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Sep 18 2012

Cats, skepticism and MRAs

It struck me this weekend as I was arguing with my cat that the conversation was remarkably like some I’ve had over the last years online with so-called Men’s Rights Activists. I say “so-called” for a few reasons. First because the word “Men” implies “adult,” and part of being an adult is taking pains to see others’ points of view; second because what they advocate for  are actually ossified privileges and not “Rights,” and third because “Activists” implies something other than being on the Internet all day.

But my typical exchange with an MRA, at least when I’m in an optimistic frame of mind and don’t engage in mockery, generally runs like:

MRA: [unsupported assertions stated as bald facts, often with an unwarranted tone of assumed superiority]

Me: “Well, now, the problem with that is that [data] and thus [logical inference], especially seeing as [more data].”

MRA: “Yes, but what you fail to realize is [word-for-word repetition of the statement I just argued against, as if I hadn't said anything at all]

Which for some reason came to mind this weekend as I walked into the kitchen to get some water. The cat came racing into the kitchen, nudged at the cupboard door where we keep the treats, and the following conversation ensued:

Cat: “MEOW.”

Me: “I just fed you your lunch. You have perfectly good food in your bowl you haven’t touched. And when I gave you treats this morning you barfed them up in twenty minutes. I’m not giving you more until you eat some real food.”

Cat, looking at cupboard and  then glaring at me: “MEOW.”

Thus engaging in a typical example of argumentum ad NOMiNOM.

It’s probably unfair to compare online arguments with MRAs to me aimlessly talking to a house pet. It may also be needlessly insulting. I mean, one of the two conversations involves a pointless attempt to communicate with a not-precisely sentient being with a brain the size of a walnut, who is mainly motivated by base, unthinking desires which he is unable to cover with a veneer of rationality. And the other involves me talking to my cat.

But the similarity is there: one person trying, in however flawed and ineffective a fashion, to communicate some data and nuance and logic, to actually move the discussion in one way or the other, and the other there only to convey his opinion without listening.

I can’t say as I really blame them. If you’re not used to it, thinking is hard work.

I used to be a little puzzled at the prevalence of MRAs in the skeptics’ movement. On the one hand, a political tendency whose very existence depends on its members refusing to consider all available data. On the other hand, an intellectual movement devoted to encouraging people to dig up and then consider all available data. When I hit my teens way back in declining days of the Nixon Administration, prominent skeptics provided a really helpful role model, debunking things like Uri Geller’s spoonbending and homeopathy and such. Some decades later I fell in with the amateur skeptics in the Usenet newsfroup alt.folklore.urban, out of whose fetid and meanyheaded waters later rose what would become snopes.com. They were good influences, despite their best efforts.

Having a skeptical reflex is an interesting thing for an enviro in today’s environmental movement, believe me. That’s a post for another time, but I do get how uncomfortable it can be to have data accumulate against a proposition which you desperately wanted to be true. On the other hand, I also know pretty well just how smugly satisfying it is to be that person who says “that Facebook post is an urban legend, check this link here.” Even if you mean it utterly guilelessly and you’re correcting your best friend, there’s that little one-uppersonship that can give you a little destructive frisson if you’re not on guard against it.

As MRAs already imagine themselves as heroically standing up to orthodoxy, it’s not surprising they’d find Skepticism 101 appealing. As long as data that challenges the propositions they desperately want to be true is kept outside that Bright Spotlight Of Facts We Notice, it’s easy to understand how they might find the movement perfectly copacetic.

That Bright Ring can even blind the bright lights of the movement. I think it was about 20 years ago Penn Jillette  first criticized recycling as a waste of time whose value was not supported by empirical data, based on empirical data he got from landfill operators because what possible motive for fudging the truth could they possibly have? There’s a parallel here. Libertarians postulate that unfettering everyone’s most self-serving economic motives is the best way to create a vibrant, egalitarian economy, just as unfettering a giant unstable slope of rocks on a steep hillside is the best way to create a stone cathedral at the base of the hill. MRAs hold that men are unfairly treated in today’s world by comparison to women, while simultaneously holding that the subjugation of women is natural and  inevitable and no big deal. Libertarianism and MRAism are philosophies that will not withstand honest and rigorous investigation by a moderately bright 7-year-old, in other words, and yet the ranks of skeptics’groups are crawling with both.

Or, as I said a few months back in fewer than 140 characters,

I greatly value skepticism; I’ve learned methods of inquiry and intellectual discipline that have served me well in the last half century, and to the degree that I’ve made a difference in my work those methods get some of the credit. I see skepticism as a form of mental hygiene that I think everyone should practice. At its best, it underlies crowning achievements of  human endeavor: all of science, much of literature and art and learning. I don’t see it as an end in itself, but as a better way of interacting with the world.

For myself, when I started to think skeptically, I started to want to change the world. I saw lies we were being handed and expected to swallow that ended with people being badly hurt, with species going extinct, the powerful accumulating greater power all the while.  I found this intolerable and I still do. I know there are skeptics who find that kind of position unsupportable. Jason has referred to them as “hyperskeptics,” but I think “cynics” is a better word.

My question for those folks is, what are you going to do with your hard-won skepticism now that you’ve got it? Aside from feeding the cat.

136 comments

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  1. 1
    carolineborduin

    I am conversing with right-wingers on Facebook with my skepticism. I am googling their claims and accepting it when they turn out not be be on snopes.com.

  2. 2
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    and part of being an adult is taking pains to see others’ points of view

    Uh-oh. You’re going to get someone coming along to insist you’re being “ageist,” because their kids are empathetic, and many adults aren’t, and how dare you slander children that way.

    It’s probably unfair to compare online arguments with MRAs to me aimlessly talking to a house pet. It may also be needlessly insulting. I mean, one of the two conversations involves a pointless attempt to communicate with a not-precisely sentient being with a brain the size of a walnut, who is mainly motivated by base, unthinking desires which he is unable to cover with a veneer of rationality. And the other involves me talking to my cat.

    Can we nominate co-bloggers for Nu-Mollies? That paragraph is beautiful.

    Jason has referred to them as “hyperskeptics,” but I think “cynics” is a better word.

    I’m pretty cynical and I object to being lumped in with MRAs. Being unsurprised by evil isn’t morally wrong, so long as you’re willing to speak out against it.

  3. 3
    Chris Clarke

    Being unsurprised by evil isn’t morally wrong, so long as you’re willing to speak out against it.

    I would argue that second thing puts you outside the usual definition of “cynic.”

  4. 4
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    I dunno, Chris; I’ve met activists who became more and more cynical with time, especially if burnout was involved.

    From the Pfft!:

    One active aspect of cynicism is the desire to expose hypocrisy and to point out the gulf between society’s ideals and its practices.[11]

    Social cynicism results from excessively high expectations concerning society, institutions and authorities: unfulfilled expectations lead to disappointment, which releases feelings of disillusionment and betrayal.[12]

    In organizations, cynicism manifests itself as a general or specific attitude, characterized by frustration, hopelessness, disillusionment and distrust in regard to economic or governmental organizations, managers and/or other aspects of work.[13]

    So perhaps we can distinguish between cynicism as a philosophy and cynicism as an emotional defense?

  5. 5
    Chris Clarke

    So perhaps we can distinguish between cynicism as a philosophy and cynicism as an emotional defense?

    That works okay for me. My own thinking on the topic of cynicism is heavily influenced by Paul Loeb’s very fine book Soul of A Citizen, which I heartily recommend to progressive activists.

  6. 6
    G Pierce (Was ~G~)

    I like the idea of atheists who aren’t skeptics as being skeptics who gave up after level one. So are skeptics who aren’t atheists otherwise full fledged skeptics who just happened to use a cheat code?

  7. 7
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Yeah… as a cynic and misanthrope who supports feminism, I’d appreciate not being lumped in with MRAs.

    Just sayin’… :p

    (Side note… am I the only one astonished by what you can get away with saying when qualified with the phrase “I’m just sayin’”?

    I am?

    Oh…

    Carry on, then…

    Nothing to see here…)

    Seriously, though… I think there’s a huge difference between cynics and just-plain-old-mean-spirited assholes. Not to say that all MRAs are just-plain-old-mean-spirited assholes… I have a friend who has identified as one in the past, and even my feminist friends would agree that he doesn’t at all qualify as a just-plain-old-mean-spirited asshole in any way, shape, or form.

    (I should note that I think we may slowly be turning him away from MRA and towards feminism. When we explained to him how Patriarchy hurts men, he conceded that our logic was hard to argue with, and he’d need to think on it.

    Today is two months later, and we had a brief conversation, and he said, after that discussion two months ago, he’s tried watching those doofus husband commercials in that light, and it’s been eye-opening for him…

    Small victories… :D)

    That said, I find that a good portion of the commenters at A Voice for Men, for example, most definitely qualify as mean-spirited assholes.

    I wouldn’t call them “cynics”, though…

  8. 8
    AJ Milne

    That paragraph is beautiful.

    Indeed.

    (… places monocle in eye…)

    And of course, beyond its eminent suitability for the subject matter, the classic architecture of the ‘and the other is’ juxtaposing construction, it is and remains a thing of timeless beauty all on its own.

    These things will remain, I suspect, long after we are gone and dust…

    (/Our civilization will be known by them, celebrated for them. It’s sorta like our Parthenon.)

  9. 9
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Chris:

    It’s probably unfair to compare online arguments with MRAs to me aimlessly talking to a house pet. It may also be needlessly insulting. I mean, one of the two conversations involves a pointless attempt to communicate with a not-precisely sentient being with a brain the size of a walnut, who is mainly motivated by base, unthinking desires which he is unable to cover with a veneer of rationality. And the other involves me talking to my cat.

    Next time, please warn someone before you say something like this. I would have nuked some popcorn to munch on while watching an MRA (or two) get irate that you would say such things. Don’t you know you’re supposed to be civil?

  10. 10
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    AJ Milne:

    (… places monocle in eye…)

    I thought only MRA’s wore monocles :)

  11. 11
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Don’t you know you’re supposed to be civil?

    I think I saw his pinkie sticking out from the teacup.

  12. 12
    navigator

    This is something that particularly distresses me, the confusion of MRA’s with skeptcism. Skepticism means being able to objectively look at an issue, with disinterest in how it affects you personally, and come to a conclusion. MRA’s come at it assbackwards. They start with a position, and then try to reason backwards to try and prove it.

  13. 13
    John Morales

    [meta]

    OK, this is good, indeed, this is impressive writing.

    The sentiment is clear, the allegorical imagery clever, the activism laudable and the proposition meritorious.

    (Nitpick: it should be argumentum)

  14. 14
    cethis

    I’m starting to think of skepticism not as an identity but as a tool. I want to use that tool to make sure I don’t fool myself, or get fooled by others.

  15. 15
    consciousness razor

    Jason has referred to them as “hyperskeptics,” but I think “cynics” is a better word.

    I’d say “denialists” or “contrarians” is a little more accurate.

    It does get me thinking, though. If they’d model themselves after Diogenes, that would probably be an improvement. You know: a little public masturbation here, shit on the floor there, live in a cardboard box now and then. It would do more to make their “point” and gain a little sympathy.

  16. 16
    andyallen

    It’s probably unfair to compare online arguments with MRAs to me aimlessly talking to a house pet. It may also be needlessly insulting. I mean, one of the two conversations involves a pointless attempt to communicate with a not-precisely sentient being with a brain the size of a walnut, who is mainly motivated by base, unthinking desires which he is unable to cover with a veneer of rationality. And the other involves me talking to my cat.

    Oh man, I saw this one coming, but it still made me laugh. Out loud, even.

  17. 17
    AJ Milne

    I thought only MRAs wore monocles…

    I dunno. The monocle thing, it gets the anachronism flavour in, sure, but it also says to me: self-possessed. I am the kinda guy who sips cognac after supper, in an oak-lined den, whilst talking with other guys who wear monocles…

    About stuff like trains, presumably. And how one keeps them running. That sorta thing.

    For the MRA thing to work, shouldn’t there be a more sackcloth-and-ashes/wretched of the Earth/screwed over by the wimminz vibe going?

    These people suffer and have suffered, is my understanding. So a monocle will hardly do. I’m thinking their accessory should be more: empty oil can containing the burning shreds of their once rich lives, over which they now mournfully warm their hands.

  18. 18
    Chris Clarke

    (Nitpick: it should be argumentum)

    Thank you, John. Fixed.

  19. 19
    erikthebassist

    ok, I admit, I was skeptical, maybe cynical even, about the prospect of a co-blogger, not having heard of you before which only belies my noobness.

    You have hit it out of the park with this one. I see that you are fit to hold PZ’s Jock

    (and que me having a moment where I realize how sexist something I’ve said a million times actually is… making a mental note to never say it again)

    Ok, you are fit to paddle the same canoe. That’s a much better metaphor I think.

    Argumentum ad NomiNom is immediately going in to my lexicon, and I can’t wait to use it, with all due credit given of course.

    But more importantly it perfectly lays out the experience of talking an MRA, and quite frankly creationists and homeopaths, Chopranites, Alt Med, you name it, all of these groups share that meow moment in common.

    To answer your question, there is nothing I don’t do with my hard earned skepticism, including feeding the cat. It informs my decisions about every aspect of my life, every decision I make. From as simple a concept as wanting to know if there’s actually any science behind Science Diet cat food, to the complex question regarding the best public policy choices we can make in order to reduce violence and suffering in the world, my skepticism is my electi methodo when it comes to evaluating the pros and cons of my next move, be it to vote, feed, breed or pick a side.

  20. 20
    Suido

    I also instinctively didn’t like the use of cynic. I’ve used hyperskeptic, and that makes sense to me. I like CR’s suggestion of sexism denialist (denier?) that I might start using from now on.

  21. 21
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Ok, you are fit to paddle the same canoe.

    Paddlin’ the same canoe? Oooh, you better believe that’s a paddlin’.

  22. 22
    ednaz

    This is a thing of beauty. Thank You.

  23. 23
    leonardtramiel

    Well said PZ. Except for a mild insult to cats, your views exactly match mine. I’d like to buy you a beer in Nashville as thanks.

  24. 24
    erikthebassist

    look at the by line lenardtramiel

  25. 25
    erikthebassist

    err sorry leonardtramiel, I could have sworn I fixed that. Damn gremlins.

  26. 26
    yemangycoyote

    Normally, I hate to gush. But I fucking love your writing. That was most of what I had to say. Also, your video game analogy was brilliant, and, as an botany/ecology student, I’m looking forward to your post on skepticism & environmental issues.

    Cheers & good night

  27. 27
    ck

    Ms. Daisy Cutter, Vile Human Being (#2) wrote:

    Uh-oh. You’re going to get someone coming along to insist you’re being “ageist,” because their kids are empathetic, and many adults aren’t, and how dare you slander children that way.

    I don’t have kids, have no plans to have any, don’t have a huge problem with Chris wrote and won’t pretend that the average maturity for kids is the same or better than adults. Did you ever consider the fact that people jump on people for complaining about the “kids today” isn’t that they’re protective of their own kids, but rather what the constant complaints about “kids today” is corrupting discussions about public policy?

    Frankly, I’m tired of people who claim to be on the “left” joining the chorus from the right about how all kids today are whiny, entitled, and lazy and need to be taught the value of work and responsibility. This kind of talk has been giving ample ammunition to those whose goal it is to sell out the future to pay for the present, usually by reducing or eliminating the “entitlements” given to kids today, including public schooling, and minimal health care coverage, or deferring costs (environmental or otherwise) to the next generations.

  28. 28
    chigau (違う)

    I remember alt.folklore.urban.
    Barb was mean to me.
    and I plan on using MRA vs cat quote.
    (with due credit)

  29. 29
    smhll

    I’d say “denialists” or “contrarians” is a little more accurate.

    I have been known to mutter “fucking skeptics are a bunch of fucking opinionated iconoclasts”.

    (Once you smash up the first couple of icons, it’s hard to stop.)

  30. 30
    briane

    leonardtramiel

    Well said PZ. Except for a mild insult to cats, your views exactly match mine.

    Erm, wasn’t it Chris Clarke?

  31. 31
    Chris Clarke

    Erm, wasn’t it Chris Clarke?

    That’s OK; I suspect that byline confusion will trip up people for a minute.

  32. 32
    Swarly

    I know about plenty of websites and wikis filled with counter apologetics and counter arguments to science denialism. Does anyone know if a similar tool exists for MRA arguments or libertarian arguments?

  33. 33
    A. R

    Chris is even posting MRA-bait now. All Hail the [Creative name in the line of "Poopyhead" for Chris]!

  34. 34
    Rob

    It’s probably unfair to compare online arguments with MRAs to me aimlessly talking to a house pet. It may also be needlessly insulting. I mean, one of the two conversations involves a pointless attempt to communicate with a not-precisely sentient being with a brain the size of a walnut, who is mainly motivated by base, unthinking desires which he is unable to cover with a veneer of rationality. And the other involves me talking to my cat.

    Yes, I know it’s been said, but absolutely fucking priceless. Luckily I’d just swallowed the Coke.

  35. 35
    Chris Clarke

    I remember alt.folklore.urban.
    Barb was mean to me.

    She must have liked you.

  36. 36
    Crissa

    Your beautiful paragraph sounds like something my spouse has said in the past. She can be terribly sharp.

  37. 37
    A. R

    Swarly: We have something of a databank of sources on Social Justice and Economics, and on Feminism

  38. 38
    vyyle

    “Men’s rights activists.”

    OH! So that’s what MRA stands for. Silly me, for some reason I was under the impression it meant “misogynist rapist asshole.”

  39. 39
    A. R

    Swarly: We have some resources in that direction. They may be found in the sidebar at right in the “Frequently Read” box under the Pharyngula Wiki link.

  40. 40
    mythbri

    @Chris

    Great post! Tickled my funnybone, it did.

    @Wowbagger, #21

    Love that episode. Pretty sure he gets his beard stuck in the pencil sharpener.

  41. 41
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Libertarianism and MRAism are philosophies that will not withstand honest and rigorous investigation by a moderately bright 7-year-old, in other words, and yet the ranks of skeptics’groups are crawling with both.

    Heh. That’s funny, because a libertarian just attempted to call me a child for not giving his theology the time of day.

    Okay, maybe I did repeatedly call it theology.

    …and…I may also have compared him to Ray Comfort…

  42. 42
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    ckitching #27:

    Did you ever consider the fact that people jump on people for complaining about the “kids today” isn’t that they’re protective of their own kids, but rather what the constant complaints about “kids today” is corrupting discussions about public policy?

    Er. If you’re here, then Ms. Daisy Cutter’s point is somewhere in the Oort cloud.

  43. 43
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Also, I’m not waiting for the MRAs so much as I’m waiting for the swarm of sophisticated liberturdians to descend from their ivory towers and come yell about how dare we call liberturdianism wrong. Politely, of course.

  44. 44
    Chris Clarke

    I’m waiting for the swarm of sophisticated liberturdians to descend from their ivory towers and come yell about how dare we call liberturdianism wrong.

    If so, maybe one of them will be able to explain just how libertarianism isn’t exactly like the Underpants Gnomes’ business plan, only backwards:

    1: PROFIT!
    2: ????????
    3: [Whatever social goal you espouse]

  45. 45
    Ichthyic

    …and…I may also have compared him to Ray Comfort…

    huh.

    Now I’m wondering what libertarians think of bananas.

  46. 46
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    @32 Swarly

    Does anyone know if a similar tool exists for MRA arguments or libertarian arguments?

    Today on Butterflies & Wheels, KarenX posted a link to her site/blog More Women in Skepticism that looks like a good resource, from what I’ve seen.

  47. 47
    Stacy

    With all the MRA and other sexist drivel lately, it’s heartening to read something this smart and funny on the topic.

    Several people have mentioned the “me talking to my cat” paragraph, but I have to single out the one that begins:

    That Bright Ring can even blind the bright lights of the movement. I think it was about 20 years ago Penn Jillette first criticized recycling as a waste of time whose value was not supported by empirical data, based on empirical data he got from landfill operators because what possible motive for fudging the truth could they possibly have? There’s a parallel here.

  48. 48
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Well, I’m having a discussion on monetary policy with some local Occupiers and it’s a bit rudimentary, so I guess I’ll sit around here and try to warm us up.

    We’re advocating that the central bank provide loans to all levels of government (municipal, provincial/state and federal) at low or better yet no interest in order to cover their debts and fund expansionary spending, rather than the neoliberal policy of quantitative easing.

    According to one of the Occupiers, this is the neoliberal/monetarist/’turdian objection:

    …its [sic] inflationary because you would be adding to the base money supply.

    Doesn’t QE do the same thing, only giving the money to rich bankers rather than putting it directly into jobs via the public sector? Why is it inflationary for the government to give itself low- or no-interest loans, but not for the government to give those same loans to the private sector?

    People also argue that it would create bubbles and overheat the economy.

    But…that’s what QE/monetarism does. At least, that’s what it’s been doing for the past twenty plus years.

    If anyone has better examples of the ‘turdian counter to cutting the middle man out and just having the central bank cover the government’s debt, or some form of counter to this, it would be greatly appreciated.

  49. 49
    ibyea

    @Chris Clarke
    My god, that is just about the best analogy I have ever heard about libertarianism. I can’t believe no one have ever said that before.

  50. 50
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Stacy #46: Isn’t it convenient that the one skeptical convention that has stood out as the most anti-SJ is the one that Penn and Teller are keynotes at?

  51. 51
    Ingdigo Jump

    Penn Jillette first criticized recycling as a waste of time whose value was not supported by empirical data, based on empirical data he got from landfill operators

    I just want to point out that Penn Jillette gets his data from garbage men and just let everyone else draw their own conclusion and make their own joke

  52. 52
    Amateur

    I especially like the unravelling (or construction, depending upon the angle of attack) of the ideology of cynicism offered by Slavoj Žižek. Your invokation of cynicism brings much of it to mind. Quoting here from egs.edu, he variously characterizes this ideology as:

    - like morality itself put in the service of immorality

    Having distinguished the ideology from, say, the “classical” mode of the cynic as merely skeptical or habitually incredulous (my characterization) or the “plebeian rejection of the official culture” (his words), he pushes onward to the (more) menacing sort:

    - the model of cynical wisdom is to conceive probity, integrity, as a supreme form of dishonesty, and morals as a supreme form of profligacy, the truth as the most effective form of a lie

    Taking an image from, I think, the greatest playwright of the twentieth century:

    - As Bertolt Brecht puts it in his Threepenny Opera: “what is the robbery of a bank compared to the founding of a new bank?”

    This kind of cynic, he says, is “not simply” content with a lie:

    - but a lie experienced as truth, a lie which pretends to be taken seriously.

    And for all that or in addition to all that, the pathologically cynical are entirely tone-deaf to irony and poetry! It is as though the Man-boys have succeeded in beating back the wooden-tongued propaganda of religion only to embrace it fully again magnified in their own neuroses.

  53. 53
    Ingdigo Jump

    So…a cynic is Garak from Deep Space Nine?

  54. 54
    ibyea

    @Setar
    Makes me wonder why Penn is such a prominent figure among Skeptics. He blows at skepticism.

  55. 55
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    based on empirical data he got from landfill operators because what possible motive for fudging the truth could they possibly have?

    Yep, one of my friends swears by Joe Mercola, the quack who supports chelation therapy, as a Brave Maverick Doctor who is fighting against scientists and doctors suborned by Big Pharma, and who recommends special supplements, remedies, and ‘chelation therapy.’ So I asked who had the greater financial incentive, one who had a real job or one whose aim was to sell an expensive and ineffective treatment?

  56. 56
    Ingdigo Jump

    on the Penn note, I’m guessing the popular meme now that recycling is garbage is rubbish?

  57. 57
    deathpaneldecider

    In the spirit of your comparison between attempting a conversation with an MRA and your pet cat, a riddle:

    Q: What’s the difference between Rush Limbaugh and the Hindenberg?

    A: One is a flaming Nazi gas-bag, the other, a magnificent German airship.

    For what it’s worth, I’d rather converse with the cat…

  58. 58
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb and ask this question:

    Why can the central bank give low- or no-interest loans to private banks in order to cover their debts, but not give the same sort of low- or no-interest loans to all levels of government? Sounds like that would solve the complaining about where will we get the money for X social service at all levels =/

  59. 59
    ibyea

    @setar
    Plus, taxing the rich. Don’t forget that part. :)

  60. 60
    rq

    Ibis3 @45: That will probably do for the MRAs, but is there something for the libertarians, too?
    I have a pet libertarian who visits from time to time and works very hard to convince me that libertarianism is the way to go. He had a great comment recently, as we were talking about how retail clothing stores in this country pull up the prices for profit, and get away with it because (wouldn’t you know) people just need clothing. His comment was, ‘I don’t know why someone doesn’t just come into the market and undercut everyone and make it big’ (or some such nonsense). And he was honestly wondering that, with this naive sense of… Not sure what. In any case, what usually gets him thinking is things like social justice issues and charity (‘It’s all voluntary so it’ll be even better!!’) and, I might add, feminism. He MIGHT be a closet MRA, but he hasn’t used any of those arguments on me (as in, I should be more subservient and stay out of certain professions etc.), and I don’t get that vibe… Then again, maybe it’s just my blazing intellect and fantastic ability to have kids AND work in some (only somewhat) grimy forensics situations that blinds him to the fact that I happen to be a woman. Who knows?
    But I’d really like to change his mind about that libertarianism. I don’t like to see people fooling themselves for years on end. (Sadly, I haven’t been able to move him on the topic of ‘Ron Paul is a Hero’, but I’ve been taking the subtle approach…)

  61. 61
    Ichthyic

    But…that’s what QE/monetarism does. At least, that’s what it’s been doing for the past twenty plus years.

    actually, that has been the standard response to contraction for the last 100 years.

    it seems to have gone off the rails post 2008 though.

    too much greed? too much shortsidedness? too much fear?

    all of the above?

  62. 62
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    I second rq’s comment #59. Most of the critiques of libertarianism I’ve found are a bit…haphazard; even the fairly good ‘Critiques of Libertarianism’ resource failed to answer the question I posed above, which is a response to a common neoliberal/libertarian talking point about the debt. Why can’t we do that, and start opening up public sector jobs, reducing tuition, institute a guaranteed minimum income, (for the US) universal healthcare, and all those other things that the general public just seems to treat as mystical utopian ideals, when they do nothing but use what we have at our disposal?

  63. 63
    DBP

    Makes me wonder why Penn is such a prominent figure among Skeptics. He blows at skepticism.

    Well..maybe people are just counting the hits and ignoring his misses?

  64. 64
    Ingdigo Jump

    @DPB

    Molly

  65. 65
    tmruwart

    Speaking of cats that like to argue science, philosophy, string theory… you may have seen this already but it is still funny:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/scientific-americat/

  66. 66
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    What a wonderful post to read while having my morning coffee. I loved the cat analogy, I loved the whole thing.

  67. 67
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    You get better conversation out of the cat, as well.

    Oh, also Nth-ing the “don’t lump the cynics in with the MRAs”.

  68. 68
    microraptor

    I remember alt.folklore.urban.
    Barb was mean to me.

    As a current member of the snopes.com community, I can assure you that Barb is still mean.

  69. 69
    rq

    Also I forgot to add that the major difference between the MRA and the cat is meanspiritedness. The cat continues/repeats the conversation out of a sense of Eternal Hope that MAYBE the treats will come out again… while the MRA is just mean.
    Setar #61: Maybe we can put together a less-than-haphazard list? I’m not an economist, but maybe we can get a framework down with our favourite current arguments… Do you have any?

  70. 70
    rq

    (Because my pet libertarian happens to focus only on the economic issues; the social justice etc. is really a side-thought for him – and that’s what makes it difficult for me, because I can do the social justice, but I’m crap at economics. So I just bring up social justice. :) Derail?)

  71. 71
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    rq: There are a few exemplary threads that can be gathered from the A+ forums, as well as Pharyngula’s archives where we can see libertarians in action. It gets a bit repetitive though.

    But that’s True Believer apologists, most of whom are probably just jealous because they’re on the outside looking in. Delving into the rationalizations given for neoliberal policy in real life, on the other hand…I don’t even know where to start, other than the question I posed above as a counter to what I call the Debt Marching Band. DEBT DEBT DEBT DEBT DEBT GOTTA CUT THE DEBT.

  72. 72
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    I should also mention, almost all of their ‘economics’ can be dismissed out of hand for not working the way they say it does. It’s sophisticated theology.

    Hell, I had one liberturdian on the Atheism+ forums try to tell me that history and equality were reducible to a graph of GDP over time, and that because the US’ GDP increased massively in the 19th century that meant things got better under libertarian policies. When presented with child labor, the liberturdian just said it was because of economic growth because correlation totally equals causation. They’ll also try to say the same thing about slavery, ffs, never mind that there was a fucking civil war fought over it.

  73. 73
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Er, that should have been “when presented with the bans on child labor”.

  74. 74
    Aratina Cage

    This analogy was masterfully written, sir:

    Libertarians postulate that unfettering everyone’s most self-serving economic motives is the best way to create a vibrant, egalitarian economy, just as unfettering a giant unstable slope of rocks on a steep hillside is the best way to create a stone cathedral at the base of the hill.

    :D PZ taught you well (or not, but you two write so alike). Can we call you Meaneyhead?

  75. 75
    Kaguya

    I tried (in a lazy and distracted way but I still tried) and yet I never did understand what libertarianism really was. Can someone explain or give me a more understandable resource than Wikipedia?

    I’m not smart enough to figure it out myself ^^;

  76. 76
    John Phillips, FCD

    I’m getting suspicious, has anyone ever seen PZ and Chris together :)

  77. 77
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Kaguya #74: Libertarianism is the belief that everything will be better if we get rid of government.

  78. 78
    Dunc

    Given the number of “movement sceptics” who seem to think that religion is out of bounds, I don’t think it can be the Level 1 boss… It’s more like Level 1 is spoon bending, Level 2 is bigfoot, Level 3 is psychics, Level 4 is homoeopathy… Religion’s more like Level 5 – probably more, considering the number of conspiracy theorists, Truthers, and AGW denialists you run into in “sceptic” spaces.

  79. 79
    Kaguya

    Setar #76: Ah, I had thought that was related to anarchism…where does the economics stuff come in?

    I swear, economics is that one subject that simply confuses me personally. It is like the whole field is written on some particularly strong code only those who know the whole story can truly understand…

  80. 80
    rq

    In shorthand. It also means everything is completely de-regulated, and the economy works on a ‘every man for himself’ basis. If you have a product or service, you offer it in exchange for other products or services. If you try to scam people, apparently they’ll figure it out for themselves and go to someone else with either (1) a lower price or (2) less scams. It’s a wonderful theory that pre-supposes that everyone begins on absolutely the same footing (and we all know how true THAT part is, right?) and says nothing about those who are disadvantaged from the start. Also, in my opinion this happens by definition, it pretty much expects that women stay at home and take care of children – because that’s a service/product they’re GREAT at offering, plus their time away from work/producing other products is severely inhibited by that whole pregnancy-birth thing, and that automatically gives them a disadvantage in the free market. Because the free market doesn’t wait for nobody.
    The details get finicky.
    They’re shady on things like slavery and child labour (as mentioned) because obviously those people just (dang it!) weren’t strong enough to break into the market the way they should have (proper services/products), and by helping them out with social programs, the government is actually supporting them wholesale and thus they are leeching off the system. Something like that. (Anyone feel free to correct me; I don’t know if I got everything right.)
    From all of that, we’re supposed to get a perfectly utopian free market society where everybody is happy because everybody gets to do exactly what they want (which doesn’t follow necessarily, because if you’re someone who loves to (for instance) study slugs, you might be out of luck, since there’s probably not much of a market for slug studying…).

    PS Science was another point where I made him think (for now), because it’s fun to do science for the sake of science, and a lot of discoveries just aren’t all that marketable or practically applicable – but they sure are wonderful things to do and see and discover. Where all that bright-eyed discovery comes into libertarianism, I don’t know…

  81. 81
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Given the number of “movement sceptics” who seem to think that religion is out of bounds, I don’t think it can be the Level 1 boss… It’s more like Level 1 is spoon bending, Level 2 is bigfoot, Level 3 is psychics, Level 4 is homoeopathy… Religion’s more like Level 5 – probably more, considering the number of conspiracy theorists, Truthers, and AGW denialists you run into in “sceptic” spaces.

    No, those guys are the mooks, and creationists are like the mid-boss. The end boss is Jesus, who turns into Raptor Jesus for the fight.

    Level 2 is the Slymepit, the mid-boss is Abbie Smith and the end boss is Penn Jillette. The mooks are ‘pitters and TAM attendees.

    Level 3′s end boss is libertarianism.

    Level 4′s end boss is conservatism.

  82. 82
    feedmybrain

    @rq

    Where all that bright-eyed discovery comes into libertarianism, I don’t know…

    What greater discovery could there be than looking at a balance sheet and seeing… PROFIT!

  83. 83
    DLC

    MRA kitty Negs you, cause u haz treats.

  84. 84
    rachelnordstrom

    @~G~

    “I like the idea of atheists who aren’t skeptics as being skeptics who gave up after level one. So are skeptics who aren’t atheists otherwise full fledged skeptics who just happened to use a cheat code?”

    HAHAH—AHA!

    Apologetics + Brainwashing can be one hell of a cheat code.

    It’s why I prefer to think of myself as a non-believer, rather than an atheist, since “god” is only one of the many beliefs I do not subscribe to.

    I mean, if I’m gonna get all fanatical about titles ;)

  85. 85
    Nick Gotts

    I’m guessing the popular meme now that recycling is garbage is rubbish? – Ing

    I don’t have references to hand, but the brief answer is that it’s usually better than not recycling, but it ain’t gonna save the world. The relevant green slogan in the UK – I don’t know if it’s universal – is “Reduce, reuse, recycle”, and that’s a priority ordering: make do with less stuff if you can, reuse as a second option (e.g. glass bottles should if possible be reused, not smashed up and melted into new products), recycle as a third. (Of course there’s a potential conflict here with keeping the economy going – what someone has called the “second contradiction of capitalism” – since capitalism depends on everyone wanting moar stuff.) Psychologically, there’s evidence that recycling can both act as an excuse – “I recycle newspapers, so it’s OK to fly every week” – and as a starting point for pro-environmental actions requiring more commitment and making more difference.

  86. 86
    Nick Gotts

    Kaguya, Setár

    Yeah, I’d say libertarianism is the belief that everything (or almost everything) should be left to individuals and “the market”, which implies the government doing less or nothing, but that’s not its defining feature. Anarchists (unless they are self-styled “anarcho-capitalists”) advocate collective but “bottom-up” ways to replace the positive functions of government, such as deterring private violence and providing infrastructure and social security.

  87. 87
    rq

    @ feedmybrain

    Sorry, forgot about that. Makes up for everything now!

  88. 88
    Pyra

    Thanks for this article. It made my morning. I hope to hear more from you in the coming years!

  89. 89
    Anri

    Kinda OT, but…

    Libertarians postulate that unfettering everyone’s most self-serving economic motives is the best way to create a vibrant, egalitarian economy, just as unfettering a giant unstable slope of rocks on a steep hillside is the best way to create a stone cathedral at the base of the hill.

    Expect to see this quoted out of context as an argument against evolution.

    (Puts on a fur collar and grabs a sword) Brace yourselves!

  90. 90
    PZ Myers

    Oh, no! Chris Clarke has taken advantage of my prostrate state to post an inflammatory article about MRAs and Libertarians! What a troublemaker…

  91. 91
    A. R

    PZ: Next thing you know, he’ll be intentionally stirring up controversy for attention! /snark

  92. 92
    brendiggg

    Chris, you are the perfect foil for PZ and his ferociousness. You both maintain the rage in unique ways.

    Delightful post. May you coblog for many years to come.

  93. 93
    Vijen

    an intellectual movement devoted to encouraging people to dig up and then consider all available data

    Except subjective data…
    Yes there are levels of skepticism, and Sam Harris seems to be unique among established skeptical voices in acknowledging that there is one more level to which skepticism can be applied: the empirical investigation of your own subjectivity.
    The true skeptic cannot afford to neglect half the world which he or she perceives – this is tantamount to pretending that you just don’t exist!

  94. 94
    Stephen T

    PZ – really sorry to hear about your prostate…*re-reads comment*, ok, ignore that.

    Chris – as has already been said, this is a thing of beauty. It was the first thing I read today online – what a great start to my day.

    For anyone who isn’t familiar with the earlier Chris, this should be compulsory reading…

    Incendiary Blog Post

  95. 95
    PZ Myers

    And no, I didn’t teach Chris a thing — he’s been writing stuff like this for a long, long time. Haven’t you guys been following him zealously on Faultline all this time?

    Also, we’ve never met. Weird, I know…somehow I don’t get out to Southern California that often.

  96. 96
    spamamander, internet amphibian

    @ 67

    Shhhhh Barbara has eyes everywhere!

  97. 97
    ChasCPeterson

    Haven’t you guys been following him zealously on Faultline all this time?

    *raises hand*

    for, you know, a certain value of ‘zealous’.

  98. 98
    Ingdigo Jump

    @vijen

    Bullshit

  99. 99
    Vijen

    @Ing etc.

    Try it!

  100. 100
    No Light

    Brilliant! One slight cat vs MRA difference is that the poor, abused and treatless feline will eventually give up the plaintive yowling, once they’ve been suitably distracted with some string or a sock. No such get-out with MRAs.

    @Markita Lynda – WRT chelation, not only is it pointless disgusting quackery, it’s lead to fatalities in the very autistic children it purports to treat. Mercola is scum.

  101. 101
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    CKitching, if I’d actually written anything along the lines of what you are complaining about, you might have had a point.

    Regarding criticisms of libertarianism, Mike Huben has had an extensive series thereof up on the web for years.

  102. 102
    leonardtramiel

    My apologies Chris.

  103. 103
    timgueguen

    I’m amazed you’ve all fallen for such a flawed post. Seriously, WHERE IS THE KITTY PICTURE? How can we take this post seriously when there’s no shot of the little fuzzball pouting?

  104. 104
    chigau (違う)

    re: alt.folklore.urban
    Do Babs and David still think that irony can be conveyed in text-only?
    :) ;) :-(

  105. 105
    viajera

    argumentum ad NOMiNOM

    LOL forever!

    But seriously, I loved this post. I’m very much looking forward to your post on skepticism in the environmental movement. I used to be heavily involved in various fringe and core areas of the environmental movement. But I ran into more and more people who firmly believed things that Just Aren’t True, despite all the evidence to the contrary (“No, biofuels will not save the world, because you’d have to use up pretty much all the arable land in the world to grow enough to replace oil – and then where will we grow food???”). These days I still consider myself an environmentalist at heart, but am not involved in the movement per se. Curious to hear/read your take on it.

  106. 106
    Ingdigo Jump

    “Try it”

    Skepticism: doing it wrong. Like many a Harris fanboi

  107. 107
    julietdefarge

    The cat is wondering why you haven’t retained your training. She’s spent long hours conditioning you to produce her desired response, and now she has to start all over again.

  108. 108
    David Marjanović

    If so, maybe one of them will be able to explain just how libertarianism isn’t exactly like the Underpants Gnomes’ business plan, only backwards:

    1: PROFIT!
    2: ????????
    3: [Whatever social goal you espouse]

    You’ve won your own thread.

  109. 109
    abb3w

    Hm. Dogs are high-RWA, cats are high-SDO?

  110. 110
    morgan ?! epitheting a metaphor

    Chris, I started reading your work just a short while ago and was overjoyed when PZ announced your inclusion here.
    PZ, Chris, Pharyngula is simply the best of the best of the internet. I can’t thank you enough. I feel like I’ve finally found a home. (blush)

  111. 111
    unklesam

    @ Setár #47

    QE IS inflationary, but a big part of the Fed’s use of QE is supposed to be them closely monitoring its effect on the economy and easing off when inflation actually happens. I’m no expert, but I can’t see there being a good philosophical argument against extending cheap credit to state/local government. There may very well be technical reasons why they can’t or won’t (e.g. against their charter or a state’s constitution or whatever), but I’m unable to think of any reason other than a) it’s politically unpalatable (i.e. it steps on the toes of the banks who are supposed to be providing all of this liquidity but aren’t) or b) it doesn’t line anyone’s pockets.

    Keep in mind also that the timid reaction to QE since 2008 may very well have a lot to do with politics. There was an article in Slate last week that suggested Bernanke was half-assing interventions now to save his reputation (i.e. if it works now, it should have worked three or four years ago, so he’d look bad for not having done more then).

    I don’t have time to find a source, but I’ve heard it suggested that QE just isn’t robust enough to fix the economy on its own and the failure of congressional Democrats to push through a much larger stimulus when they had the power to do so (and their anemic defense of what they did manage in the face of teabagger shouting) is the real policy failure. The fall in economic output is just too great.

    Also, the public sector has been under sustained attack at the State and Local level. Who’s to say these governments would actually take money to prop themselves up when the financial illiterates who the tea party elected can whinge about the vultures in civil service and use fiscal shortfalls as a convenient excuse to torch all sorts of services.

    Even if they did want this money, would it be any different from a municipal bond offering? Presumably it wouldn’t just be a gift from the Fed, so it would have to be paid back with the same tax revenues that it’s making up for in the first place. Not much political will for new taxes, I reckon.

    All that said, unless there’s a terrible hole in my reasoning, it sounds like an interesting avenue to explore, to me.

  112. 112
    frog

    Heh. My cat’s behavior pattern fits that of the classic abuser (random attacks for no predictable reason, followed by love and snuggles for a couple of days or weeks, then another random attack), to the point where I call him “my abusive boyfriend.”

    And yes, I have almost the exact same conversations with him as you have with yours. Especially the line about there already being food in the bowl. Sheesh, it’s the cat equivalent of “get me a sandwich.”

  113. 113
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Hm. Dogs are high-RWA, cats are high-SDO?

    abb3w, you’ve been asked before to explain those acronyms when you post them.

  114. 114
    Rutee Katreya

    Brilliant! One slight cat vs MRA difference is that the poor, abused and treatless feline will eventually give up the plaintive yowling, once they’ve been suitably distracted with some string or a sock. No such get-out with MRAs.

    Cats also exist outside of a tiny corner of the internet. Not htat there aren’t plenty of misogynists, but it’s hard to remember MRAs exist if you spend more than a couple of weeks without direct contact with them.

    Yes there are levels of skepticism, and Sam Harris seems to be unique among established skeptical voices in acknowledging that there is one more level to which skepticism can be applied: the empirical investigation of your own subjectivity.

    Which is why when he deecides that we should profile muslims, it’s not based on his subjective perception that muslims are one of the easier-to-profile groups, because they’re just so demographically limited; after all, if he can’t tell southeast asians, north africans, west africans, east africans, southwest asians, south asians, turkmen, or turks apart, then that must be because they’re all objectively the same thing, right?

  115. 115
    d.f.manno

    @ Setár, genderqueer Elf-Sheriff of Atheism+ (#71):

    Re: libertarians and slavery – I am familiar with two libertarians who claim that slavery could not have been as bad as accounts of conditions on slave ships and plantations say, because a dead or injured slave represented an economic loss to the slave ship operators or slaveholders. A rational man in the slave trade would have treated the slaves well because they were valuable assets to him. Therefore, slavery was on balance a good thing, and the abolitionists were liars.

  116. 116
    Rutee Katreya

    ^Oh gross glad they are the fuck away from me. Fucking white people and their bullshit theories. Tens of thousands die on encomiendas, millions of slaves toil in terror and hardship in Merika, and he’s still holding Rational Person theory up as sacred.

  117. 117
    twincats

    Thanks for this article. It made my morning. I hope to hear more from you in the coming years!days!

    FIFM

  118. 118
    microraptor

    ^Oh gross glad they are the fuck away from me. Fucking white people and their bullshit theories. Tens of thousands die on encomiendas, millions of slaves toil in terror and hardship in Merika, and he’s still holding Rational Person theory up as sacred.

    It’s not just Caucasians who make that argument, though. Just like how it’s not only men who argue against providing women access to birth control. There’s all kinds of nut jobs in the libertarian fold- I think it attracts them somehow. Probably similar to the way in which dung piles attract flies.

  119. 119
    Caveat Imperator

    #114 d.f.manno

    You aren’t the only one. I’ve heard libertarian-minded types make those same arguments in favor of slavery as well as systematic discrimination, a la Jim Crow and apartheid.

    What terrifies me about Troo Believer libertarians is not just how unethical their ideas are; it’s that I’ve hardly ever heard them make an argument on ethical grounds at all. I’ve heard countless arguments about allegedly perfect economic systems with massive gaps that would lead to horrible abuse if implemented, as well as legal arguments, usually from constitutional originalists (read: people who wanted to twist the Constitution to justify their highly selective authoritarianism that looked free if you belonged to the right social group.). But I’ve heard almost no arguments about ethics that weren’t derived from their libertarian presuppositions, and led to ideas I found ethically repulsive.

    Whoever called libertarianism a theology earlier in the thread is correct. It’s Procrustean logic at its finest; start with your conclusion and ignore ugly consequences as you work your way back to the start.

    Also, how in the Nine Hells do you do line breaks ’round these parts? This look more like a wall of text than I would like :P

  120. 120
    Ichthyic

    I am familiar with two libertarians holocaust denialists who claim that slavery the holocaust could not have been as bad as accounts of conditions on slave ships and plantations in concentration camps say, because a dead or injured slave Jew represented an economic loss to the slave ship operators or slaveholders to the country in which they lived. A rational man in the slave trade living in those countries would have treated the slaves jews well because they were valuable assets to him. Therefore, slavery anti-semitism was on balance a good thing, and the abolitionists historians were liars.

    and yes, I actually HAVE seen this argument, as I amended it, almost verbatim coming from holocaust deniers.

  121. 121
    roses are red

    It was just that kind of conversation with my former minister that started me down the road to atheism:

    Minister: Mothers who work outside the home are destroying their children!

    Me: Well, my mother worked outside the home and I turned out basically ok. Besides, there are lots of kids right in our congregation who have working moms and they’re ok too.

    Minister: Yes, but what I’m really trying to say is that mothers must stay home or their kids will turn out all wrong!

    At the time, I was deeply disappointed because I had expected to have a real conversation with the minister, you know, one in which he actually listened to what I was saying and responded to it.

  122. 122
    w00dview

    Hey libertarians, look at d.f. manno’s post at #114. This is the reason any one with an ounce of empathy thinks you are a bunch of demented fuckers. These same assholes are also frequent apologists for sweatshop labour as well. They rail against all the horrors of government but sweep the horrors of the market under the carpet. Atrocities are not REALLY atrocities when the private sector does it!

    *spits*

  123. 123
    Ichthyic

    At the time, I was deeply disappointed because I had expected to have a real conversation with the minister, you know, one in which he actually listened to what I was saying and responded to it.

    I have similar memories, and similar disappointments. My early conclusion when I was about 15 was: “Hmm, if even self-claimed authorities, like my own pastor, can’t reasonably explain or argue these things, then what does that say for religion as a whole?”

    which of course, inevitably lead to becoming an atheist by the time I was no longer a teenager, as I looked and saw the emperor indeed had no clothes, and it was not a pretty sight.

  124. 124
    Argle Bargle

    One of the main problem with libertarianism is it’s utopian. Nowhere has there been a libertarian society. As a result, libertarians can shrug off refutations of their points with “but in a true libertarian community that’ll never happen.”

    The other main problem is there’s so many different types of libertarianism, ranging from civil libertarianism (the least nutty) to the anarcho-capitalists (so nutty other libertarians disown them). As Mike Huben says:

    This diversity of libertarian viewpoints can make it quite difficult to have a coherent discussion with them, because an argument that is valid for or against one type of libertarianism may not apply to other types. This is a cause of much argument in alt.politics.libertarian: non-libertarians may feel that they have rebutted some libertarian point, but some other flavor libertarian may feel that his “one true libertarianism” doesn’t have that flaw. These sorts of arguments can go on forever because both sides think they are winning.

  125. 125
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    I once had someone quite privileged in the grand scheme of things “explain” to me that slavery could be “a good deal” for the slave.

  126. 126
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Daisy,
    Well, duh. Slaves were forcibly kidnapped and treated worse than inanimate cargo before being brought to the bestest country EVAR AND were forced to practice Christianity taught all about the glory of Jesus! Sounds like Hell on Earth a great deal to me!

  127. 127
    ck

    CKitching, if I’d actually written anything along the lines of what you are complaining about, you might have had a point.

    Apologies. I overreacted a bit a lot. I saw the “ageism” comment you made, and the way you made it reminded me of the anti-arguments used against anyone who doesn’t jump on the “Damn kids, get off my lawn!” bandwagon. It was unfair of me to assume you meant that.

  128. 128
    KarenX

    Nowhere has there been a libertarian society.

    Bite your tongue! There was that village thing with the Vikings in the 1000s to 1200s and stuff. Totally libertarian. Everybody was happy. Every. single. one. Back when the Earth was warmer and Iceland was green and they liked it.

  129. 129
    microraptor

    @127: And the free market fixed all their problems because whenever they needed something, they pillaged their neighbors for it instead of relying on government subsidies and bailouts.

  130. 130
    Rutee Katreya

    we’ve had libertarian societies. Like the USA in the gilded age. Or Chile under Pinochet. They sucked. And yes, I’ma ware they No TRUE scotsmen those, and how.

    It’s not just Caucasians who make that argument, though. Just like how it’s not only men who argue against providing women access to birth control. There’s all kinds of nut jobs in the libertarian fold- I think it attracts them somehow. Probably similar to the way in which dung piles attract flies.

    I’ve met all of 2 non-white libertarians. I’m aware they exist, and also aware they are extraordinarily rare, at the very least from countries with a majority of white people at all.

  131. 131
    charlessoto

    I swear, every time I read “MRA” I see “MRSA” and think I’ll learn about more about antibiotic resistance. Oh well…

  132. 132
    microraptor

    Hmm, now that you mention it, those do sound like things that would go well together…

  133. 133
    microraptor

    I’ve met all of 2 non-white libertarians. I’m aware they exist, and also aware they are extraordinarily rare, at the very least from countries with a majority of white people at all.

    Libertarians in general aren’t exactly common.

  134. 134
    Nick Gotts

    Everybody was happy. Every. single. one. – KarenX

    Even the slaves. Especially the slaves!

  135. 135
    gravityisjustatheory

    One of the main problem with libertarianism is it’s utopian.

    I think the other main problems are that a lot of the principles and arguments are based on wishful thinking and argument-by-assertion.

    E.g. “In the absence of coercive authority, society will self-organise into a perfectly fair and functioning community”. (An argument-by-assertion that’s shared with left-wing anarchists as well).

    or: “Anything a government does will always be done worse than when private business/charity does it”.

    The other major problem, in my view, is that like a lot of deontological ethics, they start with a reasonable (or seemingly reasonable) premise and follow it logically (or seemingly logically) to its most extreme end. And when that end turns out to be counter-intuitive and manifestly harmful, declare it to be morally correct despite that.

    E.g. Kant arguing “… and therefore its wrong to lie in order to hid someone from their would-be murderer”.

    Or in the case of Libertarians (and Objectivists) “Intitiation of violence is wrong … therefore it is right to kill anyone who infringes on your property”. (An argument I actually saw someone make once, in the specific case of “a man dying of thirst trying to take water from your well”).

  136. 136
    abb3w

    @113, Ms. Daisy Cutter, Vile Human Being:

    abb3w, you’ve been asked before to explain those acronyms when you post them.

    Hm, I’m quite late to notice this comment. Anyway…

    That’s not a prima faciea untoward request. However, a proper explanation makes for an extended digression, usually disruptive to conveying the main point of the remarks. Posts with too many links tend to end held up in the moderation queue, which tends to leave them buried and unread. I’ve given pointers on the order of a dozen times in the past, probably more; meaning, others can answer “what the hell” just as easily as I can. Feeding “high-SDO” in to Google provides Wikipedia’s entry as the first response. Finally, the lack of explanation may tend to provoke curiosity in those susceptible to curiosity.

    So, no promises.

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