Tag Archives: American Spectator

Their agenda is plain

American Spectator has a regular blog series called Among the Intellectualioids.  Check out the picture of who the intellectualoids are — grubby-looking, beret-wearing, bad-hair eggheads.  Wait… is that Satan on the far left?

In the series' recent installment, Christopher Orlet argues in "The End of Evil" that a new intellectualiod menace is looming: the view that there is no evil.  Simon Baron-Cohen holds that the actions we deem evil are most often the consequence of a particular mental disorder characterized by an empathy deficiency.  Orlet glosses the view:

The Cambridge don finds the whole idea of evil unhelpful. What's more, it is simplistic and unscientific. It smacks of the Bible and ancient superstitions. And it tells us nothing. Why is one evil? Again, it comes down to the inability to empathize or to identify with others.

To this end, Baron-Cohen has devised six degrees of empathy. His empathy spectrum would award a six to someone like Bill Clinton, who claimed to be able to feel the pain of an entire nation, and a zero to the husband who honestly answers his wife's query about whether her jeans makes her butt look big. At the peak of the bell curve stands your Average Empathy Joe who tears up at Schindler's List, but remains dry-eyed if not slightly nauseous during the Titanic.

Note, by the way, the first couple sentences should be read with a mocking tone: This Cambridge don believes these things. (Modus Tonens alert)  All the examples of the variety of scores are Orlet's of course.  Especially the one about the jeans.  Actually, it seems the whole selection should be read with a mocking tone. 

Here's Orlet finally stating the view (and this time without detectable tone):

Baron-Cohen fingers our hormones, genes, and neglectful mothers as causes for empathy deficiency. One example: his research indicates the more testosterone you are exposed to in the womb, the less empathy you will have.

Ah, but once Orlet states the view, he  then identifies the real program behind it (and the broader commitment trying to understand why people do horrible things):

Naturally, if the problem is largely genetic and hormonal, as Baron-Cohen argues, it can be eradicated through gene/hormone therapy, thus setting the stage for an edenic future where Israelis and Palestinians group hug and your co-workers do not steal your bologna sandwiches from the lunchroom fridge.

Baron-Cohen's agenda is plain. Close the prisons and admit criminals to hospitals where ObamaCare can work its magic. After all, "no one is responsible for his own genes."


The slippery slope to Obamacare playing the role of prison warden.  First, the view is out to explain why people do things that are evil, not just wrong.  The objective is to give an account not of how someone could make a moral error, one that any of us could make (for example, stealing bubble gum).  No. Rather, the objective is to account for moral transgressions that we cannot think our way into, ones that are not normal, run of the mill moral errors.  We aren't just shocked at the acts, we are puzzled by the persons who commit those acts.  Calling those persons 'evil' is fine, but it (as Orlet sarcastically notes) does not explain anything.  Nor does it make it such that the punishments we give these people can have any effect other than inflict suffering on them.  Only if one is a pure retributivist about punishment would one not be interested in understanding why people are or do evil. 

Second, nothing introduces a slippery slope argument better than phrases like "Their agenda is plain…" or "You know where that leads…".  But Obamacare is about medial coverage for people who haven't got it.  Once the state takes a person into custody for committing a crime, the state is responsible for that person's care.  If the medical evidence is that the person suffers from a psychological illness, shouldn't it be treated? 

New study shows: liberals don’t have conservative economic views

Ron Ross, at The American Spectator, reports that a Zogby International survey "confirms what (he's) long suspected — when it comes to economics, liberals are clueless."  The survey asks respondents to identify themselves on a spectrum from very liberal to very conservative, and then eight questions come.  Ross notes: 

On the basis of eight economic questions, wrong answers correlated consistently with ideology.  Progressive/very liberal respondents got four times more wrong answers than libertarians.

Ross concludes that the survey results "demonstrate a strong connection between economic ignorance and interventionist enthusiasm.  Those who are most determined to interfere with the economy know the least about it."

Well, golly, if there really is a connection between not knowing economics and being a liberal, that'd be a bad thing.  Especially for liberals and their views about economics.  So let's look at all the economics that liberals are so ignorant about.  Here are two of the most telling questions:

1. Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable.  (Unenlightened Answer: Disagree)

6. Third-world workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited. (Unenlightened Answer: Agree)

The rest of the questions are the usual libertarian talking points (minimum wage laws increase unemployment, licensing professional services causes the price for those services to be raised).  The crazy thing is that question 1 is so vaguely stated that anyone with any sense would ask for clarification: Are the restrictions with regard to where the houses will be built, what kind of houses, or whether they must meet safety codes, and so on? In some cases, those restrictions will drive prices up, and other times, down.  Of course, the survey has the right answer that they do.  Why? Because that's what libertarians believe.

With question 6, I don't see this as a matter of having knowledge of basic economics or any such thing, but more a question of having ethical judgment about what counts as exploitation.  Again, because the right answers are being determined by people who casually use the term "leftist," as a term for anyone who's not a member of the John Birch Society, the right answers will likely be different from, say, any morally developed adult.

None of this would be surprising or irritating if the survey and report did not use terms like "unenlightened" and "wrong" for the answers here.  Now, if the survey were about, say, basic economic knowledge, where there is no reasonable disagreement, then we'd have no problem.  But here we have the simple strategy of polling one's opponents in a disagreement, noting how they have views you reject, casting them as being wrong, and then reporting how often those with whom you disagree are wrong about things that matter.  But, even if liberals are in error, these are not the simple errors that Ross portrays them to be.  These are controversial matters in economics, ones about which intelligent people disagree.  To portray this as a matter of ignorance, as Ross does, is not just a distortion of the debate, it's simple lying.  But Ross is all too happy to run up the score when the deck is stacked:

What we're seeing all too often is "the arrogance of ignorance." Both arrogance and ignorance do enormous damage in the world, but together they are a toxic brew.

Ross's gerrymandered study really only shows that opinions about economics track political self-identification.  That's not news, and certainly not something to make the hay Ross does of it.  There's another toxic brew, in addition to Ross's arrogance and ignorance: it's willful deception and self-righteous indignation.

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