMINDER: THE TITLE IS BY BRANDON ALONE. I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. IT’S NOT BASED ON A QUOTATION OR NEAR-QUOTATION OF MINE.

      I DON’T THINK MAINSTREAM LIBERTARIANS, THE ORTHODOX LIBS, ARE STUPID. I THINK THEY ARE WELL, ORTHODOX. ORTHODOXY IS A BLINDER UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.

      THERE IS A SMALL COLLECTION OF REALITIES FROM WHICH THEY TURN THEIR EYES IN SHAME AND FEAR.

      I HAVE ALREADY EXPLAINED ALL THIS IN PAST COLUMNS .

      I GOT TO GO AND SHARPEN MY PENCILS N CASE I WANT TO DOODLE.

  16. Terry Amburgey says:

    D00d, your caps lock key is on.

  17. Lock key isn’t an accident of old age. I AM SHOUTING.

  18. Pingback: The Moral Foundations of “Humanitarian” Intervention: Lies, Logical Fallacies and Fairy Dust | FACTS MATTER

  19. Reblogged this on Notes On Liberty and commented:

    I’ve been workin’ on a farm out in Utah for the past couple of weeks, so blogging has been slow. I’m trying to save up some cash so I can head back west again. In the mean time, here is an old post I wrote that critiques some of the more juvenile foreign policy arguments of Republicans and Democrats.

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