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This post stems out of a conversation at the work lunch table. Someone brought up that Brooklyn Bug-Eye’s economic illiteracy. “We’ve chased Amazon away! That’s three billion in tax incentives that we can spend elsewhere!” Not quite how that works. The discussion moved on to banning cow farts and air travel and so forth. I’ll spare you the details, you’ve heard ’em all before. The problem is that by the time you get to how you’re going to pay for such a thing you’ve already lost the argument.
Here, let’s have Rachael Carson tell it.
It is not half so important to know as to feel.
By the time the right winger gets to the question of paying for a thing he’s no longer speaking the same language as the leftist. Your right-winger is considering the question “Is this a good idea?”; the leftist is asking “Is this a good thing?” She’s considering the quality of the objective, and not whether the means taken to get to that objective is appropriate or even doing more good than harm. The right-winger looks at the Green New Deal and asks “is this remotely possible?” He decides it’s nonsense and laughs at it as such. The leftist asks “is this a step in the right direction?” She answers “Yes”, and favors the proposal even if she doesn’t expect it to go anywhere, or achieve it’s goals. As long as the heart is in the right place.
Knowing and Feeling
There’s a tendency among the right to dismiss leftist emotionalism as worthless. In the same way that I, as a smart-alecky little brat, decided that logic was superior to everything because I was good at it, or the way that dentists think that proper flossing is the key to happiness. Logic is important, but so is emotion too. If your logic leads you to a conclusion that your gut is telling you is awful then you’ve got good reason to go back over your logic. Somewhere along the line, you’ve slipped a syllogism, or one of your postulates is less true than you want to believe.
On the flip side, you can’t just believe that everything is true that you want to be true. That leads to madness, in a literal sense. The best way to go through things is to know what your postulates are, and when someone disagrees with your postulates take the possibility into account that they might be right and you might be wrong. Consider their logic, their point of view, and most of the time you’ll still come away believing what you did beforehand, but you’ll always learn something. This takes work, and maturity, and is largely an unpopular approach. It’s much easier to just talk past each other.
Arguing with the Left
What you say is “Our best research tells us that Pre-k education doesn’t actually improve outcomes for kids; we’d be better off spending that money elsewhere. What a leftist hears is “I think kids are less valuable than money” which she quite reasonably takes to mean that you’re evil. Who doesn’t like children?
It doesn’t matter that the Green New Deal is completely unworkable, or that DDT wiped out malaria in these United States, or that throwing money at schools doesn’t actually improve the education they provide, or that taxing the rich doesn’t make enough money to provide for things, or that cutting greenhouse gases to the level we’re told is necessary would reduce our quality of life a heck of a lot more than merely dealing with the consequences of any Global Warming as those consequences arise. It doesn’t matter what sources or data or logic you have; you’ve already classified yourself as a hater and hence unworthy of being listened to.
And on the right? I doubt I have to describe this to you; you know how you react to leftists. Idiots who haven’t thought their bad ideas through to their inevitably disastrous conclusion. No point in listening to them because none of their ideas add up. Right? Right? And that’s even when we agree on the conclusion. Try this same discussion over gun control; it only gets worse.
This becomes a serious problem because you can’t deal with bad people. A leftist won’t ever listen to you if she’s dismissed you as evil. There’s no compromising with evil. It’s okay to punch fascists, right? And a right-winger dismisses any ideas which are so ludicrously impractical. People don’t believe the other guy has anything worth saying and simply don’t listen anymore. More than almost anything else this literal inability of the Left and Right to communicate makes me think the coming Civil War is inevitable.
This is the part of the post where I pivot from explaining the problem to discussing how to solve it
If you’ve been following my previous posts about politics you’ll probably be able to guess my answer. “What do we do about this? I don’t know.” Let’s run down the possibilities, shall we?
We could listen to the left more. It’s always good to understand the other side, where they’re coming from, and how they work. That won’t solve the problem. Once you’re listening to them, you’ve got two options; either to agree, which is surrender, or to argue the points with them. Which is ineffective, because they think you’re evil.
We could learn to speak their language. You voice your concerns with their proposals in words they’ll understand. If they don’t think you’re evil right off the bat they’ll listen to you and… decide you’re evil anyway because you keep telling them not to do the things they think are good.
We can convince them to avoid the government as a solution to problems. A leftist trying to make the world a better place without calling down the power of the government on all who oppose them can be a really good thing. You can still help people working towards an impossible goal and never actually getting there. It doesn’t become oppressive until you’re coercing other people into helping you or paying for you. Except getting the government to work on a social problem is always easier than working on the problem yourself. And so I’ve got no idea how to convince a leftist that that’s a bad idea because all the reasons why it’s a bad idea come from the right side of the aisle. That is, they all have to do with reasons why the project will lead to bad consequences in the end, and they have nothing to do with why the goal might not be a good thing in the first place.
We can convince them that their grand designs are impractical and that they’ve got to worry about what will work as opposed to just what’s aimed at a good goal. This is called being ‘mugged by reality’, and once you’ve convinced someone of that then they ain’t a leftist anymore. If we could do that wholesale we would have done so already.
There’s a commonality in all these failed solutions; they all describe what we can do. None of them require any action from the left. That’s the thing about communication; you need two parties to want to communicate before anything happens. I don’t know of any way of compelling leftists to want to communicate short of outright violence. And the left has so thoroughly convinced itself that we’re all racists and evil and whatnot that I don’t see anything on their side which gives them any reason to want to communicate with us. When you can’t negotiate then your options boil down to power plays; political chicanery, street fighting, and eventually revolution.
Do you see why I worry that Civil War is inevitable?Published in