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Why the Left doesn't argue honestly

Obama says recovery depends on healthcare | Markets | US Markets | Reuters.

For the sake of argument, let's accept people on the political Left are sincere. Let's forget for the moment our suspicions that many of them use politics to win wealth, power and privilege their meagre talents could never otherwise secure. So why are they so dishonest in their arguments? For example, President Obama (story linked above) is no fool. He knows full well that his reform of America's healthcare system (however desirable) has nothing to do with economic recovery. Still less is it "critical" to that recovery.

I had a discussion yesterday with senior colleagues in China, triggered by someone jestingly calling us "the Gang of Four." I joked about "taking the capitalist road" and an earnest colleague began a debate about whether Chiang Ching and chums were really "capitalist roaders" or "ultra leftists". As someone who was a Maoist during the "Gang of Four" episode, I tried to explain how this missed the point. The Gang became Mao's enemies. As a consummate leftist politician, the Great Helmsman therefore blackened them with every bad name (before having them killed).

To a practical Leftist, the words "capitalist", "racist", "sexist", "islamophobe", "Tory" or whatever are simply useful insults. They use such words to associate their enemies with bad things in order to neutralise them. To engage rationally by debating their choice of words is to miss the point. Similarly, when a Leftist wants something, he associates it with things he thinks the masses will like, such as "fairness", "investment", "economic recovery", "an end to boom and bust", "stability" or whatever. You waste breath in challenging the rational basis for that. It's just agitprop.

So when President Obama says his healthcare reforms are "critical to US economic recovery", he just means he wants them. Like my political opponent at university who argued that "there could be no proper sex until the revolution", he is associating things he wants with things you like. To counter him, you must associate the thing he wants with things people won't like (like working much of the year as government serfs to fund them). Disputing his logic goes over the heads of the masses, as he well knows.

Much of the frustration in the non-left, anti-statist political blogosphere is precisely because we are trying to engage on rational terms. Language to the non-academic Left is not a vehicle for communication or analysis. It is - like everything else - a political weapon. As for the academic Left, their job is to fabricate new agitprop constructs. They are their arms manufacturers.

Speaking in China Daily today about the People's Liberation Army's website, a spokesman commented that "In war, Mao Zedong placed as much value on posters as guns". Quite so. Propaganda wins wars. The Left is permanently at war with capitalism and is rational to that extent. The "virtuous" end justifies the dishonest means. Analysing or "fisking" the Left's arguments is mere displacement activity for counter-revolution. The apolitical voter (who is only half-listening anyway) hears the exchange as follows:

Leftist "Bad man, bad thing"

Anti-leftist: "Man they say is bad says difficult words"

If our society is ever to return to a rational path, the liberty-minded must learn dark arts. The challenge is not to be consumed by them.


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I don't quite know what we are not agreeing on here TP.

Can we agree that the US system is not working and needs reform? Surely you don't think that it is OK for so many Americans to have no access to proper health care? The richest country in the world touts it has the best health care system in the world, but just not for all it citizens, not adequate in fact for almost one third of them.

I assume you are referring to the Concord Study published in the Lancet last year when you talk about the comparison of cancer survival rates. If so that study also found that there was a lower survival rate for the black population than for the white population in the USA states studied. Presumably these are less likely to have coverage/adequate coverage.

I read the US medblogs. I know how unhappy the doctors are with both the government funded medicare/medicaid programs and the private health insurance companies. They don't know what the solution is but most agree that the current system in not working and that reform is needed.

Being one of the last Western countries to deal with this problem, the USA have a chance to learn from the others' mistakes and have a stab at finding a better solution, whatever it might be.

Perhaps it will be subsidized insurance premiums for those without adequate income, although those doctors are very unhappy and frustrated dealing with the insurance companies.

Just because a socialized system of medicine may not be your answer doesn't negate the fact that there is a huge problem which has to be dealt with in some way.

Now EMTALA, the law which says no one can be refused treatment by hospital emergency depts for lack of money, legal status etc, was passed long ago. The problem is they just didn't bother to fund it. Don't forget this is the land of malpractice suits and these people are just as likely to find a lawyer willing to take their "case" on a contingeny basis as any other citizen so they do get adequate care. On the other hand they can clutter up the EDs with their simple problems which would be better handled elsewhere if they had healthcare coverage.

Sorry to go on, but this is a subject I feel very strongly about. All I know is that if I were a US citizen I would rather err on the side of making sure that everyone gets adequate basic health care treatment, however it is put into place or funded.


I know you and I will never agree on this, JMB, but if anyone is interested in comparing socialised systems with private ones, let them look to the facts not their "feelings" about how the world should be. A simple comparison of cancer survival rates, for example, should be enough to give the lie to any idea that the state is better at running healthcare than it is, say, housing or education.


For some reason this title niggles, as if it infers that the Middle and the Right would never do such a thing! :)

It will be unfortunate if people zero in on that part of the message, which is blatantly absurd, and reject the rest of the message that healthcare reform and some kind of universal health care is essential in the United States.

One in three US citizens are either uninsured or considered underinsured for health purposes. Most medical personnel believe in universal health care, they just don't want the government running it. On the other hand private (for profit) insurance companies dictating medical treatment by deciding what they will or will not cover is not working out so well for everyone either.

I hope that the "virtuous end" of universal health care can be be brought about without using dishonest means, or even dishonest rhetoric. Sooner, rather than later.


I agree with your comments on intelligence.

I don't think I mentioned intelligence. I did mention educational attainment and maybe by assuming some practice in thinking.

I was arguing people who think more about what other people say are not so easily swayed by ad hominem attacks

Then there is political faith or belief, how that works on a person's ability to see clearly. There are your sincere 'useful idiots', the ones who can manage to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

Even scientists have to guard against their belief in a theory messing with their experiments.

Re: "If you are righteous, then the enemy is the Devil and any deception to defeat him is justified"

But it is not just deception the 'righteous' can justify is it? They can justify almost anything, maybe not even almost.


Sadly, I don't think the voters of the right are more intelligent on average. I have many intelligent, kindly leftist friends who are innocent agents of evil; "useful idiots" as Stalin used to call the Western intellectuals paraded around the Potemkin villages.

Most voters of all persuasions are quite simply disinterested in politics to the point of distaste. Those interested enough to be involved exercise disproportionate power simply by virtue of showing up.

As I experienced when I was "of the faith" myself, Leftism (and now Gaiaism) are more like religions than ideologies. If you are righteous, then the enemy is the Devil and any deception to defeat him is justified. Obama is by no means the worst, but this was a fairly egregious example.


The ideas of the left often use emotional terms, deal in emotions.

Originally and for some still they are to do with empowerment. The lifting out of powerlessness and drudgery and poverty. Liberation.

Basically the same desires that underlie Libertarian thinking.

Lots of the thinking behind Libertarian thinking looks to me to be egalitarian.

Practically tho the left's theories just don't seem to work. One of those things that look great on paper but totally suck when you actually try to make them work. That to me suggests a problem with the theory behind them.

Being a bit sexist here (maybe?), but I do feel that this is particularly a guy thing. Being in love with a theory without letting reality have too much influence on their belief in it. Not practical at all

What you might call throwinggoodmoneyafterbadism if you were a german philosopher.

I figure the left also need to appeal to the masses, not just the proletariat but the lumpen, who practically speaking have a lower level of education collectively, who are tuned to treat a theory more like a believe system, like a religion, without examining it or often arguments critically.

I guess emotional levers just work for them.

So ad hominem attacks surely naturally work when used to convince and sway those not trained to think more critically?

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