Friday, December 02, 2005

A Meta-debate for Partisans

Here’s a meta-debate for you.

Have you ever noticed how when a political partisan doesn’t have an answer to a particular argument, they usually flee intellectually to the realm of abstraction?

For example, when you present some people with a picture of a fetus with developing toes, eyes, a heartbeat, etc., rather than honestly acknowledging the profound implications of that developing humanity, they will flee the discussion entirely, and run to the less conscience-searing abstraction of “reproductive choice.” It then becomes a discussion (though a useless one) far removed from the glaring realities of heartbeats, eyes, and toes, which represent life.

Similarly, there are a lot of conservatives nowadays who love to flee the reality of our oil-heavy energy consumption, which consumption patterns leave us vulnerable to the influence of people like Hugo Chavez, and leave our terrorist enemies extremely well-funded and armed to kill us. Conservatives will often flee these searing hot realities for a little shade in abstraction:

We pay less for oil when adjusted for inflation than we did in 1980!
(Oil still funds the IEDs killing our soldiers.)

We have huge reserves of oil in our Western coal and oil shale!
(Oil still finances the travel and logistics behind the insurgency killing innocent Iraqis)

Environmentalists keep thwarting the exploration of new sources of oil!
(If you silenced the environmental movement for twenty years and drilled ANWAR, built more refineries, etc., the price of oil would come down to a point where cars would be built much bigger to reflect the cheapness of fuel. The Middle East would be taking less of our money, but not much due to increase in demand from our bigger cars. And even then, the oil supply is heavily influenced by natural disasters, speculation in the markets, and the whims of OPEC. Thus, no amount of increase in production can drain the sources of money that flows to Zarqawi’s pockets.)

Recently, this habit of fleeing to abstraction has been manifest in matters of fiscal policy as well. Bill Frist recently wrote an op-ed piece in which he lauded the Republican Congress’s spending habits with this sojourn into abstraction:

“Although tax rates have gone down, increased economic activity has made up some of the difference: Revenues soared last year and the 2006 budget deficit, as a percentage of GDP, is lower than it has been during 16 of the past 25 years.”
(How about if you tell me how much more money I and my family owe to Asian governments. I want a dollar amount, not a weird statistic about a percentage of GDP in x out of x number of years…)

Maybe this is the appeal of John McCain- his willingness to speak frankly on any number of issues.


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