February 27, 2005
General interest: The Right's value fallacy and the Left's existential value system
The above fallacy is the root of the Right's whole "philosophy" of values, which is founded on a confusion between what is right and what is good. Real values are deduced from a process of reasoning on what is good. In other words, values are something that each of us comes to have due to having gone through a series of reasoning processes. They are our personal ethics. They are not, and cannot be, dictated to us by others or by society. The concept of what is "right," on the other hand, is based on conscience or emotions, that is, it is ultimately dictated to us by society as morality. An example should help to clarify this. A bill is to be reintroduced in the US Congress "that would require doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy to tell their patients that the fetus feels pain. Doctors must then offer anesthesia for the fetus." This is the Right's idea of "values." In fact, this has nothing to do with values. As much as it may disturb us to think of the pain that a 20-week fetus may suffer, the issue cannot be settled by an appeal to our emotions. Rather, the debate must revolve around the idea of what is the good thing to do in this situation. That can only be decided by including all the factors that bear on the situation, including the mother's health, her rights, her situation, and the social aspects of the question. Pain, by itself, is not an argument. If pain were an argument, it could be argued that anyone who suffers incurable pain should be euthanized.
Congrats! You have found a conservative audience, and one from the despised American "Deep South" at that. I must say I agree with your ideas in the second paragraph regarding the notification of potential abortion patients that their fetus will feel pain. Whether or not the child feel's pain is a non-issue and really does not matter. It is just a bill being pushed by some conservative somewhere to show his people that he is making an effort on an issue important to them. The true problem with abortion is not that it is legal or illegal but that it's legality is based on a legal precedent involving privacy rights rather than the state level governments. Large controversial issues should be left to the residents of a state to decide whether or not they agree or disagree with the issue at hand. I am currently writing a term paper on judicial activism on both sides of the isle. If tomorow the Supreme Court was wholly conservative abortion would be outlawed, while conversly, if it was all liberal Roe vs. Wade would be upheld. All in all it is a decision that neither the left side or the right should have to contend with. Democracy is about people making the decions thus we should see it happen. (By the way: I understand that my grammar and spelling can be a little off so just try and grasp the content. Believe me I get enough grief from my professors.)
The religious base of the Right (not so much the talking heads, but the Red States voters themselves) act on the same principle that drives the aristocratic expression of the Left (i.e. intellectuals/academics, artists, etc.) - that because of their special insight (in this case spiritual instead of intellectual) leads them to desire legislation and direction that involves sacrifice for an idealistic motive, rather than personal profit. There is little personal profit in anti-abortionism, anti-euthenasia, etc., and in some case there is sacrifice (as when someone with conservative morals is impregnated through rape or is diagnosed with a painful terminal disease).
What do you think about that?
I do agree with your deduction about Bush and Cheney, but I reckon that by the time the right has realized this, Karl Rove will have masterminded a way to spin this positively.
I have a hyper-conservative friend who is also fairly religious. I shared my concerns about Karl Rove with him (he's motivated by power and is willing to do anything to help those he believes in; he has no respect for dignity or truth) and my friend just sort of cackled evilly, like it was a guilty pleasure to be on his side. That scares me.
Thanks for your comments. I'll begin with your second comment. I would like to ask you to read the rest of this blog, and, possibly more importantly, my answers to comments. You will see that the criticism is not directed at America as such, but against the bunch of wackos who run the country, and the direction the country has taken during the last hundred years or so. You will also see my praise for what America used to stand for during the first hundred odd years of its existence, and for the good things it has done. As to your first comment, I should clarify that I used the issue of abortion as just an example to illustrate a point. It is not really "my issue," even though I am pro-choice. My issue is fighting ignorance and the misguided kind of conservatism, and I think we are in agreement there. As to the details of the case that you referred to, it occurs to me that "states rights" has always stood for the opposite of what liberals advocate.
Thanks very much for you comment. This post is really just a draft that I decided to publish to get some feedback on. What you have said about the conservative proletariat will be helpful. One thing that comes to my mind after reading your comment is that perhaps the second part of your comment answers the first part. It may sound rather cynical to say so, but I think the load of resentment that the Right, of whatever social class, has borne for all these years has something to do with all this. They may say, or even believe, that what drives them is spiritual values of some kind. That is not, however, necessarily their actual motivating force.
Again, the abortion issues, I have read some good reasons of why people are against it and I admitt that I anticipated the religious right and I have not yet read any comments in regards to religion and abortion.
For the most part, I feel that you are correct; we do tend to base our decisions according to what politicians say. I disagree with the fact that our decisions should be made based on that. People are so busy wanting to belong to a group, that they forget what they want with their own opinions. There are some stuff that I am conservative about and some things that I am liberal about some things. I don't pick and choose a party because I identify more with them. I choose whatever party I feel is doing the right thing and as of right now, the Republicans are doing a horrible job.
I am pro-choice, but I do understand the other side. Abortion is a complicated issue.
I have a question for the pro-lifers. I assume you are against abortion because you believe it means taking a life. (If there are more compelling reasons, I can't think of them.) Given that, why is abortion OK in some circumstances and not in others? Is a fetus conceived as a result of rape or incest not a human being? I've always been curious about that. I realize that many people would find it cruel to force a crime victim to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, but a life is a life, correct?
The "except in special circumstances" is the cowards way out for politicians who need the "Right" because they are afraid they could never get a total ban in place. Those who truly believe in the issue do not make these exceptions and our stomachs cringe whenever a politician issues that famous phrase.
You are correct about it seeming cruel to force a crime victim to carry an unwanted child, but if you check into the emotional feelings of many of these prospective mothers afterwards, you might be surprized as to how many of them feel guilty for having the abortion.
Simple fact, America and Europe are both losing their Caucasian identity and one of the reasons is that whites are pregnant less and more likely to have an abortion than most other ethnic groups. This is due to certain economic as well as cultural issues.
Here in Belgium they are paying a load of money for people to have kids. The problem is that its the Muslim immigrants who are collecting. Ironically, the government-sponsored health program then pays for abortions performed in clinics. Guess what? Muslims don't have abortions. Can you figure out the rest?
It is a hypocritical way to spend my tax dollars.
Under Sharia law, as you probably know, the punishment for theft is having your right hand cut off.
What do you think the punishment for rape might be?
If a muslim woman has sex outside marriage, the traditional punishment was stoning to death. The last example to hit international news was in Nigeria. I can only imagine what the modern equivalent might be. Necklacing perhaps? I do not know.
The point is that culture has very much to do with your comment.
The issue at hand - abortion. MPO is that it should not be used as the only, or even as a last ditch stand, contraceptive. Abortion past the 22nd week is out. Third trimester Partial Birth Abortion is murder; it is now regular and routine medical practice to save early third trimester babes.
Women who have, or request, more than one "contraceptive" abortion should be required to undergo compulsory chemical sterilisation for a period of at least 12 months as a condition for the granting of the second abortion. The fathers involved should take their responsibility seriously as well; the sooner we have a reliable male reversible or hormonal sterilisation method the better.
When you learn to define the terms of debate, then you can enter the discussion with intelligent, informed opinions.
Here's a little charitable primer to get you started.
What happened in the Soviet Union was not communism. The Soviet Union was a totalitarian socialist dictatorship. Note the association of the word "totalitarian" with "socialist." This is not the same as "socialist democracies."
There are excellent examples of socialist democracies that are mixed economies incorporating the best of capitalist development, and government guaranteed social safety nets. Pick just about any country in Europe, where, contrary to conventional wisdom in the United States where people are blinded by their nationalist jingoistic brainwashing, the quality of life and upward mobility are far greater than in the United States.
Among the many little gems -
NZs Social Security system was put in place during the First Labour Government in the early '30s. The Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage, described the scheme then as "Christianity in Action".
I wonder how many Social Security schemes in these days would match that ideal. I know that NZ's does not, coming as we do 22nd out of 25 in the "child poverty" rankings from OECD. The only ones ranking lower than NZ are Italy, USA and Australia.
I know that NZ's does not, now that the universal superannuation has been further reduced; to 62% of the average wage for married couples and 42% for singles.
Thanks for the explanation. The rape and incest exceptions by pro-lifers have always seemed illogical to me.
I may have misunderstood part of your post, so perhaps you can clarify. You said "The problem is that its the Muslim immigrants who are collecting...Guess what? Muslims don't have abortions. Can you figure out the rest?" If abortion is wrong under any circumstances, why is the ethnicity/religion of the mother a consideration? And I don't know what you mean by "America and Europe are both losing their Caucasian identity" and what that has to do with abortions.
I'm not sure if this is related to the "identity" thing, but I like Chris Rock's attitude. To paraphrase, everyone should do everyone until we're all one color.
Al, this was 1932. The scheme was one of the first, if not THE first comprehensive social security schemes in the world. It covered not just income guarantee, but state funded health, education and housing. It lasted in its first form through until the early 1960's when the "Social Security Tax" (paid separately to income tax) was combined into the Income Tax system, and accounting for the whole apparatus was moved into the "Consolidated Fund".
The scheme has had to be "wound back" for the same reason that the Russian States went bankrupt - it just got too damned expensive. The difference is that NZ at least allows pragmatism to overcome ideology in dealing with problems like that.
Significantly perhaps, it was left to the LEFT wing government of David Lange (he of the anti-nuclear legislation) to sort out the mess left behind by the right wing Muldoon government.
I don't know why, but looking back on NZ history, it always seems to have been the left wingers that pull us out of the sh!t, and the right wingers that get us back into it again! :D big grin...
Think more in terms of right wing incompetents and left wing realists and you are closer to the truth.
And, before you react, I am referring to NZ politicians.
The seeds and history of the Labour Party in this country came from the British miners who emigrated here in the 1890's to the coal mines of the west Coast. They may have had the same background as Karl Marx, but the Russians certainly did not appear here as a communist force until after WW2.
(SHEESH!!! Can't people get shot of their preconceptions long enough to READ what is being said?)
oh and schroeder it is a proven fact that far more tax money is collected from the large middle class then could ever be collected by over taxing the smaller upper class. more tax money can be collected by allowing the upper class the freedom to pay the middle and lower class workers higer wages instead of higer taxes, thus allowing more tax money to be collected from the middle and lower class.
I'll be your neighbor soon - I'm moving to Toronto.
I want to thank you for being fair and allowing comments that don't necessarily go along with your own point of view to remain as long as they are in good taste.
Unfortunately, your new neighbor to be is not quite so gracious. I remained kind and proper as I have in your space and even offered my good wishes to her move to Canada. For this I got deleted and insulted. She is a very rude woman and Canada is welcome to have her.
I've never even been close to being that harsh on you, even though I dissagree with you strongly on issues such as abortion. I thought you were open to good debate, but you are starting to sound just as bad as those you accuse of being rude "Right-wingers".
Come on...we don't even know each other and I have shown you nothing but respect despite our differences. The least you could do is return the favour.
The immigration process is long and complicated, and most people who can afford it don't have enough incentive to uproot their entire lives.
There are still plenty American liberals and progressives fighting the good fight. As the situation in Iraq drags on, and American casualties mount, more Americans will join the fight.
I'm staying right here in California and fighting the good fight. Visions of Canada occasionally dance through my head, but as you said, many can't afford it.
Best of luck with your move!
And here is some info about the Wage Peace campaign (for all the "good fighters"):
Rest assured I'll be working for peace and justice on the other side of the 49th parallel.
I'm sure you will - and I bet you'll be a terrific goodwill ambassador as well.
PS I like your blog! Looking forward to reading about your move.
When one looks at our political geography the red states tend to match our red necks, and as a Southern liberal I have tried to understand why so many southerners vote Republican.
Perhaps it goes back to LBJ and Civil Rights, although I do not believe racism is anymore prone in the New South as it is in a blue state like New York.
Perhaps our culture has a tendancy to be more violent than other regions of the nation, and many of the less educated of my Southern breathen find sabor rattling appealing.
Regardless when it comes down to it as the late Lewis Grizzard said "American by Birth and Southern by the Grace of God".
Regarding the Right's value fallacy, I first do not consider Bush and Rove to be conservative. Conservatives do not increase the size of government or increase deficit spending, so part of the fallacy actually begins here.
I am pro-choice, but could easily understand how someone could be pro life. With this understanding I would expect consistancy in these values. Pro Lifers it would seem should be anti-death penalty, anti war, and should be willing to provide the resources to support these children once they have been born. After all would these not be the positions of Christ?
So it is not just the radical neo-cons I take objection with, it is the radical christian right, or America's Taliban. Both seem to have value fallacy.
Good article Al.
As I argued (and I hope you will agree with me on this issue BJ), that is as it should be. The wealthy SHOULD pay more taxes--they're the ones who benefit most from the laws that structure the benefits of our economy. They also have higher incomes--all things being equal, they would pay a higher dollar value in taxes if they were in the same tax bracket as everyone else.
Unfortunately, all things are not equal, and thanks to Bush's regressive tax cuts, the burden of taxation is squeezing the middle class for more money.
All objective studies of taxation following Bush's tax cuts demonstrates that the families with incomes between roughly $24,000 and $75,000 are seeing their tax burden actually increase relative to other income brackets.
Even Warren Buffet, the Berkshire Hathaway investment billionaire, admits that he's in the same federal tax bracket as his receptionist. Moreover, the lower and middle classes pay as much as three times the rate in state and local taxes as the top 1 percent income group.
By the way, Warren Buffett is no critic of the capitalist system, but even he made headlines recently by denouncing Bush's policies as more likely to create a "sharecroppers' society" than an "ownership society."
I love your blog. I love even more the fact that you can spark such a great debate with your posts. I would love to be able to discuss the fallacy questions/critiques you raise here because I think that that sort of dialogue is truly missing amongst progressives AND across the political divide.
Some points in the responses I'd like to address...
1. the idea of a "communist utopia"
boy there's an original comeback.
Wow. Such thought too. Don't you have a disclaimer on your blog about welcoming intelligent comments? :)
I wonder why the minute you start speaking about the wellbeing of others people want to throw some derrogatory term over your head, more often than not, simply questioning YOUR RIGHT TO QUESTION and avoiding what you've asked.
2. To think critically or to think as you are told...
At the University I'm going to we're setting up a fascism forum to question the difference between fascism which is blatant and that which is...contested. The greatest and quickest casualty in fascist societies is the right to express dissent. Propaganda systems are used with much abandon and according to an American pioneer in propaganda (whose name escapes me)the best propaganda is that which doesn't appear as such.
I find many of the negative comments on your blog rather humorous given that they sound rather similar. It would be so wonderful if we could learn ways to actually DISCUSS political differences rather than mentally impaling one another with them. Anyhow, long rant short, I really appreciate your blog and think it would be great if you'd spend less energy addressing those who feel the need to engage in comment sparring with you and post more of your trademark creative/critical posts.
If you haven't already, do check out this comic artist: http://www.minimumsecurity.net
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