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May 17, 2012

Conservatism As A System Default

I thought this was fascinating (and amusing):

Given the amount of resources required to run the average brain, it’s no surprise that it takes a few shortcuts when it can. After all, it’s the ultimate multi-tasker—and needs to distribute its energy in a smart and efficient fashion. And now, a recent study published online in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that one of those energy-saving shortcuts may have us defaulting to more conservative ideology when we don’t have the resources to think through a situation. A finding that got the folks in my circle, conservative and liberal alike, talking.

Scot Eidelman, a psychologist at the University of Arkansas, and colleagues asked study participants about their political opinions in two unique situations: in a bar and in the laboratory. Bar patrons, happily downing their favorite adult beverages, were asked to identify themselves as a liberal or conservative, give their opinions about a variety of social issues and then blow into a breathalyzer. The group found that higher blood alcohol levels were associated with conservative positions—despite the person’s professed political leanings.

In the lab, the group once again asked study participants about social issues—but here they manipulated the amount of time individuals had to answer as well as whether or not they were distracted during their response. When participants were distracted or push to answer quickly, they tended to endorse more conservative ideas including “authority, tradition and private property.” The researchers concluded that low-effort thought, made quicker and less complicated by alcohol or laboratory manipulations, defaults to more conservative ideology.

I asked Eidelman if he was surprised by the results. He told me that he wasn’t—but added a caveat, “I was a bit surprised at how easy it was to demonstrate our effect. Across different ways of measuring or inducing low-effort thought including alcohol and time pressure, community samples and college students, blue states and red states, and measures of political attitudes, the results clearly converged in support of our predictions.”

As a more liberal thinker, this floors me. It’s hard to imagine a situation, even taxed by martinis, that I’d back more conservative ideas. And I can't help but wonder whether there is a difference between a general social policy and something that affects you and your family personally.

I've mentioned several times that I'm reading (and very much enjoying) Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind. In it, he likens human cognition and moral decisionmaking to an elephant (instinct/emotion) with a tiny rider (reason) perched precariously on its back. The rider thinks he's in charge, but it's the elephant who's doing most of the real work. Another evocative metaphor is the emotional dog wagging its rational tail.

The big insight is that left to itself, the elephant gets a surprising number of things right. It knows a lot more than we give it credit for. We don't have time to ponder the minutia of the hundreds of decisions we make each day - if we did, the result would be decision paralysis. So it makes sense to trust the elephant to some extent - we need him. The hard part is training the rider.

These images are particularly interesting in light of the spate of recent studies purporting to prove that more "evolved" beings become liberal because progressives (unlike their backward, unthinking conservative brethren) are guided by reason. But Haidt cites a parade of studies that suggest that reason is not a prime mover, but rather an auxiliary set of responses deployed to provide cover for (rationalize) whatever the elephant has already decided to do.

The study cited above presents an interesting question: if both liberals and conservatives instinctively favor conservative notions of authority, tradition, and respect for private property (perhaps driven by awareness of the conflict between their avowed public policy preferences and what is good for them and their families), does that mean that progressives typically vote against self interest - i.e., ignore their gut intuitions? And if so, is this a good thing?

How often do most of us actually reason our way through major life decisions, as opposed to going with our instinct and rationalizing our decisions after the fact? To what extent does the way we're raised (culture) shape our instincts/aesthetics? I would argue that culture is significant in that it helps to establish boundaries that simplify decision making (and help the rider do a better job of controlling the elephant). I've seen this over and over again with family dynamics: spouses and parents raised in families with healthy relationships find marriage and parenting far easier than parents and spouses raised in dysfunctional families. The former have inherited a set of time-tested values and tactics that take most of the work out of deciding how to respond to various interpersonal conflicts and provocations.

The latter have inherited a set of values and tactics that didn't produce good results for their parents and rarely work well for them, either. Their instinctive responses to conflicts tend to make them worse rather than better. Of course not everyone is lucky enough to be born into a healthy family or have parents with a strong marriage. This is where the surrounding culture used to provide a fallback:

The rise of individualism in the wake of sexual liberation weakened the moral and institutional conventions that dominated before the 1960s. The sexual mores embodied in these conventions were designed to guide most people to stable choices. By establishing "simple rules for simple people"... these strictures functioned not so much by encouraging global thinking as such, but by obviating the need to think, or to think very much, about family formation and sexual choice. Rather, all that was necessary was to follow the script, and the script was simple.

I've been critical in the past of the recent conservative embrace of individualism. I suspect it's mostly a somewhat kneejerk response to Nanny statism, but when it bleeds over from resistance to government limits on individual liberty to resenting any attempt to restrain individual actions (societal, cultural, etc) I begin to think we've lost sight of what made conservatism a good idea in the first place.

Discuss amongst your ownselves, knuckle draggers :)

Posted by Cassandra at May 17, 2012 07:20 AM

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Comments

I don't think the "kneejerk response" is what is going on. The elephant in the room is "The long march though the Institutions". The Left is Totalitarian in nature. They do not just try to take over the government, they try to take over the culture, and the means by which the culture is transmitted, such as the Press(not just news, but book and magazine publishing), and the Schools. Combined with the Left's amazing ability to ski down that slippy slope, sensible people will get quite jumpy. Look how quickly "teach them about sex to stop STD's" became teaching first graders about anal fisting......

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 17, 2012 11:07 AM

"knee jerk" was probably a bit too strong on my part, so I understand your objection :)

I think your points are well taken. What I was referring to was the surprising (to me) number of conservatives I've seen objecting to traditionally conservative cultural mores like sexual restraint or talk about the value of virtue. Some of this may be the libertarian influence, but it still surprises me a bit.

As most of my readers know, I am personally fairly conservative socially but despite that, am no more in favor of having government imposing social conservatism on us than I am of government trying to impose socially liberal values on us.

Private individuals and institutions can (and should, in my view) try to influence culture. But when government does so, it brings coercive power to the table that private orgs and people don't possess.

I think government (aside from refusing to allow individuals to pass the costs of their moral decisions onto others) ought to stay mostly out of that arena.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 17, 2012 11:34 AM

Conservatives are just dumb. It's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

we've lost sight of what made conservatism a good idea in the first place.

Don't conflate conservatism with conservatism. True conservatism follows the principles of 18th century liberalism--the things that made true conservatism a good idea in the first place, and make it still a good idea today.

And if short-hand thinking makes it easier for us to deal with emergencies as they unfold, rather than the Progressives' after the fact rationalization of their choices, then I'd say species survival is pushed in one direction and not the other.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at May 17, 2012 11:43 AM

This is an astonishing breakthrough! We should all extend our gratitude and appreciation to Scot Eidelman for having the insight, and courage to dare confront that last enigmatic bastion of human psychology: conservative thought. Although some might say, particularly those on the right, that it might have been better if Dr. Eidelman had just left well enough alone. "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, Dr. Eidelman," they would say, "so why roil the waters? Better the devil you know than the one you don't, so let sleeping dogs lie."
I mean, seriously, where do these conservatives get such silly, silly, ideas?

Posted by: spd rdr at May 17, 2012 11:48 AM

I don't mean to be serious here, but can anyone think of a single "progressive" idiom? I mean, idiomatic expressions are the short hand version of the human experience, but "conventional wisdom" is so, um, conventional. It seems to me that all of the the ancient lessons we still accept (and pass on) are "conservative" in nature. For example: Don't rock the boat or change horses in midstream, because you'll be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. All good things come to those who wait, and a stitch in time saves nine, so never a borrower nor a lender be because a penny saved is a penny earned.

There must be common expression for "let's go with what we don't know, because it might work, you never know," but for the life of me, I can't think of one other than "the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill." And we all know how that works out in practice.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 17, 2012 12:33 PM

I think some of the push back is somewhat due to the increasingly tendancy of "Should not do" and "Should not be allowed to do" becoming synonomous.

You should not smoke has become smoking bans.
You should not drive without a seat belt has become "Click-it-or-Ticket", etc.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 17, 2012 01:01 PM

Imagine that, people's default position is what worked before. Well, shiver my timbers.

Where can I get a gig like this guy has?

Posted by: Allen at May 17, 2012 01:48 PM

We have all been so thoroughly conditioned by popular culture, that we consciously parse our words so as not to seem too atavistic and antagonistic to our fellow citizens, so our course we "go along to get along". Why, I myself have censored some of my deepest thoughts rather than tell one of the people I work for just how thoroughly I disagree with their politics when they shove them down my throat at a company social function.

But suprisingly, when we get a little drunk, our true selves might start appearing as social inhibition diminishes and we speak from the hind brain and utter those troglodyte conservative thoughts. That's where they are coming from - that troglodyte hind brain, and that's what the smart folks really think about conservatives.

I think I read that in the NY Times this morning. Because it's in the NY Times every morning. I mean we really dodged a bullet there when that stupid chillbilly Sarah Palin wasn't part of the winning team in 2008 and we got Joe Biden as VP instead. Joe Biden, political genius savant.

That's a big QED for ya there, pals.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at May 17, 2012 01:55 PM

...can anyone think of a single "progressive" idiom?

Better Red than Dead.

Make love, not war.

Fighting for peace is like shouting for quiet.

You've made enough money.

Spread the wealth around.

And this from an early Progressive, although it's not an idiom, and it reveals an apostasy: We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at May 17, 2012 02:07 PM

Thank you Cassandra. I don't believe it's the Libertarians influence. Could you give examples? Because it seems to me that what is happening is that the Left is trying to co-op the language of traditional values and virtues in the service of sin. Remember how "fiscally conservative" the Left was? Remember "Porkbusters"(boy did they get great press, for a time....)? Then they got into power, and it's been how many years since we've seen a budget? Turning our Universities into propaganda organs for the Left happened in a similar bait and switch. Witness how quickly the Left's avocation of Free Speech turned into speech codes the minute they became the Establishment. And people tend to overreact to "Bait and Switch". So when the Left comes out for "Sexual Responsibility" and "Marriage", I'm not surprised that many will go "Yeah, right!". Brings to mind Mark Twain's observation, “The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won't sit upon a cold stove lid, either.”.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 17, 2012 02:39 PM

"We don't have time to ponder the minutia of the hundreds of decisions we make each day - if we did, the result would be decision paralysis."

Arthur Koestler observed that if the centipede had to consciously think about which legs to move first, he probably wouldn't be able to move at all.

Posted by: david foster at May 17, 2012 03:43 PM

Regarding decision-making in general, I highly recommend Dietrich Doerner's book The Logic of Failure, based on a series of simulation experiments concerning decisions and how they go wrong. I reviewed it here:

http://photonplaza.blogspot.com/2003_12_28_photonplaza_archive.html#107275628844222087

Posted by: david foster at May 17, 2012 03:45 PM

There must be common expression for "let's go with what we don't know, because it might work, you never know," but for the life of me, I can't think of one other than "the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill." And we all know how that works out in practice.

"Look before you leap" comes to mind too :p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 17, 2012 03:50 PM

... people tend to overreact to "Bait and Switch". So when the Left comes out for "Sexual Responsibility" and "Marriage", I'm not surprised that many will go "Yeah, right!".

But is that smart? If your response (as a conservative) to traditional conservative values is, "Yeah, right", I would argue that you've strayed pretty far from what you claim to believe in. Worse, you're not willing to stand up for what you claim to believe in because it might not work out.

Opposing something because it could possibly be abused doesn't strike me as terribly smart (or intellectually coherent). There are few things in life that can't be twisted around, used wrong, or abused if carried to extremes or mislabeled, which is what most of those examples involve: calling one thing by a misleading name to hide what you're really doing.

All of life involves making distinctions and setting boundaries. We don't escape from that by refusing to stand up for anything.

I get Yu-Ain's point wrt "should not do" and "should not be allowed to do", but that explains the emotion (fear/distrust), not the illogical reaction to it.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 17, 2012 04:03 PM

I don't believe it's the Libertarians influence. Could you give examples?

You can believe that, but a growing number of people who identify/vote as conservative are really more libertarian than conservative.

I define conservatism somewhat in the the way mr rdr alludes to it several comments up: a belief that individuals are not particularly good at foreseeing the results of radical change. Thus, change (while not bad in itself) should be gradual. I believe that people and societies progress by trial and error. Thus, I distrust grand (and untried) utopian visions, whether liberal or libertarian.

When I see conservatives (especially ones who want to tell me that people like me aren't conservative enough!) advocating legalizing prostitution or drugs, I see the influence of libertarianism. I've always liked this Reagan quote:

"If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are travelling the same path.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 17, 2012 04:39 PM

Opposing something because it could possibly be abused doesn't strike me as terribly smart (or intellectually coherent).

And yet this is the basis of the oh-so-rational Progressive Obama's lawsuit against Arizona's immigration law: it might be used for racial profiling, even though the statute explicitly enjoins that.

I'm waiting for the Holder Police to try to arrest me because I have a hammer in my work shop and an axe in my wife's garden shed. It'll be fun.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at May 17, 2012 04:43 PM

And yet this is the basis of the oh-so-rational Progressive Obama's lawsuit against Arizona's immigration law: it might be used for racial profiling, even though the statute explicitly enjoins that.

Bingo! :)

Likewise, I've been amused over the years to have people freak out when I've made a moral argument with zero coercive power, despite my up front caveats stipulating that I don't want to see anything I've argued enacted into law or enforced by the power of the state.... just that I think society worked better when that value was widely shared.

*sigh*

Posted by: Cassandra at May 17, 2012 04:53 PM

...I think society worked better when that value was widely shared.

But, but--what better way to ensure that the value is widely shared--and so everyone benefits from this Wisdom--than by requiring it through government fiat?

I mean, really. Just what kind of Progressive do you think you are?

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at May 17, 2012 05:35 PM

Just what kind of Progressive do you think you are?

Mea culpa! For a moment I forgot my bad, Alpha B**ch Goddess self :p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 17, 2012 06:01 PM

Well, Cassandra, that's why I requested examples of Conservatives acting in this "kneejerk" fashion. It is one thing to oppose something because it could be abused, and another to beg off of participating in something that has been abused and redefined.

As to the "libertarian" thing, your example is telling, for it was not the Right which created the "Drug War". The Left created the idiot thing to keep their wards busy after the implosion of Prohibition, and National Review, hardly an outpost of Libertarian jingoism, has been arguing for legalization for decades. It just seems to be better supported now, I think, because most of the Judge Dredd's are frothing about "Illegal Immigrants" and they don't seem able to mult-task.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 17, 2012 06:25 PM

There is a difference between being against speech codes or hate speech laws (liberal misapplication) and saying you're against free speech itself. The first is consistent with conservative principles (and in fact upholds free speech). The second is not.

If you oppose speech codes, you're not opposing free speech - you're defending it.

Wrt to the war on drugs, one may argue with the tactics without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I don't believe most recreational drugs should be legal. They are, in most cases, far more potent and addictive than alcohol and the link to violent crimes is compelling.

Whether the specific tactics used to fight illegal drugs are effective is one question. Whether all drugs should be legalized simply because you don't like the tactics is the same argument as saying that you'll never stop rape so we should abolish the criminal penalties for rape.

That's just dumb. The purpose of criminal penalties has NEVER been to abolish the activity itself because that's impossible.

Finally, the National Review is not the official standard bearer for conservatism.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2012 07:19 AM

Finally, the National Review is not the official standard bearer for conservatism.

Conservatives pride themselves on resisting change, which is as it should be. But intelligent deference to tradition and stability can evolve into intellectual sloth and moral fanaticism, as when conservatives simply decline to look up from dogma because the effort to raise their heads and reconsider is too great. -William F. Buckley, Jr. 1925–2008

R.I.P
*sniff*

Posted by: spd rdr at May 18, 2012 09:29 AM

A problem conservatives have is understanding the nature of the change they're resisting.

The dogma (in this comment, at least, I'm using this term in its non-pejorative sense) of 18th century liberalism--true conservatism today, assert I--which holds as paramount individual liberty and responsibility and the subordination of government to the Sovereign people, should hold today, unchanged.

The means of applying that dogma, of effecting it and living by it, today should evolve, slowly after careful deliberation, as the conditions of today differ from those of 220 years ago.

I asserted that that dogma should hold today unchanged from those 220 years ago. However, this is not to say that dogma should not evolve at all--just that the fundamental principles, if new understandings occur, should evolve only very slowly.

Today's conservatives often confuse the one evolution with the other.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at May 18, 2012 09:40 AM

...one may argue with the tactics...

Some people's arguments are with the tactics (such as myself, but then again, I don't support complete legalization either), but most of the ones I have been hearing from the legalization crowd address the tactics only as a symptom, not as the problem itself. Radley Balko, for example, spends a lot of time highlighting the tactics, but would still favor legalization even if those tactics weren't used.

As you said, criminal penalties are not about abolishing the behavior. But what are they for? The libertarian argument is that they should be for causing harm to others. Thus any harm you do to yourself is not something that should be subject to criminal penalties.

If you take drugs and sit on your couch in a stupor, that's your problem not the state's. If you take drugs and rob someone at gunpoint, it's the robbing someone at gunpoint that is the crime, not the taking of drugs that preceeded it.

One of the conservative argument is that it is more effective to penalize the drug use so that the violent crime is prevented from happening in the first place (much like how vaccines which may be only 30-40% effective in an individual can nearly wipe-out a disease when it's taken by 99% of the population)

And this very well may be the case for a great many recreational drugs. But to the livid terriers, this sounds like punishing someone for PreCrime.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 18, 2012 09:44 AM

...criminal penalties are not about abolishing the behavior. But what are they for? The libertarian argument is that they should be for causing harm to others. Thus any harm you do to yourself is not something that should be subject to criminal penalties.

This is why I'm not a libertarian. By that logic, there should be no speed limits either, even though we know from the experience of multiple countries that there is a definite correlation between high speed driving and the accident rate (especially fatal accidents, for which there is really no way to repair the harm to innocent 3rd parties).

By libertarian logic, if you speed and don't hit anyone, you have not harmed anyone. The "real" offense is hitting someone, so therefore we should only punish those who get in accidents and let everyone else drive as fast as they want to.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2012 09:57 AM

The Buckley quote asserts the need for balance (or, as Plato would say, moderation). I can't disagree with that, though anything smacking of moderation seems to be distinctly out of fashion on the Right.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2012 09:59 AM

... though anything smacking of moderation seems to be distinctly out of fashion on the Right.

Well, I for one have never been a dedicated follower of fashion, nor anything else for that matter. I sorely miss the intellectual give-and-take of the Buckleys and Moynihans of my formative years. I know I'm a bit old fashioned, but I still find it easier to think about what's being said when I'm listening to what's being said. And these days its seems that I can't hear anything over all the shouting.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 18, 2012 10:17 AM

...can anyone think of a single "progressive" idiom?

Speaking of National Review, I think that's the subject of Jonah Goldberg's new book. I've only read the sample chapter on the Crusades he posted online, but the hook for the whole work appears to be that progressives substitute cliches for actual thought.

That makes this kind of an interesting counterargument to Goldberg: "Yeah, but conservatives do it better!" :)

Posted by: Grim at May 18, 2012 10:35 AM

Well, Cassandra, Can you give me an example of Conservatives being against Free Speech as a principle? I haven't seen it (Not that I'm claiming Omnipresence!). I have seen Free Speech used by the Left(New York Times and Wikileaks, anyone?) to get people killed in our conflicts around the world, and have seen the Left turn on a dime when they wanted a scalp over the Plame fiasco. I'm not aware of any political school of thought that thinks it's ok to scream "Fire" in a crowded theater. And there are laws against Libel, too. So Free Speech is an ideal, but not, here in the real world an unconstrained, unalloyed good. As you said, moderation.

I made no argument for or against the Drug war. I made no claim that National Review speaks for all conservatives. But they are a voice for conservatives, and have been for quite some time. And they have been speaking against the War before the Libertarian movement existed. I really think that Libertarian thought has had very little influence on Conservative thought. Rather, all the things the Libertarians dream of are things that Conservatives have been working for all along. It's just that Libertarians have lost an awareness of Moderation. Libertarians haven't come up with new ideas, it's just that their feet have left the ground.....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 18, 2012 11:13 AM

Private individuals and institutions can (and should, in my view) try to influence culture. But when government does so, it brings coercive power to the table that private orgs and people don't possess.

I think government (aside from refusing to allow individuals to pass the costs of their moral decisions onto others) ought to stay mostly out of that arena.

Exactly how I see it.

This is my favorite part of the quoted article, the part you bolded:

I can't help but wonder whether there is a difference between a general social policy and something that affects you and your family personally.
In other words, there are a lot of crazy schemes that sound all shiny and exciting for people you'll never meet, but you'll think twice about them if you have to pay for them yourself or suffer the consequences in your own life. That's why the charge of hypocrisy is so devastating to anyone's credibility or moral standing.

But what do I know. I'm just a stupid and primitive thinker, not sophisticated enough to follow the nuance.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 18, 2012 11:28 AM

By libertarian logic, if you speed and don't hit anyone, you have not harmed anyone.

Some of them do take that tack, yes (Unfortunately the original blog post has been removed). It's one of the reasons I'm not a wookie suiter.

Others, take the tack that owners get to set the rules for the use of their property and thus road owners can set speed limits, etc. The owner, be it private or public, would then be the one harmed by your violation of those rules.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 18, 2012 11:49 AM

Robert:

Free speech was your example. I gave you two examples (prostitution and the drug war). You replied with a statement about liberals twisting the right to free speech to justify speech codes.

I merely pointed out that even if they have, it would make no sense to oppose free speech, as speech codes are *not* free speech. I didn't say that conservatives oppose free speech (in fact, I said that conservatives should NOT oppose free speech just because liberals have imposed speech codes in the name of free speech).

As an aside, I don't believe that liberals have used free speech as justification for speech codes either. The argument, as I recall, was that certain kinds of speech are NOT permissible. So I don't really even understand how your example shows that liberals have twisted free speech into suppression of speech.

I'm open to persuasion, but so far I'm not seeing your case here:

Turning our Universities into propaganda organs for the Left happened in a similar bait and switch. Witness how quickly the Left's avocation of Free Speech turned into speech codes the minute they became the Establishment.

It seems to me that the Left was arguing for an exception to the general doctrine of free speech (similar to the "fire" exception, not arguing against free speech itself).

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2012 11:52 AM

IOW, it seems that what the Left is doing is asserting a general rule and then (like Obama) creating waivers when they find they can't live with the real world results of their rule :p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2012 11:53 AM

I sorely miss the intellectual give-and-take of the Buckleys and Moynihans of my formative years. I know I'm a bit old fashioned, but I still find it easier to think about what's being said when I'm listening to what's being said. And these days its seems that I can't hear anything over all the shouting.

Me neither, mr rdr.

I don't have time today (too much to do at work) but I read something fascinating last night. Will try to type it up over the weekend for y'all to chew on.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2012 11:55 AM

Others, take the tack that owners get to set the rules for the use of their property and thus road owners can set speed limits, etc. The owner, be it private or public, would then be the one harmed by your violation of those rules.

That makes more sense to me :)

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2012 11:59 AM

It does me, too.

But the rubric is still one of "Post Harm to Others". Speeding being a breach of an implied contract *with the owner*, not the prevention of the potential harm to *the other drivers*.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 18, 2012 12:23 PM

It *may* come to the same conclusion, but it gets there from radically different directions.

If the owner says there is no speed limit though, then yes, all bets are off. The only crime would be in hitting someone else as no one was harmed otherwise. The *potential* is irrelevant to them.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 18, 2012 12:30 PM

...we know from the experience of multiple countries that there is a definite correlation between high speed driving and the accident rate....

I read of one jurisdiction (I wish I could find the cite) where everyone drove at very high speeds and had the lowest accident rate in the world. But they made their accidents count: they had the highest fatality per accident rate in the world.

Of course, this could be apocryphal....

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at May 18, 2012 12:30 PM

... the rubric is still one of "Post Harm to Others". Speeding being a breach of an implied contract *with the owner*, not the prevention of the potential harm to *the other drivers*.

That may be, but then I never said Libertarians endorsed preventing harm.

And I still think there are sensible limits people who live in crowded areas accept because they do, in fact, limit harm to innocent 3rd parties. They are the cost of living in a society.

If Libertarians want to go off and live somewhere where the individual is king, let them. And if they can persuade most of the population to abandon things that have worked well for centuries, I'll move :p

IOW, I'm still not convinced Libertarianism is a great idea. If in fact people who used drugs just sat stoned in their own houses, didn't ask me to clean up the mess they make of their lives, didn't impose any costs on me or on others, I'd probably agree to decriminalize drugs. But that's not the case, so I'm not convinced decriminalization is a good idea.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2012 12:35 PM

The correlation between speed limits and accidents is not perfect - there are other factors (like # of drivers on the road, road conditions, etc) that have to be taken into account. Which is why speed limits are normally set locally by people living in the area.

I am very much in favor of speed limits, but I never thought a national speed limit was a good idea. As with most things, my support for speed limits is not absolute, but rather tailored to time, place,and circumstance.

I just can't weep for the rights of people who want to drive 150 mph on public roads. I love to drive fast, and I'm a good driver. But if I got pulled over for speeding tomorrow my response would be (and has been in the past), "OK, my bad. I chose to drive faster than the limit."

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2012 12:41 PM

I am very much in favor of speed limits...
-Cassandra

Really? Because I was talking to Carrie the other day, and she said...

Posted by: Grim at May 18, 2012 01:31 PM

They are the cost of living in a society.

I don't disagree. I'm just pointing out that it isn't the *tactics* of the drug war that lead to "throwing the baby out with the bathwater".

They don't like the baby in the first place.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 18, 2012 01:33 PM

Really? Because I was talking to Carrie the other day, and she said...

Heh :)

She sent me an e-card that said something about living long enough to terrify other people with your driving. I think I achieved that milestone long ago!

They don't like the baby in the first place.

I agree that libertarians don't. What I wonder is, why is the National Review opposed to the drug war? Do they want to legalize hard drugs too?

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2012 01:55 PM

Libertarians do not always take into account the social cost of their desires.

*going back to grazing on the savannah and looking out for the baby elephants*

Posted by: Carolyn at May 18, 2012 02:41 PM

Don't much read the National Review, so I couldn't tell you.

I just wanted to point out that there were two separate arguments for legalization: The one you addressed based on Tactics/Cost-Benefits/Consequences and one more based on a matter of first principles.


(and a third based on a desire to sell a metric crap-ton of Doritos)

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 18, 2012 03:09 PM

Long ago (15 or 20 years now), a (conservative) Democrat who's a dear friend, said that I was so conservative that I was a tea-tossing liberal. I replied that I considered myself a Rational Anarchist. He thought for a minute, and said that while there were differences there, they were so minor that the public would never understand, and that Professor de la Paz would have been cheering the tea-dumping from the shore.

The battle has become which face of the more-government party is to be in charge. It appears to me that a majority of our fellow citizens want the government to tell them what to do, to be completely constrained so that they don't have to think, or worry about someone else doing so. The rest of us are going to have to suffer through this phase, or die off.

(This reminds me a little of the old tale about Air Force & Army vs. Navy & USMC joint ops. Someone proposes doing something, the AF&A ask "where's the rule that says we can do that", and the USN-USMC reply "where's the rule that says we can't?" )

Posted by: htom at May 19, 2012 12:04 AM

What offends me the most about liberalism is the moral relativism it embraces. With moral relativism everything is possible without accountability and responsibility for one's actions or lack of. Knowing the difference between right and wrong based on a system of values rewards restraint and contemplation ahead of the more visceral responses that feel good for the moment but cost a lifetime of wondering "what if...?"

Moral relativism is a perversion of the Golden Rule and sanctifies the "run for the exits" when well-intentioned actions become wearisome used as justification for the abrogation of personal responsibility and broken promises to others.

Posted by: vet66 at May 19, 2012 04:35 PM

@vet66: Exactly. The war on drugs or legalizing vices is a case in point.

We legitimize prostitution, we have to think of the societal fallout of that decision. In Nevada, the madam of the Mustang Ranch thinks of her girls as private contractors, but they are guided by Holland's regulations (as, I think, most of the regulation re: prostitution on the books in Nevada, but I digress), which means they, not a doctor or a nurse, checks the client for STDs. Condom use is supposedly mandated as well. But it all takes place behind closed doors, and discretion is the key.

The fallout is that the blood supply could become tainted without oversight.

Legalizing both means that those who sell 'recreational medicine' will pay taxes. In fact, it is required for drug dealers to state same. Does the government go after the drug dealers who make such declarations on their tax forms? I would say 'no.' Why kill the source of tax based on breaking higher laws against fornication and adultery?

It wonders me, that if Al Capone had declared his source of revenue as being from bootlegging, would he have been imprisoned? I seriously doubt it.

Just wondered what y'all thought of the double standard, as the tax on cigarettes is HUGE. If people quit smoking, there goes a decent source of revenue.

What say you?

Posted by: Carolyn at May 19, 2012 10:11 PM

Cass, hope you had a nice weekend. The weather was simply lovely for once.

I really have to point out two factual flaws in your reasoning. These are intended as food for thought as opposed to snark, because getting into a snarkfest with you is something I am sure to lose.

First, there is no correlation between speeding and accidents. This has been well tested and established by the highway safety folks. Speeding correlates with the **severity** of accidents, but not with having an accident in the first place. What does show a high correlation with accidents is drving too fast or too slow in comparison with the average speed of traffic. It's a U-shaped curve, with the flat bottom of the curve extending about 10 mph on each side of the average speed of traffic, and the sides climbing rather steeply upwards at both ends. That is to say, if the average speed of traffic is 50, you have as much of a chance for an accident if you are going 30 as if you were going 70.

Second, the connection with drug crime and drugs is not one of people high on drugs committing crimes; rather it is one of people committing crimes to obtain the drugs in the first place. And even though I am a small-L libertarian, to me legalizing drugs doesn't mean legalizing every drug, but only a few, such as mj, speed, and cocaine. Keep crack and heroin illegal, along with LSD, PCP, etc. With these recreational drugs available at a reasonable price, the profit motive is removed from the illegal drug trade, as well as the need to commit crime to obtain drugs.

Peace Through Fire Superiority!

Posted by: Rex at May 21, 2012 10:33 AM

Wow I missed a lot over the weekend. YAG covered a lot of stuff so I don't have to, thanks Yu! But the following I'd like to address:

IOW, I'm still not convinced Libertarianism is a great idea. If in fact people who used drugs just sat stoned in their own houses, didn't ask me to clean up the mess they make of their lives, didn't impose any costs on me or on others, I'd probably agree to decriminalize drugs. But that's not the case, so I'm not convinced decriminalization is a good idea.

It is, in fact the stumbling block for me as well. Much like the Fair Tax, it's a great idea, but it's predicated on an assumption that iwll likely not happen. In the Fair Tax's case, it's that the 16th Amendment would be repealed and the IRS disbanded. It's not likely to occur. In the Libertarian case, it's that humanity will develop a severe case of "the Responsibles" and folks will be held accountable for their own choices. Again, unlikely.

The keystone to all Libertarian philosophy is that YOU are the master of YOUR fate. You determine what decisions you will make in your life. The proper role of government is to keep others from interfering and taking choices away from you by taking your life, liberty or property. And by extension keeping you from infringing on the life, liberty and property of others. And since you're responsible for those choices, and since others are (theoretically) prevented from taking those choices from you, if you screw up your life, then the only person to blame is you. So if you want to be a drunk and destroy your life by drinking yourself to death (and barring minor children depending upon you), then those are your choices. Adults who may be hurt by your choices can choose to associate with you or not. Those are their choices. In the Libertarian ideal world, the drunk only ends up ruining his own life. And so too the drug addict, or indeed anyone who makes poor choices in life.

In the REAL world, however, people don't WANT to accept that most of the "bad luck" that befalls them is nothing of the sort. Sure, sometimes folks get struck by lightning, and not as the result of a bad choice (like playing golf in a thunderstorm), and they can suffer catastrophic damage as a result of forces beyond their control. But for the vast and overwhelming part of humanity, "bad luck" is more likely the result of bad decisions. Who they associate with, thier choices to stay in school or drop out. Their choices to work late, or knock off early to go party with their friends. These decisions can make or break someone. But few are willing to take that responsibility. And thus, the ideal won't really happen. Because without that buy in, you'll always have folks whining about how "it's not my fault" and "someone has to help me".

I'll leave you with a link demonstrating this fact more eloquently (and more bizarrely) than I ever could.
http://www.thegrio.com/news/33-year-old-man-has-30-kids-by-11-different-women.php

Posted by: MikeD at May 21, 2012 10:35 AM

"Second, the connection with drug crime and drugs is not one of people high on drugs committing crimes; rather it is one of people committing crimes to obtain the drugs in the first place. And even though I am a small-L libertarian, to me legalizing drugs doesn't mean legalizing every drug, but only a few, such as mj, speed, and cocaine. Keep crack and heroin illegal, along with LSD, PCP, etc. With these recreational drugs available at a reasonable price, the profit motive is removed from the illegal drug trade, as well as the need to commit crime to obtain drugs."

Two thoughts on this.

One, from what I've seen, adding speed to that list of "safe to legalize" is nuts. Not sure where you live, but here in the Midwest the problem coming from methamphetamines isn't crime committed to purchase it (it's dangerously easy to home-brew), it's people wrecking their lives AND their health from the addiction itself. And it seems to be far too addictive to even be safely experimented with recreationally.

Which brings me to two: I'm not even sure that recreational drugs being available at a "reasonable price" would cut down all that much on the crime to purchase them. If someone's addiction makes it impossible for them to hold down a job, they're still going to have to find "alternate funding" for their habit. At best they might have to commit less crime to feed the addiction. To me, the social impact of having people remove themselves from the productive part of society (permanently?) due to addiction is as significant a part of the drug problem as the crime.

Posted by: Matt at May 22, 2012 10:16 AM

I'm not sure I agree Matt. Let's be honest, alcohol and tobacco are incredibly addictive drugs. And while we have criminals who will rob a liquor store or gas station, they are almost universally taking cash, not liquor or cigarettes. I am sure there are cases of addicts stealing to feed their alcohol or tobacco addictions, but it's hardly an epidemic. And let's be completely honest, the crime associated with alcohol smuggling (not just the consumption and selling, but the murders and assaults) DID decrease with the repeal of Prohibition.

Posted by: MikeD at May 22, 2012 10:23 AM

While tobacco is certainly addictive, it rarely interferes with someone's ability to hold down a job -- tobacco fiends can generally buy their fix with their own money. Alcohol abuse definitely can leave someone unemployable, though; I guess the comparison would be how many non-functioning alcoholics with no legal source of income turn to crime for money to buy booze with. And while there are functioning alcoholics, I've rarely heard of functioning hard drug users outside of the entertainment industry (I'm sure they don't ALL ruin their lives, although methamphetamine in particular seems to get very nasty VERY fast).

My unanswered question on drug legalization revolves around how many marginal individuals (people who currently don't use drugs but have no particular aversion to doing so beyond fear of the legal consequences) would try drugs following legalization and wind up with a socially incapacitating addiction they can't control. Alcohol prohibition was imposed on a culture that had known recreational alcohol use longer than they had known writing; I suspect most people had already made up their minds about alcohol prior to Prohibition, and I doubt the law did much to change that. I'm not sure the same can be said about currently prohibited drugs, so the social response to a repeal of the current laws might be far different.

Posted by: Matt at May 22, 2012 10:23 PM

Crack and cocaine are incredibly dangerous, but none of my many acid-head friends ever got into the least trouble with LSD or any other hallucinogen.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 23, 2012 12:15 PM

Matt,

I would answer your questions as follows. Tobacco addicts certainly do manage to satify their addiction without resorting to crime. But imagine that tomorrow tobacco is made illegal. The price of cigarettes skyrockets. Tobacco smuggling (which is even now a "thing" and has criminal enterprises built around it) becomes an industry. The Mob would certainly get involved. There's profit to be made after all. Violence escalates. Smokers must now hide their addiction from those they work with. And I'm sure you can identify a smoker by the smell. I certainly can. It was one of the motivating factors for me to quit. And to this day, the stink of smokers is something that bothers me. So that would directly impact their employ-ability. Their options become quit, or be arrested. And for many, quitting is a major or even insurmountable problem. Many anti-smoking outfits claim that it is as difficult to quit as heroin. I can't speak to the truth of that as quitting was not nearly so hard for me as for others I know, and I can truly say I don't have any idea the hell that heroin addicts suffer when they quit. But I do know the comparison has been made.

But that's hardly comparable to drugs, isn't it? Actually, that's exactly what happened with marijuana in this country during the 20th Century. It went from being completely legal (and a cash crop for many farmers... to include many of the founding fathers) to being demonized (and frequently by cotton growers) as the "devil's weed". As for the addictiveness of marijuana, I can also honestly say I have no idea. My personal experience with marijuana is non-existent. I've no interest in trying it, and were it legalized, I probably still would not. But I do know folks, who are functioning members of society who do use. They are not breaking into houses to steal to feed their addictions, but nor are they folks I'd exactly want to rely upon either.

All of this is NOT relevant to your question regarding methamphetamine and other hard drugs. And for the most part, I agree that these are terrible scourges. Would users commit crimes to feed their addictions if it were legal? I can't imagine that anyone could honestly claim to KNOW. I suspect some would. Just as I suspect SOME alcoholics commit crimes to feed their addiction. I suspect some wouldn't. How many? Unanswerable. But I will say that I believe the current system is not working, and that treating all currently illegal drugs as identically dangerous is clearly misguided. And philosophically I do have a problem with the government claiming that it should be able to restrict what you do with your life and health (regardless of how stupid what you want to do is). Down that path leads the Nanny State that folks like Bloomburg want to impose.

Posted by: MikeD at May 23, 2012 12:27 PM

I don't see why the results from giving people alcohol and then asking them questions affects the answers towards conservative thought. That knowledge is as old as the ancient Romans:

in vino veritas

Posted by: RonF at May 24, 2012 05:41 PM

I don't mean to be serious here, but can anyone think of a single "progressive" idiom?

Why, yes, I can.

The proper role of government is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Which does two things:

1) It subsumes collective judgement for individual judgement on what constitutes "the greater good"

2) It presumes that the collective has the right to enforce that upon the individual in all cases.

Posted by: RonF at May 24, 2012 06:01 PM

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one."

Almost always used by someone who wants to take something away from you against your will.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 24, 2012 06:16 PM

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