Opinion

Opinion

Has America lost its ability to reason?

December 2, 2009

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I was sure I’d heard the high school teacher wrong. He told me the biggest problem he has with his students — many of whom end up in America’s top universities — was that they didn’t know how to read.

“Oh, they’ve cracked the alphabetic code,” he clarified. “What I’m saying is they don’t have the ability to sit still with a text and read it for comprehension. Even worse, when they come across something they disagree with, they think it isn’t true. I’m not talking about opinions; I’m talking about facts.”

What troubles the teacher is not that his students are reaching wrong conclusions. What troubles him is that they don’t grasp that they should make the effort to reason at all.

He’s right to worry. If the best and brightest have lost faith in the power of critical reasoning to illuminate the way forward, we’re in trouble.

Whether they realize it, ordinary people have become more comfortable with the idea that truth is relative and that emotion is a reliable and sufficient guide to finding it. For many of us, what’s true is whatever is pleasing and useful.

For at least a generation, this sort of thing has panicked conservative thinkers, who blame liberals for mainstreaming moral relativism and lack of respect for truth, except in the culturally Marxist sense of being a tool for social or political change. Relativism in this sense is no longer a specialty of the left. Here’s the nut of an exchange I’ve had many times over the past year with fellow conservatives:

“Barack Obama is a Muslim.”

“No, he’s not.”

“You have your opinion; I have mine.”

There is no way to argue with this, if by “argument” you mean the exercise of analyzing premises and data to reach a deliberative conclusion. This is argument as mere contradiction. You might say that approaching life this way will lead you into a world of trouble, but then again, you have your opinion, and they have theirs.

Which brings us to Sarah Palin and her best-selling new book, “Going Rogue.” Palin’s is plainly a red-hot political brand — and the purest instance of right-wing identity politics and its folly.

As an early Palin supporter, I cheered for the feisty small-town Alaskan who wasn’t part of the political and cultural elite. But when she started talking, revealing that she had no interesting thoughts about national governance, I was reminded of why a political elite matters. We don’t need leaders who are just like us. We need them to be smarter and more capable. Neither race, class, religion, geographical background nor any other demographic characteristic can make up for incompetence.

Palin has had a year to immerse herself in all the things a serious national leader must care about. On evidence of “Going Rogue,” she’s wasted her time.

Her mind isn’t geared toward resolving basic philosophical contradictions like her observation that corporations and politicians often collude against the common good, and her dogmatic belief in the sanctity of free enterprise. Well, which is it? You can’t hymn the majesties of capitalism’s “creative destruction” on one page, while proclaiming yourself a staunch defender of traditional families and institutions on another.

To be fair, no other Republicans have managed to reconcile this, either. The problem for Palin is that she doesn’t see that there’s anything to be reconciled. The problem for her ardent followers is that they see no reason to question her on anything and reject all criticism of her as made in bad faith. The problem for all of us is that this incoherence is increasingly taken for normal.

Palin’s vacuous populism is a crude example of intellectual corruption tainting public discourse. We saw a more sophisticated form recently when computer hackers revealed hidden e-mails from top climate scientists, in which they discussed secretly manipulating data and marginalizing heterodox colleagues, all to advance their global-warming views.

When scientists, who are supposed to be disinterested expert investigators of empirical data, are unmasked as cutthroat political infighters who don’t respect truth and its unbiased pursuit if it interferes with their agenda, it becomes harder to convince ordinary people to trust the judgment of elites.

They have their opinion, and you have yours.

The late critic Jane Jacobs defined culture as the worldview-defining thoughts you carry around in your head. Not long before she died, she wrote, “A culture is unsalvageable if stabilizing forces themselves become ruined and irrelevant.” Traditional belief in the effectiveness of reason, however imperfectly realized, has long been a stabilizing force in our liberal democracy.

If that faith is slipping into irrelevance, we are going to lose more than our minds. That beleaguered teacher’s incurious and indifferent students are bird brains in a cultural coal mine.

Comments

Paul R Getto 6 years, 7 months ago

In a digital age, where older faculty deal with digital natives who are developing a new learning style, this will be a significant challenge. The essential problem: Too many people are going to college to 'get a good job' and they have drifted from their central intellectual mission. The kids are just as smart as earlier generations, there is just a new learning style developing and the colleges must adapt.

Brent Garner 6 years, 7 months ago

What else should you expect when we have spent one and almost two full generations emphasizing self-esteem and self-worth over facts and reasoning. We have sown the chaff and now we shall reap the whirlwind.

LA_Ex 6 years, 7 months ago

This entire article is just the opinion of the author and I'm buying it.

jaywalker 6 years, 7 months ago

Excellent piece!!!!!!!! Spot on, tip top, brilliant - gonna have to keep an eye out for this guy along w/ Schribman. Printing this out, it's a keeper.

mom_of_three 6 years, 7 months ago

Tom, this guy is a conservative who once was a Palin supporter, but realized her short comings. Come on. Just because she is a republican doesn't mean all repubs have to support her or her every action.

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

Tom--your comments are EXACTLY what this fellow is talking about. I'm embarrassed for you--I expected better of you.

Keith 6 years, 7 months ago

And Tom is a perfect example of the point of this opinion column.

georgiahawk 6 years, 7 months ago

Tom is an example of what Dreher is talking about. Good job Tom! You never disappoint!

Kirk Larson 6 years, 7 months ago

He blames liberal relativism. I don't think so. Reality is relative, it is detailed, it is nuanced. I blame conservative belief. Conservatives seem to think that if you believe something hard enough it will be true, d@mn reality, d@mn the facts. e.g. There are WMD's, the President IS a Muslim foreigner, abstinence- only sex ed results in fewer STd's and pregnancies...

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

cappy--you are going to need some more absurd examples than that! You personally can't prove that any of those three you gave don't have some basis in reality. For my money, it has never been actually proven that Obama is NOT a Muslim foreigner. It would be so nice if the media were more truthful about that.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 7 months ago

Based on the result of last year's election, I'd say "yup".

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 7 months ago

Great article.

I would say that the problem is even deeper than mere ignorance of reason. Some are able to reason and recognize facts, but they choose to eschew these to further a political or cultural agenda.

It is their conscious dismissal and disregard of facts that seeds the destruction of reason in society.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

canyon wren, you can't prove a negative. Before you slam Cappy, give some proof that those things ARE true.

And proof, please, that Obama is a Muslim foreigner---any proof whatsoever. Your (lack of) reasoning is exactly what this article is about and you have just helped to prove this author's point.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

yourworst nightmare---"It is their conscious dismissal and disregard of facts that seeds the destruction of reason in society."

Exactly.

Satirical 6 years, 7 months ago

I actually liked the central message ("ordinary people have become more comfortable with the idea that truth is relative and that emotion is a reliable and sufficient guide to finding it"), even though this article was all over the place, was obviously partisan based, and is contradictory when it lambastes substituting opinion for facts but then does the same thing.

While I could not forsee myself voting for Palin, this author ignores the well-known political tactic of talking in broad themes which the average American can easily understand. Maybe it isn't a tactic for Palin, but instead shows the limits of her intelligence. However, this author's "facts" hardly lead to the single conclusion which he draws.

This author thinks Palin's book should have been written more like a law review article which wrestles "philosophical contradictions" (which he later notes she couldn't do so if she tried because all Republicans can resolve these contradictions according to his liberal standard). Yet did Obama's book do this?

No agenda here.

Satirical 6 years, 7 months ago

Correction: "...all Republicans (can't) resolve these contradictions according to his liberal standard."

Sigmund 6 years, 7 months ago

"Her mind isn’t geared toward resolving basic philosophical contradictions like her observation that corporations and politicians often collude against the common good, and her dogmatic belief in the sanctity of free enterprise. Well, which is it?"

Where exactly is this supposed contradiction? If 'Free Enterprise' is business governed by the laws of supply and demand, not restrained by government interference, regulation or subsidy, then corporation colluding with government is not Free Enterprise and then these is no philosophical contradiction.

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

verity---I only emphasized the one item that I feel there really has been NO concrete proof of--and that is Obama's citizenship. To my knowledge, there never HAS been offered the kind of actual proof of his birth in Hawaii that all of us are required to provide when applying for a passport--and there has been some very significant evidence that he at least received scholarships, etc. as a "foreign student." But I suppose, as this column purports, you have "your opinion" about that and have neglected to even consider those possibilities, which is pretty pitiful.

madameX 6 years, 7 months ago

I think what he means is that collusion against the common good is inevitable if it is not prevented and a true free enterpreise system doesn't include any prevention. Maybe it would have been better stated as "corporations and politicians often take advantage of market freedom to collude against the common good." The contridiction is between the belief that pure free enterprise should not be messed with, ever (I guess because it is believed to be what is best for the common good?) and the reality that pure free enterprise, while not necessarily condoning or including this collusion, still leaves room for it.

remember_username 6 years, 7 months ago

Well said Mr. Dreher. But it's not just conservative thinkers who are panicked, but any reasoning person capable of critical thinking should feel a sense of impending doom. TomShewmon's response couldn't have been a more apt example of the point of the article. We are all living in a world today that is influenced more by spin than reason. While it's great that we are such passionate creatures, it is catastrophic when we are not governed by reason. Unfortunately, those who remain capable of critical thought are rarely heard above the ravings of the passionate.

Satirical 6 years, 7 months ago

Canyon_wren…

You do realize he produced a copy of his birth certificate, and the State of Hawaii has verified he was born there, right?

To borrow a phrase: For a believer, no evidence is necessary. For a non-believer, no evidence is enough.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

wren, I have looked at the facts as presented. If you believe that no proof has been presented regarding Obama's citizenship, then you are exactly what the author is talking about. Either you have not researched or you are purposefully disregarding facts. So you attack me personally.

Show me proof that Obama is a foreign Muslim. Show me facts.

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

verity--what do you have to say about his receiving a scholarship as a foreign student? I don't think there is any doubt about that. As far as being a Muslim--there has been some evidence of that as being part of his past--though of course he claims not to be one now.

There's an old saying that we are known by the company we keep. The company the Big O has kept in the past doesn't augur well for his truthfulness and appropriateness as our country's leader, regardless. I know I won't change your mind and vice versa, but history will show the truth eventually, I feel sure.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

canyon wren, If you show me proof that Obama is a foreign Muslim, I will change my mind.

Keith 6 years, 7 months ago

"canyon_wren (Anonymous) says… verity–I only emphasized the one item that I feel there really has been NO concrete proof of—and that is Obama's citizenship. To my knowledge, there never HAS been offered the kind of actual proof of his birth in Hawaii that all of us are required to provide when applying for a passport"

WRONG, he showed exactly the proof I was required to show when I applied for a passport, the state verification of the original birth certificate. Thanks for being yet another proof of the column above.

Sigmund 6 years, 7 months ago

madameX (Anonymous) says… "Maybe it would have been better stated as “corporations and politicians often take advantage of market freedom to collude against the common good.”

Maybe, maybe not. When we read an article titled "Has America lost its ability to reason?" are we then left to guess what he means instead of taking him at his word? The author either misstates what he meant or what Palin believes. Central to an ability to reason is the ability to clearly articulate the facts and your beliefs. Perhaps America has lost its ability to reason because journalist have lost their ability to write clearly.

In either case there is no contradiction between believe in Free Enterprise and a disgust at corporations colluding with government. In fact to believe otherwise would be the logical inconsistency.

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

verity--if I were convinced you would believe it, I would make every effort to come up with it. Other posters probably could provide it, as well. I really don't mean to attack you personally. I would give a great deal to be able to believe that Obama is the person you and others think he is. I am not a card-carrying Right Winger; I don't have TV so am not addicted to Fox News. I just have a very bad feeling about what is happening now--and am not alone. I hope we are wrong.

Keith 6 years, 7 months ago

"canyon_wren (Anonymous) says… verity—what do you have to say about his receiving a scholarship as a foreign student? I don't think there is any doubt about that."

Most of us were able to recognize that as an email hoax.

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

Keith--are you really sure about that? The photo copies from USC or UCLA, or wherever it was (a S. California university) look pretty official. The scary thing is--even photos and videos now can be altered in such a way that both liberals and conservatives can manipulate the public, and I think both are guilty of that.

I strongly recommend that you read Thomas Sowell's website for some clarity. He has impeccable qualifications.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

canyon wren,

I am not completely happy about what is happening in our country and government either. I voted for Obama and would do so again, but I do not support everything he and his administration are doing---and would never expect to with anybody. I think we have come to the edge of the cliff and I hope we will not go over.

So I agree with you on that, but---and this is my opinion, based on what I see---I do think that he is trying to do his best.

If I was uncivil in my comments to you, I apologize.

Keith 6 years, 7 months ago

Try snopes.com, a web site not run by liberals, dedicated to debunking all sorts of internet nonsense believed by the gullible,

Keith 6 years, 7 months ago

By the way, it didn't take me long on Thomas Sowell's website to find this, thanks for pointing me there.

"Unfortunately, all that most people know about Barack Obama is his own rhetoric and that of his critics. Moreover, some of his more irresponsible critics have made wild accusations— that he is not an American citizen or that he is a Muslim, for example.

All that such false charges do is discredit Obama's critics in general. Fortunately, there is a documented, factual account of what Barack Obama has actually been doing over the years, as distinguished from what he has been saying during this election campaign, in a new best-selling book."

BrianR 6 years, 7 months ago

Fascinating that there are sill wacko 'birthers' out there.

Better be careful, someone you're insulting might be on your death panel.

georgiahawk 6 years, 7 months ago

America, stop everything! Canyon Wren has a "very bad feeling about what is going on now", that is all the evidence I need. I am sure that is all any of us need. He has no evidence, but that bad feeling... we must do something to stop it!

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

georgia--what a ridiculous statement to make! I "would have no disciples"--I trust others to follow their own inner light, as well. I just said that I hoped I was wrong, but I have every right to my own bad feeling, and if you don't have some reservations about the direction our country is going (particularly how much money--that we don't have--that is being committed to this project and that--and our increasing debt to China), you are even more gullible than I am!

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

PS. I am not a "he," if it makes any difference!

whynaut 6 years, 7 months ago

Good, thought provoking article.

Good explanation, maddameX, of what I agree to be the author's meaning behind the collusion allusion.

And a VERY good point by Made_in_China (first post). Information was much more digestible when it there wasn't so much of it. The techniques for thinking critically in a data deluge will have to adapt in order to be effective. The newer generations are just as capable of reasoning and critical thinking as their predecessors, but the medium and volume has changed. Drastically.

With so much information coming in, from all over the world, we are definitely struggling to organize it in our minds, and decide its relevance to us as individuals, as a culture, and as a society. It reminds me of a tourist visiting a bustling marketplace in a foreign land, where they are duped, ripped off, or pick pocketed because they are overwhelmed and/or inexperienced. It takes a while to learn the ropes, but once you do, you can avoid the scammers, ignore the hecklers, and know exactly where to go to get the best deal on the freshest kumkwats.

So... we haven't forgotten how to reason or think critically on issues. We're just adapting to an ever rapidly changing market of ideas.

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

Keith--thanks for finding this comment of Sowell's. I have lots of confidence in him and would have voted for him in a heartbeat if he had been inclined to run. He has lots of other good, very conservative things to say that you might appreciate! He has written some amazing books on a wide range of subjects in addition to his own field of economics.

mom_of_three 6 years, 7 months ago

here is what snopes.com said about the obama attending OCCIDENTAL college in California, and the article to which wren referred to. http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/birthers/occidental.asp

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

Tom--my comment about "not being addicted to Fox News" was not a criticism of Fox News--just a response to those who do accuse conservatives of such an addiction. I feel like Fox is no more guilty of misrepresenting the "truth" than the other major networks and does make some things known that are being purposely kept from the public.

mom_of_three 6 years, 7 months ago

Tom talking about coping skills and thinking liberals are lacking.... Tom, meet kettle. Kettle, meet tom.

notajayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

verity (Anonymous) says…

"canyon wren, you can't prove a negative."

Why not? Can't the Liberals prove how many jobs would have been lost, and how bad the economy would be if not for Obama's 'stimulus?'


Yes, that's right, boys and girls, it's Conservatives who don't know how to reason any more. Liberals have a lock on reasoning and logic.

Like sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan is bringing the troops home.

Like spending a trillion dollars (or perhaps six trillion - whatever) will lower healthcare costs.

Like cutting 500 billion dollars from Medicare will improve the quality of care for the elderly.

Yep, you guys are the poster children for reasoning ability, that's for sure.

MyName 6 years, 7 months ago

Here notajay let me pick those strawmen back up so you can give them another good whack...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

Sigmund 6 years, 7 months ago

whynaut (Anonymous) says… "Good, thought provoking article. Good explanation, maddameX, of what I agree to be the author's meaning behind the collusion allusion."

If what is said doesn't make a lick of sense just redefine it to make sense, but in some other form that doesn't exist but it is something we must "intuit" because we agree with the conclusion? "Has America lost its ability to reason?" Yes, and this article, its author, and much of the reader reaction are a perfect examples.

webmocker 6 years, 7 months ago

Canyon et al:

p>Snopes.com has the Obama foreign student discussion covered.

http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/birthers/occidental.asp

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

Good job, notajayhawk! I have been wondering how the Afghanistan plans are striking all the Obama supporters about now. It's not that I blame Obama (totally) for making promises he can't keep--I blame the voters for believing him when he did. Things are getting really interesting!

whynaut 6 years, 7 months ago

Sigmund & LibertyOne

"...there is no contradiction between believe (sic) in Free Enterprise and a disgust at corporations colluding with government. In fact to believe otherwise would be the logical inconsistency."

It's one thing to believe in the principles of free enterprise and quite another to believe that unregulated implementation of those principles is a realistic solution for the current state of U.S. economy.

We can all appreciate the naturally regulating laws of supply and demand that we learned back in Elementary School Social Studies. I still remember the flow chart depicting the balanced cycle of Fox and Rabbit populations over time.

However, in the empirical world of real life, we see that the belief of a free market system unregulated by gov't and left to regulate itself for the economic betterment of all, actually often leads to opportunism, exploitation, and corruption, which in turn, often leads to the disgusting collusions mentioned in the article.

Thus, if you believe that a real world implementation of an unregulated free market system actually leads to corruption and collution between business and gov't, then I see no "logical inconsistency" in finding a contradiction between an individual's support of the former, and disgust for the latter.

Of course I'm assuming that when Palin says she believes in the free market, she IS talking about a real world implementation, and not just about the commonly accepted rules of supply and demand that we all needed to know to pass 5th grade.

madameX 6 years, 7 months ago

Well, then, Sigmund, my apologies to you for trying to clarify what I acknowledge to be a flawed sentence that employs what isn't that great of an example to begin with. I thought you might be genuinely perplexed about the argument the author was attempting to make rather than taking issue with the way he made it.

Tom McCune 6 years, 7 months ago

I believe Tiger Woods is the real Muslim, what with his four wives, and his truck bombing of that poor fire hydrant and that poor tree and all. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

meggers 6 years, 7 months ago

canyon_wren,

Obama said all during the campaign that Afghanistan is the war we should be fighting and that we need responsibly end the war in Iraq and focus on Afghanistan. I voted for him, despite my reservations about Afghanistan being a winnable war. The bottom line, though, is that Obama has not broken any promises in regards to Afghanistan.

canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for the info, meggers! I'm glad to hear that. Most of my liberal friends had the impression that he would not be involving us in any expanded warfare--that's where I picked up that notion. Not that I am for or against what we are doing in Afghanistan--I just think trying to change things over there is an exercise in futility.

MyName 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm sorry Tom, you can't have it both ways. Either Palin is a serious politician whose ideas and proposals must stand up to real scrutiny, or she's an entertainer and any criticism of her is no more valid than that of a book reviewer.

You let us know which of the two she is, and we'll let you know whether "reason" needs to be applied here.

Sigmund 6 years, 7 months ago

whynaut (Anonymous) says… "Sigmund & LibertyOne ... It's one thing to believe in the principles of free enterprise and quite another to believe that unregulated implementation of those principles is a realistic solution for the current state of U.S. economy."

Where did Palin or the author say this? Is this just your opinion of the authors opinion of what Palin thinks?

whynaut (Anonymous) says… "We can all appreciate the naturally regulating laws of supply and demand that we learned back in Elementary School Social Studies. I still remember the flow chart depicting the balanced cycle of Fox and Rabbit populations over time."

Economic supply and demand and populations of fox and and rabbits is social studies? Do not confuse the economic law of supply and demand, free markets, and ecosystem population dynamics, they are completely different concepts. For instance the economic law of supply and demand still operate in non-free markets (ie government controlled markets).

In the real world or any hypothetical world, to the degree there is collusion between government and business you have the same degree less of free markets, by definition. The more regulation you have the less free those markets are. To the degree that there is collusion between business and governments in those regulations (for example regulations that favour one business at he expense of other businesses) you have less free markets.

Palin's supposed lack of reasoning (at least as reported by the author) is that she opposes business and government collusion and supports free markets. Whether you agree with free markets or how much government regulation you think is appropriate, irrespective of the economics of foxes and rabbits taught in your social studies class, those two positions are completely consistent with one another.

MyName 6 years, 7 months ago

@Sigmund:

If they are consistent, then why does regulation exist? Lassiz-Faire capitalism inevitably leads to a race to the bottom. This is visible everywhere from sausage making (which led to the creation of the FDA) to the sub-prime mortgage crisis of today.

Regulation exists because a completely free market leads to spectacular failures. Collusion (and corruption) are the response of some actors in the market to this regulation.

The criticism of Palin's book is that it is heavy on shallow pandering to her base, and light on actual policy. In order to be taken seriously as a politician, the burden of proof is on Palin to demonstrate that she is actually able to govern as right now her approach to elections is about as serious as a beauty contestant.

MyName 6 years, 7 months ago

Tom:

I'm not necessarily defending Palin. The hatred (read: fear) of her on the left is just about to make me want to vomit.

I'm sorry you have such a weak stomach. But the problem with Palin is that no one with half a brain wants to take the chance that someone with the personality of a backstabbing beauty contestant and who has no interest in world issues or serious policy is going to be running the executive. It's hard to believe that any party could come up with a candidate worse than Bush, but Palin might just be it.

Sigmund 6 years, 7 months ago

MyName (Anonymous) says… "Regulation exists because a completely free market leads to spectacular failures. Collusion (and corruption) are the response of some actors in the market to this regulation."

Name completely free unregulated market. The most regulated of markets, the stock market, has both booms and spectacular failures, as does every other regulated and "unregulated" market I can imagine. Spectacular failures are characteristics of markets, regulated or not.

Which brings us back to my original observation. Palin's supposed lack of reasoning (at least as reported by the author) is that she both opposes business and government collusion and at the same time supports free markets. Whether you agree with free markets or how much government regulation you think is appropriate, those two positions are completely consistent with one another.

MyName 6 years, 7 months ago

Let's review the argument again:

1) Palin claims that free markets intrinsically work towards the public good and should not be regulated, but also laments later in the book that free markets often end up working against the public good in many cases. The author of this believes that is a contradiction.

2) Your response is that it is not a contradiction because the only time the free market acts against the public good is when government regulation is involved. So that the free markets are not, in fact, "free".

3) My response is that historically this is not true, because regulation is created in a response to failures in the unregulated free market: e.g., meat packers selling rotten meat to the public to save a buck, people selling fake or misleading stocks or insurance policies, or failing to pay when they should and forcing the policyholder to go to court, again to save themselves a buck, etc. ad nauseum.

4) Your response is now that pure unrestricted free markets do not exist in real life. So my examples are not conflicting.

I don't see how this helps either your earlier arguments, or for that matter helps Palin out as now you're claiming that she believes in some kind of fantasy utopia system (like pure communism), and is only upset because reality fails to mesh with the dream. I suppose you're saying that she's not illogical, she's just an idealistic dreamer which makes her a much better candidate than a pragmatic leader who actually has to govern.

Sigmund 6 years, 7 months ago

From the article: "Her mind isn’t geared toward resolving basic philosophical contradictions like her observation that corporations and politicians often collude against the common good, and her dogmatic belief in the sanctity of free enterprise."

Notice no use of the following words; regulated, unregulated, foxes, rabbits, intrinsically, restricted, unrestricted. As for what she wrote in her book, I have no idea and don't care. Simply based upon the quote from this article there is not contradiction.

You can argue the merits or lack of merit of various regulations ad infinitum an it won't change the basic fact, Palin's beliefs as stated in that quote above are not inconsistent with one another.

notajayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

MyName (Anonymous) says…

"Here notajay let me pick those strawmen back up so you can give them another good whack…"

Oh, lookie, MyName learned a new term, and he has wiki to back him up.

My comment was in response to some previous posts that pointed out some examples of poor reasoning attributable to conservatives, MyName. It gave a few examples demonstrating that conservatives hardly have an exclusive on such thinking. Sorry if you think that's irrelevant - but then, the other point of view always is, right? Thanks for another fine example of what Mr. Dreher was talking about when he said "what’s true is whatever is pleasing and useful."

MyName 6 years, 7 months ago

@notajay:

My point was the examples you gave of "librul reasonin" were completely worthless mischaracterizations of the actual arguments, just like all the other strawmen arguments coming from a side that seems to be devoid of any policy ideas. If you want to claim that both sides are just as bad, you should at least give fair examples of poor reasoning from both sides.

@Liberty_One:

"A common misconception which is simply false. Regulations are created because the free market is so successful."

O really, like how the meat packers were so successful at hiding rotten meat and poor sanitary conditions, so they needed to pass the Pure Food and Drug act to keep them from taking over the world. Or how we needed to pass the Clean Water act because companies were so successful at dumping their toxic waste into our rivers that they would push out special interests. Little regulations like that?

And again, even if you're right that a pure unadulterated free market would solve everything, you're still left with trying to convince us that an unattainable utopian dream is somehow helpful in making real world policy.

George Lippencott 6 years, 7 months ago

I am glad to see so many comments. I consider this an interesting hypothesis. Making a generalized statement about a broad segment of our society, however, might be a bit of a reach.

I have been trying to say something like this on my blog but have never been as concrete as this.

I do find too many people in this blog world holding on to simplistic”talking points” long after they have been shown to be imprecise. I am older and my life experiences suggest that we are a lot more complicated then any “talking point” can reflect.

I also note in this blogosphere individuals that reject all disagreement as the product of ignorance. If I do not agree, it must be wrong. Could it be possible that some individuals have a different set of experiences and are sharing them? Sometimes the simplicity of “talking points” avoids the nuances that reflect reality.

Somebody please explain to me how this discussion became so wrapped up with Mrs. Palin? That was just an example of the author’s personal perceptions of her book. Others may draw other conclusions.

Many politicians focus on the obvious and state their commitment to making it better. They seem to avoid the fact that other very competent politicians have made the same promises in the past and failed to deliver. Many of our problems are complex. Maybe simplistic statement that one will fix them should be supported with, as the commercial says, “the how”? Some of us older folk are more aware of that tendency since it is not something new.

Jeff Kilgore 6 years, 7 months ago

The average American reads at the eighth grade level, watches shows like Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? for an intellectual challenge, and believes that they are informed by watching television! What does that tell you? Is this reasoning? Really?

But "lost" the ability to reason? That begs the question if we ever had it in the first place. If the 1960s and 1970s education was as poor all over the country as it was in SW Kansas where I grew up, then yes, we're lost as charged. There is no way that the current generation in public schools can be any dumber than our boomer generation. I'm 50.

Today, the vast majority fathers of high school boys have no idea what their sons do or don't do in public schools, and if pressed, probably couldn't tell you what their class schedule looks like. Most men have always been disinterested in reading and reasoning. Like animals, they want to be directed in what to think, what to buy, and what opinions to hold for what time of year. And they have 50-inch plasma screens with plenty of willing hucksters to give them advice. In their man "caves." Cavemen did not discuss the merits of utilitarianism versus socialism. They would've been happy in a big Ram truck.

Overall, the masses are as simple minded as the animals in Orwell's Animal Farm and will do the first thing that someone in a leadership position tells them to do. That isn't obedience. It's slavery, and slavery is the natural consequence of the entire anti-intellectual movement. Global warming? Huh uh! War in Iraq? You bet! Evolution in schools? No way! So then we're asked if America has "lost" its ability to reason. That's just funny to me, and it doesn't take much reason to see it.

Jeff Kilgore 6 years, 7 months ago

Prove me wrong. At least one man. Without googling, name the writer whose line I plagiarized from when I wrote, "what opinions to hold in what time of year."

Hint: it isn't Limbaugh, Hannity, Oberman, or Stewart.

Jeff Kilgore 6 years, 7 months ago

Liberty One, The problem with "the market is such a success" is that while this fact is demonstrably true, human beings may suffer as a result. It appears that market success should be the goal we aspire to but. . .

Market success also means that the cost of a 5 lb. bag of sugar is quite low compared to our wages. But who works the sugar fields? Starving Caribbean children who have recently eaten dirt cookies to survive during the 50 weeks that they're not paid for their harvest. Their wages are paid for by a very wealthy Miami family. We call it market success. What do you think a Haitian child would call it?

lctchr1 6 years, 7 months ago

A good example of what this any of the Sunday morning news programs. Our dear politicians can't even agree on any of the facts. How in the heck are they supposed to "do" anything if they can't even agree on basic facts. If you are still in the bash Republicans, bash Democrats crowd, you are completely out of touch. They are one in the same, Repubs and Dems. And I completely agree with George. Being intellectual is considered elitist in many places in this once great country. We have let this happen.

Jeff Kilgore 6 years, 7 months ago

Liberty? A myth? Try this one on:

"Despite betrayal of the secret to the meat packers, who worked three shifts a day for three weeks to clean the factories prior to the inspection, Neill and Reynolds were still revolted by the conditions at the factories and at the lack of concern by plant managers." wikipedia.org

So for three days they were tipped off and the plants were still disgusting. Besides, Pres. Roosevelt was already on to the horrible nasty socialist and wanted him watched.

The only myth is in your head where it has likely calcified.

George Lippencott 6 years, 7 months ago

TomShewmon (Tom Shewmon) says…

I guess I am shallow because I thought it was about "us" and she was an example of how we do not reason well anymore. I thought the author used other examples from the other side of the aisle. I am a like long middle of the roader and I do find Mrs. Palin's "how" to be a bit lacking!

George Lippencott 6 years, 7 months ago

jkilgore (Anonymous) says…

Thank you that one about meat packing was a bit hard to swallow

Jeff Kilgore 6 years, 7 months ago

Tom,

Obama = Harvard grad--very high in class

Palin = Idaho U journalism major

if you think those are equal qualifications, I would hate to have you working in my personnel department. Whether or not Obama was qualified or not remains to be seen. Palin, Miss Winky, was the one that was certainly not. I am more qualified than she is. Although Governor of Alaska must have been a heckuva youbetcha Gig! Yehaw!!!!

MyName 6 years, 7 months ago

@Tom:

You mean other than the fact that he's already been President for a year in one of the toughest climates imaginable while Palin quit her job as governor of a state that has a smaller population than the KC Metro area because of "too much criticism"?

And you're accusing me of drinking the kool-aid? I think you need to check your meds or something.

WHY 6 years, 7 months ago

America has not lost its ability to reason. This country was founded by people who thought the invisible man in the sky would bless them for establishing a country where we worship him by exercising our right to build strip malls. We have no reason to lose.

George Lippencott 6 years, 7 months ago

jkilgore (Anonymous) says…

Did Lincoln meet your demanding qualifications?

Tom McCune 6 years, 7 months ago

WHY:

Actually, many of the founders did not believe that. Washington, Jefferson, and Adams were all varying degrees of deists who did believe in some creative force but who eschewed traditional views of organized religion.

Washington belonged to no church. Jefferson was a Congregationalist who expressed strong unitarian leanings and Adams was a Unitarian. Not exactly a bunch of believers in quid pro quo from the Sky God. Abraham Lincoln was also a deist..

MyName 6 years, 7 months ago

Ah, I see, so the FDA was created from a 20 year lobbying effort as part of a conspiracy between socialists the drug companies, and the meat packing industry to restrict competition.

And this was obviously a resounding success since there have been no new meat packers, or drug companies created in the 100 years since the Food and Drug Act. And can't I see how deluded I've been and how the history books are lying about it!?!!!11!

Sarcasm?

WHY 6 years, 7 months ago

Your Money Tom??? You mean the money you generate using public roads, secured by public education, protected by public officials, and insured by public funds. Sure, you have a right to your money and the public has no right to any of it.

supertrampofkansas 6 years, 7 months ago

Liberty,

While you are correct to assert that regulations could be driven by interest groups interested in expanding their own products and bottom line, I think your analysis is far too simplistic and does not reflect the complex reality of what is actually happening in the market.

The example you are giving regarding the meat packing industry does not necessarily only benefit industry which seems to be what you are implying. Consumers could benefit from it as well in that they are being offered a much better and safer product. I do agree that for some examples consumers can and do influence product quality, but such consumer driven market mechanisms depend on knowledge and understanding of being able to ascertain when a product is inferior. Ultimately (part of what you are leaving out) is that these cheaper inferior products can dominate the market which does not benefit the consumer and stifles competition.

Try this link for more info: http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/Law.Food.and.Drug.Regulation

a_flock_of_jayhawks 6 years, 7 months ago

canyon_wren (Anonymous) says…

"I hope we are wrong."

Your wish has been granted.

jimmyjms 6 years, 7 months ago

"My reasoning skills work quite well"

"Whatever."

Indeed.

Rod Dreher is a conservative columnist who has written for National Review, The Weekly Standard, and The Wall Street Journal.

Reactions like Tom Shewmon's are characteristic of what's happening in the GOP (which Dreher nails with the term "vacuous populism") - facts be damned, let's listen to the ones who can scream the loudest while they try and foment dissent. To wit: Obama is a Muslim "Death Panels" H1N1 is a gov't plot Obama Youth Camps Socialism "They took our jobs!" "They'll take our guns!" etc.

Sad, really. This country desperately needs two healthy political parties, right now we have just about half of one.

George Lippencott 6 years, 7 months ago

Liberty_One (Anonymous) says…

Is there nothing for which we as consumers can create protections for ourselves before we get sick/killed? Inferior meat that kills you really limits your ability as a consumer to take revenge on those that did the deed.

BigPrune 6 years, 7 months ago

Has America lost its ability to reason?

If people believe the author didn't write this article to bash Palin, then by all means, the answer is, "Yes!"

a_flock_of_jayhawks 6 years, 7 months ago

BP, Palin is just a symptom of the disease, and the author uses her as an example, one of the most highly visible and apparent examples available. But the disease is still intact. Fortunately, the ridiculous stammering of the blithering idiots is finally starting to be realized by the general public as loudness of their fear-mongering gets weaker by the hour.

It's no wonder that opinions are confused for facts considering the pollution of media news by opinion-based "news" sources parading as legitimate news outlets.

gccs14r 6 years, 7 months ago

Without government regulation, quality products at a fair price is the exception, not the rule.

supertrampofkansas 6 years, 7 months ago

Liberty,

I suggest you move to Armenia Liberty. You should look them up. They have a purely market driven economy. I'm sure you will be quite happy there since you can pick and choose to your heart's delight.

MyName 6 years, 7 months ago

@Liberty_one:

"A great example of a non-sequitur. Regardless, your disbelief and poor logic doesn't change the facts."

No, your entire "point" about the meat packing industry was the non-sequitur: to the point where it was almost mockable. My larger point about the clean water and air acts, and many other regulations that have been put in place that protect consumers and force industry to provide a minimum level of quality has been completely ignored by you.

As was my other point about how your utopian idea of a market without any government at all being so unrealistic that any candidate who espouses to it should be disqualified from office as some one who is ignorant of history (which according to you should include Fmr. Gov. Palin).

If you're forced to pick and choose which of my arguments you want to respond to, because you can't find a logical reason to dismiss them, then maybe I'm not the one with "poor logic" skills.

George Lippencott 6 years, 7 months ago

Liberty_One (Anonymous) says…

Lippencott, absolutely you can, just don't ask me to pay for it and don't limit my ability to freely contract with others for products and services.

The problem is that you live here and if the majority of us want the government to do something you will pay along with the rest of us. That said trying to confuse consumer protection with market based notions is at best an attempt at disinformation. I grant you that in some cases we are approaching the nanny state but in our attempts at maintaing the food supply at an responsible level is not one of those.

George Lippencott 6 years, 7 months ago

Liberty_One (Anonymous) says…

I agree with the notion that a market economy will control itself given time and a true market.

I am not willing to die to identify the food criminal so that market controls can work.

Markets works great for many things. Thay do not work where the consequence of poor performance is fatal.

.

George Lippencott 6 years, 7 months ago

Liberty_One (Anonymous) says

When the state took away my right to "punish" those who cheat me

rabb 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm not saying that this sketch encapsulates anyone in particular, Im just saying....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teMlv3ripSM

Scott Drummond 6 years, 7 months ago

The answer to the question, of course, is "yes. Palin is a symptom. The rise of the corporate propaganda main stream media the chief culprit. And the pending further consolidation as a result of the Comcast and NBC merger does not bode well for the future.

jaywalker 6 years, 7 months ago

"Your Money Tom??? You mean the money you generate using public roads, secured by public education, protected by public officials, and insured by public funds. Sure, you have a right to your money and the public has no right to any of it. "

You have to be high, why. Only explanation for that post.

Chris Golledge 6 years, 7 months ago

There is a presumption that, as a society, we ever had an ability to reason that remains untested.

Other than that, Sarah Palin is, as John Cleese put it, a very pretty parrot, and, presuming that all scientists can not be trusted is painting with a pretty broad brush.

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