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When Debate is Worthless

from Declination: Do You Want to be Right, or True?

Something changed over time. Call it maturity, or wisdom, or understanding of self. Or call it, as I do, a certain intellectual exhaustion. Whatever it is, I just stopped caring about appearances. I didn’t care to prove myself right, or to prove the other wrong.

I wanted to learn. I wanted to understand. I wanted to know truth — regardless of whether or not anyone believed me. It came to the point that I wanted to be proven wrong, in fact, for that would mean I would have discovered a new truth. My own knowledge would have been expanded. I was still emotionally invested in the outcome, per se, but not in the same manner. If the debate granted me no new knowledge, no new perspectives, it was useless. It was a waste of time. It didn’t matter if I had demolished my opponent’s argument. It was still a nothing.

SJWs are still caught up in the first stage, where everything is about rightness, and not rightness in the sense of truth, but rightness in the sense of appearance, in the sense of acknowledgement from the audience. When a flurry of Twitter tweeters or Facebook posters come in with likes, and messages of solidarity and support, they feel alive, they feel important. Their narcissistic supply is greatly enhanced. But truth doesn’t matter. Knowledge and understanding are irrelevant. To them, a debate is worthless if they do not receive adulation.


Demonization destroys debate.

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Beware Intellectuals

from the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Johnson’s review of the book, Public Intellectuals in the Public Arena.

On a personal note: In the introduction to this book my father, Paul Johnson, is quoted warning in 1988, “One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is—beware intellectuals.” Now 88, he has met most of the postwar presidents, and his books have been cited by some of them, but he has never held or sought office. It was thus all the more gratifying when George W. Bush gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. For the American republic thus to recognize a public intellectual (and a foreigner, too) is simply magnificent. And it reminds us that self-denial should be a condition of exercising influence. Only intellectuals who have no love of power should be allowed anywhere near it.

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Pragmatism and Morals

from an interview with Penn Jillete in the January Reason Magazine

When I talk about the death penalty to people, there are a zillion pragmatic arguments to make that the death penalty is more expensive, that you could make mistakes with the death penalty. I try to never use them, because I believe that as soon as I use them, I have dropped what matters to me. Because those arguments are disingenuous. To say, “What if we put an innocent person to death?” I am then telling you that if you can promise me we won’t put any innocent people to death that I’m somehow OK with that, and I’m fucking not. Killing people is wrong. Government shouldn’t fucking do it. End of story.

I mean, if you can convince me right now on the phone that you can eliminate all marijuana, eliminate all LSD, eliminate all heroin, keep it out of the country so that people can’t do it, and you can do that without using any violence—if you make that argument, am I then in favor of drug prohibition? I still don’t think I am. If you told me here’s a way we can keep all Muslims out and that will stop the terrorism, I don’t think I can make that deal.

So I don’t think there is a pragmatic argument. There is only the moral argument. I realize that’s an incredibly black-and-white, stupid position that I don’t think anyone agrees with me [on], but I can’t find a way around it. So every issue becomes moral to me. I’ve never smoked marijuana in my life. I don’t want to smoke marijuana. But I can’t find any way that it’s my right to stop you.


An excellent point.  where pragmatism may require suspension of ideologies or principles, it can also require the suspension of moral considerations.  This can me more important that whether it works.  That is why two different ideologies can both claim to be pragmatists; because they make decisions from different moral frameworks.

Perhaps the best recent consideration of morality vs pragmatism is the debate over waterboarding.  The debate over whether it works sidelines the entire moral consideration.

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When Words Lose Their Meaning

The working of the U.S. constitution, for example, has always rested on such ethical grounding. Its crises have arisen from deep disputes about ethics, such as that between the ethics of the dignity of all people regardless of condition of servitude and the ethics of honoring private property in slaves, or that between the ethics of the right of a woman to control her body and the ethics of the right of a fetus to be born. In January 2001, following the long-contested vote for the presidency, the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, who had won the popular vote in November but not the electoral college, hung by chad in Florida, conceded defeat, when the conservative majority on the Supreme Court spoke. So far the institutions reached. A rule of the game is that a majority of the Court gets the last word. But suppose Gore had not conceded. It was not automatic that he would do so, or written down somewhere in a self-interpreting text. Nor was his decision to concede the election wholly explicable in terms of the incentives facing him, at any rate not the sort of incentives that a Samuelsonian or Marxian economist would admire. Gore’s wanting the good of his country came out of his personal and social ethics, learned at his mother’s knee. So did the acceptance by other Democrats of his defeat, with more or less good grace. The rest of us heartily commend them, and congratulate the mothers who taught them so well. That too was a social part of the ethical dance. We do not view good people like Gore as mere suckers, missing a chance. We honor them, sociologically. The Roman Republic fell because ethics no longer supported its constitution, and a Cicero who did not make the first move in a game of prudence-only was accounted a fool and was put to the sword. Athenian democracy was doomed when early in its long war with Sparta, as Thucydides put it, “words [such as ‘justice’] lost their meaning.” 24


McCloskey, Deirdre N. (2016-04-21). Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World (Kindle Locations 422-436). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.

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The Hombre Syndrome


from the Wall Street Journal Look Who’s Getting That Bank Settlement Cash -Tens of millions of dollars disguised as ‘consumer relief’ are going to liberal political groups.  by Andy Koenig

The most recent came in April when the Justice Department announced a $5.1 billion settlement with Goldman Sachs. In February Morgan Stanley agreed to a $3.2 billion settlement. Previous targets were Citigroup ($7 billion), J.P. Morgan Chase ($13 billion), and Bank of America, which in 2014 reached the largest civil settlement in American history at $16.65 billion. Smaller deals with other banks have also been announced.

Combined, the banks must divert well over $11 billion into “consumer relief,” which is supposed to benefit homeowners harmed during the Great Recession. Yet it is unknown how much, if any, of the banks’ settlement money will find its way to individual homeowners. Instead, a substantial portion is allocated to private, nonprofit organizations drawn from a federally approved list. Some groups on the list—Catholic Charities, for instance—are relatively nonpolitical. Others—La Raza, the National Urban League, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and more—are anything but.

This is a handout to the administration’s allies. Many of these groups engage in voter registration, community organizing and lobbying on liberal policy priorities at every level of government. They also provide grants to other liberal groups not eligible for payouts under the settlements. Thanks to the Obama administration, and the fungibility of money, the settlements’ beneficiaries can now devote hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to these activities.


Big banking forced to support these organizations leaves fascinating conflicts.  Regulations stifle startup competition that would not have to pay such nonsense. There must be a name for the dependence on those you hate. I call it the Hombre Syndrome from the movie starring Paul Newman.

In such a deal both parties sell their soul. And ultimately both parties lose.