Archives for August 2012

Rightie Incivility Alert

You’d expect to come across uncivil and immature language among certain segments of the population, especially uncouth and uneducated people. But in an alarming sign of the coarsening of American society, such language has appeared in an article in a popular online media outlet. It’s by one John Nolte, writing at Breitbart.com. He ruined what at first seemed like a decent read – on the media’s unloading on Clint Eastwood’s great speech at the RNC. Near the end the writer includes this piece of verbal trash: “Go to h— you Obama-shilling crybabies.”

I couldn’t believe such low-class nastiness appeared in an article like that. What kind of editor at Breitbart.com would leave something like that in? Is there no decency in writing and editing anymore? To top it off, The Drudge Report linked to it, supercharging the article’s readership. What happened to the standards of The Drudge Report?

Mr. Nolte should apologize for writing it, Breitbart.com should apologize for publishing the article without editing that part out, and The Drudge Report should apologize for linking to it.

* * *

Of course, this sort of thing is standard practice for some lefties. For example, Bill Maher just called Clint Eastwood an a**hole only because he disagrees with his politics.

A Silly Graph

The graph in question, highlighted by Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, purports to depict current and future public debt. (“Tax Cuts, Wars Account for Nearly Half of Public Debt by 2019”) But the graph is silly. In fact, I would have thought that Klein grabbed it from The Onion.

The graph tries to show that most of the debt comes from tax cuts and the military. Yet it doesn’t mention anything about entitlement spending, which comprises about two-thirds of government spending – and which is by far the biggest factor driving the debt. The military, by contrast, comprises one-fifth of government spending. (Click here for the source, table 6.1.) Again, the graph makes no mention of entitlement programs – a tremendous omission, perhaps done deliberately.

Tax cuts? That’s like blaming your massive credit card debt on the raise you didn’t get. Or put it this way. If Ezra Klein were a spendaholic and came and told me his credit card debt is massive because his raises weren’t high enough, I’d take a few steps back, thinking he must be batty. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t think he’s batty because he’s thinks the same thing vis-a-vis government debt. I just think he needs to re-take or take (if he’s never taken it before) Economics 101.

One other thing. After the Bush tax cuts, tax revenues…went up! Way up – from $1.8 trillion in 2003 to $2.6 trillion in 2007. So even with the tax cuts, we got a mega-raise.

The Righteous Mind Isn’t Totally Right About the Right

I’m half-way through a book called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. He attempts to explain what drives righties and lefties. He admits being on the left, although I get the impression that as his research progressed over the years he’s become less of a died-in-the-wool leftie and more understanding of righties.

He has a fondness for contrasting lefties and righties by pointing out bumper-stickers on cars – although discerning anything from bumper stickers hardly seems scientific. Nevertheless, in an effort to demonstrate that lefties supposedly care more about innocent victims around the world while we righties are mainly just concerned about protecting our own, he displays snapshots of bumper stickers he found around Charlottesville, Va. where he lives (or lived). He contrasted a leftie bumper sticker that said “Save Darfur” with a rightie sticker that said “Support Our Wounded”.

It’s puzzling that the author didn’t pull from the tremendous number of bumper stickers on righties’ cars exhorting people to protect innocent unborn victims. Go to any Catholic church parking lot during Mass and you’d have had tons of such bumper stickers to choose from.

As for why one may find more “Save Darfur”  bumper stickers on lefties’ cars than on righties, perhaps it’s because the latter think more realistically. They know that such stickers aren’t going to have one iota of influence on the tyrants perpetuating the sad state of affairs in that part of Africa, even if the tyrants were here to view the stickers. An anti-abortion sticker, meanwhile, is far more likely to be seen by those who have a direct say on whether an innocent human fetus lives or dies.

We righties seem to care a heck of a lot more about the innocent victims suffering in North Korean concentration camps (in addition to the people of North Korea as a whole) than lefties, yet “Free North Korea” bumper stickers are scarce. Ya think the North Korean leadership would ever take it to heart, even if they saw one?

Another whopper: “Conservatives, in contrast, are more concerned about their groups, rather than all of humanity.”  And another: “They don’t want their nation to devote itself primarily to the care of victims and the pursuit of social justice.”

Total bunk! Concern about humanity, victims, and the pursuit of social justice is the whole reason I abandoned leftism long ago. I found out that leftist policies actually harm humanity, create more victims, and exacerbate and perpetuate the very problems that society needs to solve. The phrase “the road to h— is paved with good intentions” is all too descriptive of the left.

There are many broad subject areas that can prompt a leftie to move to the right (such as the late Christopher Hitchens vis-a-vis terrorism) but one of the most powerful subject areas – which  prompted me to realize that leftism did little or nothing to promote the well-being of humanity – is economics.

I just pulled from my shelf the textbook, and zeroed in on the page therein, that sparked my epiphany long ago. The book is Economics of Development (by Gillis, Perkins, Roemer and Snodgrass), which I read for a course I took in graduate school. We’re talking about third-world development here. Key passage:

All these policies promote the welfare of one relatively small group at the expense of a much larger group. Minimum-wage laws and similar measures … make wages and working conditions better for those (third world) workers fortunate enough to get jobs in modern-sector firms. But by raising the cost of labor, minimum-wage laws limit the ability of existing firms to absorb more workers and inhibit the creation of more enterprises like them. In other words, minimum wages improve the well-being of the relatively small group of modern-sector employees at the cost of the much larger group that is either unemployed or working in the informal and rural sectors.

It was then when I started to recognize that to help all of humanity (as opposed to the special interests) and especially the poor, you have to move right. Other examples of the same abound, such as those highlighted throughout this blog.

The classic Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt sheds light on what makes us righties tick. And believe me: it ain’t out of indifference to out-groups.

* * *

The author says certain “foundations” motivate righties and lefties; righties are more driven by the foundations of loyalty, authority, and sanctity, and lefties more about care and fairness. But so far in the book, he hasn’t said anything about the millions of people who move from the left to the right or vice-versa. Are such people also changing their “foundations”? Of course not. I know from personal experience that in the case of lefties becoming righties, they’re still very much motivated by the care and fairness foundations, and come to realize that right-leaning policies are better at achieving those objectives.

As I said, I’m still only half-way through the book. If the author addresses the above issues in the second half, I’ll duly report it.

* * *

A Wall Street Journal interview with the author had a revealing tidbit. It illustrated something that is rarely discussed and that people rarely admit, but that is all-too prevalent in society: people refuse to change their political beliefs, or at least refuse to openly criticize or question policies associated with their own side of the political spectrum, because they’re afraid of what their friends and associates will think. Here’s the key quote, in reference to Haidt: “Why is his language so much less hedged when discussing Republicans? ‘Liberals are my friends, my colleagues, my social world,’ he concedes.” At least give him credit for honesty.

Concern about what one’s friends, colleagues, or significant others will think is a key factor preventing people from reassessing their political beliefs. I say go ahead and think what you want to think, or abandon any hedging in your language, regardless of what others will think. In addition to being the morally right thing to do, it will tell you who your real friends are. If someone abandons you after speaking out, then they weren’t a genuine friend anyway. So you’re better off all-around.