Saturday, March 7, 2009

Debating a liberal - it's fun if you know which buttons to push

A few weeks ago I had a distinct pleasure of having a very classical debate with a liberal. Boy, was it fun?! We drank beer, we had shots of vodka and we debated the finer points of liberalist ideology. Anyway, lets not prolong the introduction and get to the main dish.

The debate started when my liberal acquaintance proudly announced that Canadians are better people than Americans because the Canucks are more socially conscientious. What a delight! As they say at the beginning of a boxing match – “Lets rumble!” So, I asked him – if a nation is suffering under a murderous repressive regime, or a country is facing a natural disaster – do we see the people shouting on the streets –where are the Canadians to help us? When the situations are dire, and urgent help is required to save millions of lives – has anyone, ever, asked – I wonder when the Canadians are coming to save us? Has a single fascist dictator ever pondered whether his murderous rule over the enslaved people may come to an abrupt end because those pesky Canadians would see to it?!

My liberal friend explained that Canada is, alas, not very wealthy or powerful, and they cannot afford to build planes or ships that could carry millions of tones of food and medical drugs to help the starving nations. And their military is a joke due to their general pacifism, so no one is expecting Canadians to rush in to depose a dictator or stop genocide or rescue millions of people from starvation. I guess it’s an all essential part of the “social conscience” of theirs – I replied, that makes them utterly unable to do anything useful in any quantifiable measure, so that the world could notice them. They are too busy feeling good about themselves to actually do something good for the mankind.

From this point, the debate for some reason moved on to the wealth creation and how it should be “fairly divided” between the people. My liberal friend quickly asserted that we must help each other, since, as the liberal cliché goes – we are our brother’s keeper. That by itself is a laughing issue for anyone who likes Woody Allen's movies and remembers “Love and Death” as much as I do. The reply to this meanless cliche is well-known, and all the non-initiated can read it in my Note 1 in the reference section.

A few minutes later my liberal opponent confessed to me that he believed that no one should earn more than 1 million dollars a year (he was fuzzy on the exact sum, but it fluctuated from 1 million dollars to 2 million dollars). As he proudly said – no man’s labor is worth that much. “No man’s?” – I asked. “No man's work is worth that much”, he confirmed. For some time I was a tad startled since I rarely see Americans who believe in such nonsense. Granted, my liberal friend surely made this conclusion based on his quite limited acquitance with talented men (and women - see Note 2) – and who can blame him if in his whole life he never saw anyone of high intelligence – heck, even median intelligence would suffice. I guess I was a bright spot in his life, which he should cherish for the end of his pathetic life – although he surely was too dull to recognize this.

I decided to move slowly from this point. I did not want to turn upside down the apple cart the way Mark Twain’s hero in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court” did with the illiterate peasants after he failed to explain to them the difference between the real wage and the nominal wage. My liberal friend unhesitatingly told me that a man who invented a cure for cancer did not deserve 1 million dollars, nor did the best sportsman or an artist. After all, he said, so many people were poor in America, was it fair when someone had so much more than others? It was not relevant to him that people would voluntarily pay for the services or goods – it did not matter in the least that all transactions were voluntary.

I let him wallow in his moral supremacy for about 10 more minutes (these were the longest 10 minutes in my life), until I decided it was the right time to spring on him the Hayek's argument (see Note 3 for comments). I said to him: "Pray tell me, if you believe you have the moral right to decide the limits on how much the most fruitful, ingenious and successful American inventor may earn – do you believe that a poor goat shepherd in Afghanistan has a moral right to claim same authority over you? Does he not deserve the right to limit YOUR life style and your salary?”. These questions clearly embarrassed the young lad. He immediately replied that his money belonged to him, and that no stinking shepherd from an Afghan shithole had a right to decide what he deserved to own. But it was clear even to him that there was some contradiction in his position – even though it was difficult to pinpoint the exact source of the fallacy in his argument. It seemed to me that what was fair for him should also be also fair for a shepherd – even from the Afghan shithole. His only remaining defense (which he used after some considerable hesitation) was to fall back to nationalism and claim that he owed nothing to a person in a far away Afghanistan. Somehow, his self-professed brotherly love and care immediately disappeared from his worldview when he was faced with a distinct possibility that some illiterate peasant would be allowed to make claims on the fruits of his labor. In other words, his liberal passions were unable to cross the national borders...

Needless to say I felt quite satisfied – and I decided to share this uplifting story with y'all. I hope this debate will serve as a nice tutorial for any aspiring conservative or libertarian wishing to debate a liberal. That's how it's done. Make them feel bad about themselves - using their own weapons.

Note 1
In the movie “Love and Death”, Woody Allen is a Russian, who lives in a small village in the 1800s. At some point, the village finds out about the impending war between Russia and France and it makes the whole village, including his brother Ivan very happy All people in the village gladly volunteer to be in the front lines – that is everyone except Woody Allen. The following dialogue ensues between Woody Allen and the village elders who trying to persuade him to be more patriotic and join the campaign.
-What are you going to do when the French soldiers rape your sister?
-I don't have one.
-That's no answer.
-They won't rape lvan. They'd throw up.

Following this script I replied to my liberal friend that I don’t have a brother when he told me about my duty to be my brother’s keeper. For some reason, he too believed this was not an answer. BTW, don’t try to be a smart-ass and tell me that the term “brother’s keeper” originated in Torah. Yes, it did, but if you read the Torah, it refers to a very different matter.

Note 2
The famous phrase man or woman, of course, comes from the Monty Python’s immortal “Life of Brian”. Here is the actual quote:
I think Judith's point of view is valid here, Reg, provided the Movement never forgets that it is the inalienable right of every man ...
STAN Or woman.
FRANCIS Or woman ... to rid himself ...
STAN Or herself.
REG Or herself. Agreed. Thank you, brother.
STAN Or sister.
FRANCIS Thank you, brother. Or sister. Where was I?
REG I thought you'd finished.
FRANCIS Oh, did I? Right.
REG Furthermore, it is the birthright of every man ...
STAN Or woman.
REG Why don't you shut up about women, Stan, you're putting us off.

Note 3
This argument comes from the Hayek’s famous book “The Road to Serfdom”. In one of the chapters, Hayek convincingly explains why socialists eventually become nationalists. After all, they cannot consistently promote the idea of equality and spreading the wealth in their country – while ignoring the equally fair claims from the poverty stricken countries in Africa. Aren’t poor working folks in Afghanistan just as deserving of the wealth of American industrialists as a street bum in San Francisco?


Anonymous said...

I followed you here from TH. Great read. And I, too have a liberal friend who loves to use those same arguments. He is so full of himself, and his views! I would never presume to change his mind, but if logic is indeed a science/math, he is oh-so-flawed!!
(for some reason the typepad won't let me post...)

Anonymous said...

Your friend shows the usual complete American ignorance of Canada. I was a Canadian and am now an American (not hyphenated). Check out how much oil is shipped from Canada to the US each day, about 75% of the US needs. As to the military it is small but very well trained.Ask the Germans on Juno beach in 1944 how they got obliterated by such a bad military.
You know as an immigrant I really am tired of teaching Americans their own geography and history. Mind you that is usually liberals if I can get them to pull their head out of their ass!

cathiwim said...

Wonderful post! I also followed you here from TH and I will bookmark your blog. You have such a much better understanding of what a republic should be, compared to the average American. I will have to learn your responses, to know how to answer sillies who think socialism is the way to go. The only thing I have been able to come up with so far, is "it didn't work for the USSR, what makes anyone think it will work now?" That's the best I can do at the moment. I am too busy starting my own midwifery service to concentrate on much politics! :) thanks and keep posting

Anonymous said...

Very astute observations of the liberal mind set vs the capitalist or conservative mind set. Perhaps without realizing it, you hit on one of the key differences and that is that liberals are quite satisfied with mediocre. Excellence in anything scares them. I guess it makes them look bad or feel inferior, and heaven forbid that they allow anything to make them feel bad.

Liberals are not the kind of people who believe in objective reality or in personal responsibility. They would rather rely on their emotions and their own reality. To them, 2+2 isn't necessarily 4, nor is logic a viable way to view life. It's all relative to what's going on at the time. If they see themselves as kind and compassionate, then by golly, they are kind and compassionate and what ever they do is kind and compassionate, even if it is evil and disgusting.

I had to chuckle at your "let's ramble". Should be "rumble". Other than that you're grammar and style of writing is excellent. I'm impressed since English is your second language.

Anonymous said...

Found your blog and it is funny, even for an old grandma and original ayn rand follower like me. sent it to my son with the following: "it should have just enough 'cuss' words and reason to interest you.