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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Who are you to say….?"

One of the most annoying formulations anybody ever offers in an argument is to imperiously interject, "Who are you to say [such-and-such]?"

There is, of course, no logical rebuttal to such a nonsensical question, which implies that you not worthy of even engaging in a discussion of the matter at hand.

There are, however, several things you can say which point out the absurdity of such a line:

"What would you like me to do, whip out my resume and recite my qualifications before offering an opinion? I could ask the same of you, but don't you think that would be sort of ridiculous?"

Or, "Who am I? I'm someone who's observed [such-and-such] his entire life."

Or, "The subject of discussion isn't me, as much as you'd like to turn this debate into an ad hominem attack. It's [such-and-such]."

Or, you can mock them by thundering back, in even more imperious tones than they used, "Who am I? Who are you to ask such an impertinent question?!"

Of course, people who'd use such a moronic line in the first place probably aren't even smart enough to see they're being made fun of.


Glen Filthie said...

The debate is over the second both parties get snarky. Angry, offended people seem to think their anger justifies intellectual dishonesty. At that point you have two options:
a. tell them to FOAD and be done with it
b. walk away and let your silence speak for you.

As a young man I used to favour option A but as I get older I use option B more and more often.

Sometimes the other guy has to learn things the hard way too...

John Craig said...

Glen --
Couldn't agree more. And in my experience, it's almost always liberals who resort of ad hominem attacks first. Of course, they're the ones I argue with most, so I shouldn't suggest my experience is universal.

Steven said...

Hey John,

I agree with you and rate you so much as a thinker on social issues and in general that I'd like to know more about your libertarianism. I've always tended more to the left on economic matters but since I think you're so spot on and perceptive on a lot of topics, I'd be willing to hear you out on economics and government. I can't find much about that stuff on your blog. Can you refer me to anything you've written on those topics or perhaps you might consider covering it in a post in the future.


John Craig said...

Steven --
Thank you very much. I call myself a libertarian because that comes closest to my positions, but I'm really an issue-by-issue guy. For that reason, I don't think I've ever written anything that comes close to outlining any sort of political "philosophy."

I'm not even sure there IS any sort of unifying philosophy or vision to my political views. It all pretty much boils down to, whatever seems fair in any given situation. I guess that makes me a small picture guy, but, honestly, I think that taking things issue-by-issue is the only commonsensical approach.

But, seriously, thank you.

Steven said...

You're welcome. I just call it how I see it.

I'm kind of an issue to issue guy myself.

But is it fair to say that you believe in some kind of true free market capitalism with as little government intervention as possible, including that which gives advantage to big businesses? I understand that the housing bubble was encouraged by government regulation...

Also, briefly, where do you stand on healthcare and education in terms of public/private run? I'm trying to get a sense of how committed to the idea of small government you are. Self-identified libertarians tend to be pretty radical on these things.

Obviously on healthcare, the American mainstream is already to the right of Europe. The American right seem to equate socialised healthcare with a socialist revolution that will lead to the sky falling down.

What is your attitude to wealth inequality? Has America become too unequal?

John Craig said...

Steven --
Those are a lot of big, open-ended questions. The best answer I can give you is that there a lot of issues I haven't fully thought through, so I don't talk about those on the blog. If I have nothing to add, nothing original to say, I try to shut up. Certain things, like sociopathy, I know well. Certain things, like racial differences and racial politics, you can have something do add just by virtue of being honest, since so few people speak their minds about that. Occasionally, I'll see the essential ludicrousness of some widely held belief and I'll point that out. But there are a lot of complicated issues -- and healthcare is at the top of that list -- where I just don't know enough to have a strong, informed opinion, so I usually (but not always) keep my mouth shut. You'll notice there are a lot of subjects i never broach on this blog, like the intricacies of arms limitations agreements, or the relative safety of old vs. new nuclear power plants, or how NAFTA has affected the American worker.

I did say -- humorously, back in 2011 -- that I was going to run for President, and here is the post announcing my platform:

Here are some additional planks:

And even more:

(had enough?)

I can't really answer your question about how I feel about total laissez faire capitalism, it's too open-ended, all I can say is, once again, you have to look at issues on a case-by-case basis. I'm generally for free markets, yes, but obviously there have to be protections against things like monopolies and the like.

Yes, the housing crisis was caused in large part by the government encouraging lenders to lend to the less creditworthy in a misguided effort to help minorities, but there were plenty of other culprits as well, mostly people who took advantage of this misguided policy.

I would emphasize that libertarians are not anarchists. I'm for a smaller, less intrusive government than the one we have, but we could have that and still have an awfully big government.

Health care? You should consult an expert, not me.

Inequality? I believe in inequality as an incentive for people to better themselves (and contribute to society), but I think that at the very top end, there have been people who have been able to exploit the financial system and gain ridiculous amounts of wealth for themselves. Hedge fund managers are a perfect example: they don't even get taxed at the ordinary rate, they get taxed at the long term capital gains rate, even though it's only their clients who actually have their money invested for long periods of time. Ridiculous.

Anyway, the best overall answer I can give you is, I can't give you answers on a lot of things. I'm just not that smart or well-informed on a lot of subjects. (On the other hand, at least I'm smart enough to know where I'm dumb.)

Steven said...

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I appreciate your honesty and humility. Not the kind of answer I was expecting but instructive and I did get something from it. This seems like a good principle:

'If I have nothing to add, nothing original to say, I try to shut up.'


John Craig said...

Steven --
I took the liberty of re-posting our last two comments, just so I could correct all the typos in mine. (That's why your name isn't highlighted.)


Gilbert Ratchet said...

"Who do I need to be?" (James Lileks quoting someone whose name I can't remember).

John Craig said...

Gilbert --
I like that one.

Anonymous said...

Robin Williams as troops "Retreat" at Camp Arifja…:

Have some respect.....he entertained our troops overseas for crying out loud. His heart was in the right place.

Which is more than i can say for some conservative talk show hosts who get paid for doing tours around the U.S.

No one paid Robin to do all these USO tours. See youtube.

Anonymous said...

There are certain people whom I avoid having serious conversations with, one of them is a brother-in-law (he's married to my oldest sister). He can get so argumentative that it's not worth discussing issues with him. This brother-in-law is a liberal, having once seemingly been a conservative (lol). He is intelligent, but sadly, he can be illogical as well - sometime along the way, he drank the liberal kool-aid.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
I don't mind argumentative, as long as it's factually based, and as long as they're willing to look at facts that don't suit their narrative. The problem is, liberals are rarely willing to do that.

Anonymous said...

It helps when both parties know historical facts, then you can hopefully have a rational discussion. When one side is trying to dominate the conversation, I'm done, excusing myself from the futility of trying to have a discussion.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
"Futility" is the right word.