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05/10/2009

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Will

"Man Made Global Warming is an unsettled theory.

It is a scientific FACT that partial birth abortion is murder.

Infanticide is barbarism."

It is perhaps a fact that life begins at conception, this anyone will concede. BUT it is not a fact that personhood begins at conception. This is almost certainly something that can't really be proven by science.
If murder is merely the taking of human life by a human, then perhaps abortion is murder. But if murder refers to persons, then it is almost certainly not.
Furthermore, there is no obvious way why we should consider human life more valuable than any other life. If killing those cells in utero is so wrong, why are antibacterial hand soaps not murder?

Anonymous

So how does a Keynesian blame someone else for his deficits....?

Each time Barrack Obama blames someone else for his 2010 deficit, which now is pegged at $3.6 trillion (approx. 4 times George W Bush's largest annual deficit) he illustrates that he is both a partisan child and a liar. If Capitalism is so bad and Government is the solution to everything, how can you not be responsible for its increasing size and the inevitable increasing deficits that comes with such policies...?

Conservatives are sick and tired of people blaming and demonizing capitalism and free markets for everything. It is a simple fact that Government had a huge role in the mess we are in today. Government gave GSE's the implicit guarantee and sent them to unsustainable levels. Government sponsored the unsustainable business model of subprime lending.

I think Obama will end up being the most destructive president this country has ever had. The bill he passes on to future generations will destroy this nation. It is insurmountable. He will also put extreme ideologues on our Court who will think foreign law has to be precedent and that property rights have to be eliminated for "economic" stimulus or development reasons. Afterall, the Communist Manifesto reads very clear in our Constitution's Preamble.

Anonymous

"personhood"

Which word will you make up next while you disregard science and consensus from the medical community...? I'm sure you, Ruth Ginsburg, and Obama's next blunderous pick for the Court can come up with a few more.

Partial birth abortion steals an innocent life. There is simply no rationale for the Democrat's policies of carte blanche, none with any morals anyway.

Infanticide is the most barbaric practice humanity has witnessed.

James G

Hume might be amused by the variations of his Guillotine in this discussion.

To answer "Anonymous" two posts above this one (May 11 2009 12:16PM), sure. Your statements are a bit zealous, but frankly I find any comparisons to the Democratic party irrelevant. Everyone should hold it as its ideal to do what ought to be done, not simply be better than the alternative- anything else quickly plays to the lowest common denominator. Another person being wrong doesn't make you any less wrong.

-

To respond to Greg Lawson, you're quite correct. There are intellectually strong and respected arguments for conservatism, based on empiricism or a priori reasoning. Though certain theories and philosophies require modification, as always, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with conservatism.

The intellectually vital conservatism of Locke and other such thinkers contrasts greatly with the current "conservative" party. The GOP is not only ignorant, but anit-intellectual in many ways. This is not to say that there are no intelligent conservatives, but rather that they have little sway in their party, or are using their sway to promote anit-intellectualism (as someone earlier suggested).

There is a very big and very important difference between a reasoned argument for conservatism and Glenn Beck shouting (to paraphrase), "Just believe something, even if its wrong, just believe!". You see this in the global warming debate, as David outlined- denying that there is climate change is basically intellectually unsound, but making an argument that it is not cost effective to enact the laws that Liberals want and that there is some overhype of the issue is perfectly valid.

When the Republican Party decides to revisit their intellectual roots and dust off their books, they will find themselves revitalized and able to compete in elections. A good many of them may find that they are libertarians as well, even if they decide that getting more than .5% of the vote is worth being associated with the religious right.

Anonymous

Judge Posner, bravo!

James B

Obviously Becker and Posner have hit a nerve with this most recent post! It is sad, though, that the comments are so overwhelmingly crude, rude, ignorant, and thoughtlessly partisan. This is not discourse, it is venting. I also wonder, is Anonymous in a bad mood every day?

George McLaughlin

Jay said:

"To add to your list, racism fed the conservative movement in the 60's." *************************************************************

Scratch some of the leading respectable thinkers and what do you find --

"... there are real problems in defining and interpreting discrimination. The man who exercises discrimination pays a price for doing so... it is hard to see that discrimination can have any meaning other than a "taste" of others one does not share. We do not regard it as discrimination... if an individual is willing to pay a higher price to listen to one singer rather than another, although we do if he is willing to pay a higher price to have services rendered to him by a person of one color rather than another... is there any difference in principle between the taste that leads a householder to prefer an attractive servant to an ugly one and the taste that leads another to prefer a Negro to a white or a white to a Negro except that we sympathize and agree with the one taste and may not with the other?... Fair Employment Practices Legislation... interferes with the freedom of individuals to enter into voluntary contracts..."

From Milton Freidman, Capitalism and Freedom, p110 - 111. There is a lot more in a similar vein. And he was the respectable face of what others said more honestly.
*********
PS Judge Posner did not say that only fools denied man has caused global warming. He said that denying global warming is the substition of will for intellect. Global warming is a fact; deniers such as Imhofe are discrediting conservatism. I regard causation as not settled even though I acknowledge that the scientific consensus agrees that it is man made.

Will

Anonymous,
Are you asking whether there exists such a thing as personhood? Or are you stating that unborn infants are persons?
I will not argue that there exists some intangible notion of personhood that is present in all humans. Instead, I shall argue that most people have a notion of personhood. I will be surprised if you would say that someone in a coma is a person, or if someone is fully brain dead they are a person. A person is capable of rational choice.

I would also like to hear your argument for the reason we should value an unborn infant's life so unconditionally. Do you extend the same unconditional protectionism towards criminals and the death penalty? Towards soldiers? Towards animals and bacteria?

I would like to see you make clear your reasoning and justification for your claims. I have already said that I do not dispute whether an unborn fetus is alive. I only dispute whether that should enter into ethical debate.

If you refuse to argue reasonably, which seems to be the course of action you are choosing, I have nothing more to say to you. I think anyone observing the argument can see that I have at least attempted to use rational arguing methods, while you so far seem to appeal strongly to ad hominum fallacy.

Jack

Birdwin: Would that the following were true!!

"After the boomers came of age and entered their wealth-producing years in their thirties, forties, and fifties the policies under Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush gave them more limited govt, more free markets, less regulation, and lower taxation."

.......... truth is while a lot of 'em "tried" for a getting off cheap strategy, it hasn't worked out. In recent years we've spent about the same percentage of GDP on government as we did pre-Reagan. The "lower taxes" were only a deferred payment plan with the interest on the debt resulting in a slightly higher overall cost of government than before.

Also, while MUCH has been made of the "fewer workers to support yadda" if we look back a bit more closely it was an era of MUCH lower productivity per worker.

......... take a look at the productivity vs wage graph at the bottom of the article:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5303590.stm

..... HAD wages followed productivity increases as they once did, SS would be in much better shape as would Medicare. And...... of course the biggest effect would be more pay in your pay envelope.

My guess is that we'll soon be in an era of rapid gains in productivity. Some of it is the changing demographics you point out which will result in a shortage of workers, a tendency toward higher pay, which will result in more investment in and development of more productive methods.

The last time we were really short of working folk was during WWII, and to some extent the 60's before "boomers" joined the workforce. In both of those eras productivity gains were high. Today, I'd predict that the foundation of relatively recent gains in IT, biotech and other tech will make a burst of productivity fairly predictable.

At the other end of the spectrum we see surplus retail capacity closing all across the nation, most likely forever, as we've been over retailed for a long time due to surplus labor and the miserable wages that kept marginal retailers alive and even opening more stores so that the thin margins might add up to a viable biz plan if a company operated enough of them.

Further? those young today are likely to advance at a rapid pace due to the vacuum left behind as boomers retire in droves. All is not as bleak as advertised!

Jack

Ha! it's interesting that the neocons here keep on with the talk-radio wedge issues that for the most part aren't working well these days, instead of what might be the best of the conservative movement.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

James B sez:

"I am a liberal and a "yellow dog" Democrat, but I still want to see true conservatism remake itself and rise from its current ashes. The existence of two distinct schools of thought on economic and social issues is healthy and necessary for our democracy."

James FWIW I've long thought that the political spectrum was a circle rather than a see-saw. On that circle I see thoughtful and engaged liberals seated adjacent to PRINCIPLED conservatives and decent debate between the two is likely to gin up the best policies.

If those two groups are cozied up on one side of the table who is on the other side? It's the unprincipled partisans of the recent neo-con ilk, along with self-serving rent-seekers of all political persuasions.

I like my circle theory as it identifies the enemy not as "liberal vs conservative" but principled folk hoping to do the best for their country vs those trying to ladle as much pork for themselves as possible.

Gelmhymn

–°–ø–∞—Å–∏–±–æ –æ–≥—Ä–æ–º–Ω–æ–µ. –ü–æ—á–∏—Ç–∞–ª –∏ –ø–æ–Ω—Ä–∞–≤–∏–ª–æ—Å—å. –ö–∞—Ä—Ç–∏–Ω–æ–∫ –±—ã –µ—â—ë

Anonymous

I don't think conservatives deny facts on the globe's temperature or facts on polar ice. But there is currently a cooling trend taking place. If anyone is denying facts, it is Al Gore and the fascists forcing a Cap and Trade tax down our throats in the middle of a recession. Why not see where this latest trend is going first..., since we are cooling...? Let's get some more facts in to see whether Temp. follows CO2 or whether CO2 does in fact follow Temp. The simple fact is this relationship is not fully understood. We could be chasing a ghost by capping carbon. We already did that once on ethanol, so let's not bring back $4 gallon gas again.

Man Made Global Warming is an unsettled theory. Rushing kneejerk policies that destroy our economy is some of the most irrational proposal we have ever seen from policy makers. Conservatives just want rational policy based on real science. Manipulating science and using scare tactics is a form of FASCISM.

Anonymous

You guys call conservatives stupid because we question the need for a carbon tax based on an unsettled scientific theory on Man-Made Global Warming, yet you disregard the scientific fact that partial birth abortion wastes innocent human life.

I never thought it was possible to reach this level of hypocrisy, but you liberals have managed to do it with flying colors. Congratulations...!

How does a Keynesian point fingers when he racks up huge deficits...? Obama is a childish partisan ideologue for blaming everyone else for his Keynesian deficits. These are YOUR DEFICITS BARRACK, this is your BABY and you CANNOT ABORT IT or kill it with your INFANTICIDE...!

Lisa K.

While I agree with most of what you've written, I don't agree that the conservative has any social or political capital upon which to rest at this point (even their knee-jerk braying of "Reagan! Reagan!", which worked with the sheep for so long, now has most of the country rolling it's collective eyes_. George Bush wore it threadbare, and then, after the crash, Alan Greenspan completely exposed it as a fraud. The only thing that's left for conservatives to do now is state that anything not Friedmanian is socialismm and we've all seen how that's worked for them thus far.

zahidayat

I agree almost all of Mr. Posner arguments. Of course I highlight this point: The end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the surge of prosperity worldwide that marked the global triumph of capitalism, the essentially conservative policies, especially in economics, of the Clinton administration, and finally the election and early years of the Bush Administration, marked the apogee of the conservative movement.

Jim

Why doesn't someone do a simple survey of the public. One question; "Do you trust the government?"

ottovbvs

Judge Posner is not far off the mark particularly in highlighting flaws in conservative economic theory but I think he both overestimates the extent of the conservative revolution in 2000 and exaggerates the decline of Keynesianism. There's no doubt the political center had moved somewhat rightwards by 2000 but it's impetus had been considerably slowed by the Clinton administration which despite its domestic political travails was by most measures highly effective as Judge Posner implies. We then embarked on the Bush adventure when movement conservative positions on social and economic issues were embraced more fervently than ever. But in economic matters it was all done on Keynesian terms. What was the administration's and the Fed's reaction to the dot com bubble burst if not Keynesian. In other realms have 20 years of Republican governance substantially altered the balance of social programs instituted by Democratic presidents. Not really. All that happened was that they reduced the revenue streams available to pay for them and thus piled up record deficits. Judge Posner seems to be relying on Democratic over reach to bring about their downfall. A belief he shares with the unlikely duo of Limbaugh and Cheney. I wouldn't count on it Judge, certainly not in the medium term of say 8 years by which time the center will have moved visibly left.

Brett McMahon

I am curious for your thoughts on an idea I have been chewing on recently.
As a DC native and resident with some involvement in politics (it is a company town after all), it has become apparent to me that many of the ills we suffer are the result of the institutionalized interest groups in DC. The impact these groups, both left and right, has expanded dramatically over the last few decades. These groups are no longer purely academics. Many hold to the title of 'think tank' simply because we have no other commonly understood definition for such an organization. They are, however, merely advocates. Academics let results arise naturally out of the data...advocates begin with the desired outcome in mind and present only that data which supports their position.
Consequently, I propose that the legislature ought to be required to spend at least 9 months per year in their home state or district. I am not a communications expert, but I do believe that the telecommunications infrastructure to make this possible (bandwidth, security, etc.) does exist.
The outcome I seek is the diffusion of the impact these groups have on government policy.
Please share your thoughts (including hysterical laughter at my idiocy) as you are able.
Thank you,

Anonymous

"The only thing that's left for conservatives to do now is state that anything not Friedmanian is socialismm and we've all seen how that's worked for them thus far."

No political capital, hey? Talk to me after Barrack racks up his $10 trillion deficits. A keynesian who points fingers and does not accept responsibility for the debt he passes onto the next generation is a childish partisan with a wreckless and destructive ideology.

Talk to me when inflation runs rampant and we have Jimmy Carter interest rates all over again.

Talk to me when utility costs are sky high.

Talk to me after Nancy Pelosi gets caught in a few more lies.

Those who think conservatism will not rebound are absolutely foolish and naive people who actually believe Government is the answer to everything.

The only question is just how much damage will Barrack do in his time. Will we actually get foreign law as precedent? Will they eliminate property rights in the name of economic stimulus? Will infanticide actually be practiced routinely because babies who are born and escape abortion aren't "life" or "personhood" according to Ruth Badir Ginsburg? Will the US dollar have any credibility when Debt/GDP is post WWII levels?

Obama is out in 4. Nancy Pelosi is out in 2...! It cannot get here soon enough.

Kent

The deficit in Obama's 2009-2010 budget will be ~1.7 trillion.
The overall budget is projected at 3.6 trillion. This spending level went up automatically because of this horrible recession.
Obama and congress added more spending to ward off a depression.
Let's get our facts straight posters!

Obama is frankly and honestly using Keynsian economics to fight this recession, just as GW Bush did in 2002-2004. The problem was that Bush didn't move to budget balance in 2005-2007. Keynsianism recommends deficit spending when private sector activity declines, and balanced budgets when the private sector is robustly growing.

As for global warming - it is true that CO2 went up naturally
at the end of the last ice age - but this doesn't prove that the current rise is not man made. The fact is, we absolutely know that CO2 and methane are green house gases, and that increasing their abundance in the atmosphere will trap more solar heat in our atmosphere. One poster suggested that moving people away from coasts will be a modest cost! What a weird fantasy! If sea levels rise, millions of americans will lose valuable real property - the costs will not be modest!

Anonymous

A keynesian who points fingers and blames others for his deficits is a child. A keynesian who passes the bill to the next generation is a wreckless ideologue.

These deficits are Barrack's BABY, and he cannot abort this BABY...!

Anonymous

"Obama is frankly and honestly using Keynsian economics to fight this recession, just as GW Bush did in 2002-2004."

So George W. Bush wasn't a conservative, and Barrack Obama is more of a Keynesian than Bush was. Exactly...!

Congratulations, Keynesianism owns this entire mess...!

Birdwin

Jack, I'm surprised to say this, but I agree with you. My underlying question is whether there are generational demographic trends that have a significant effect on the success of political ideologies.
If large groups of people vote their self interest...then it makes sense to me that if the boomers wanted more discretionary income and a consumptive lifestyle, then during the past two decades they would have supported lower income taxes. EVEN if that meant a deferred payment plan and higher cost of government overall. A cheap trick, yes, but a good (and selfish!) bet for this group if it can successfully pass the bill to the next generation right?

As this group is now entering retirement, my guess is that their wage incomes will decline and they will rely on pension income, social security and begin drawing down their wealth reserves. Again, if they are voting their self-interest... wouldn't their priority be preservation of social security and medicare benefits and extension of other government benefits and services? They would also have little reason to oppose income tax hikes on the higher brackets as their taxable incomes are on the decline. They would, however, be opposed to capital gains tax increases and estate tax increases as they liquidate their assets.


Which brings me to the suckers now in their 30's and 40's who are footing the bill for the largesse. It is awfully difficult for me to find anyone in their mid-30's that is not a classical liberal. Talk to the average 35 yr old and I'll bet you uncover the following views- govt should leave people alone, govt is wasteful and inefficient, gay marriage and abortion is a personal issue (why does the govt care about this again?), healthcare is expensive but I only need it for pregnancy or if something really bad happens like a car accident, being green is great but only if it doesn't cost me anything. For many of the people in this group their interaction with the government is limited to standing in line at the DMV or city hall- a decidedly painful experience. Amazingly, if you have these views neither the Republican nor the Democratic party is particularly attractive right now, since they both seem to be occupied by a bunch of crazy people.

As you point out very clearly, productivity per worker has increased and likely will continue to increase so the demographic retirement cliff should be offset by productive gains across a relatively smaller employee base. Unfortunately the workers in the middle also have little political clout and may continue to be suckers that foot the bill for their elders and the guys just behind them. May also explain why their wages since 2001 haven't kept up with productivity increases.

The children of the boomers came out strong in the 2008 election and were a voice for more government. They received the benefits of the consumptive lifestyle of their parents (nice cars, new houses, cell phones, etc.) but are unable to finance that lifestyle on their own at entry-level wages. Wealth transfer is an attractive solution for this group, regardless of whether that transfer is from the government or from their parents. How many parents are gifting these guys the down payment on their first home?!! Why not also ask the government to forgive their student loan debt, write-down their principal balance on their first mortgage, freeze their credit card interest rate, reduce their tax rates, and give them free healthcare?

As I mentioned before, as this group ramps up their earnings and starts creating wealth, then I would suspect their views on the proper size and scope of government to change as well.

Reader

Some of Posner's points are well taken, and I agree with the comment that demographics plays a major role in the decline of conservatism. But to say that the basis of the "new conservatism" (as he defines it) is "emotion and religion" fails to examine the basis for these positions.

The reference to "homosexual rights" is a case in point. As individuals, homosexuals have always had equal rights, but societies maintain themselves by upholding social norms which underpin the family and by rejecting violations of those norms. The family has functions basic to society which are intrinsically heterosexual - procreation, child-rearing (mothers and fathers have unique roles in the life of a child, are not fungible), and vital importance of tying males to marital responsibilities, something that will only happen in a relationship with a woman. Homosexual conduct is itself not a threat to the family, but sanctioning necessarily affects the broader culture.

This is a concise way of putting it, but I would challenge those who believe that the pro-homosexual position is intellectually defensible to explain why societies which have accepted it concomitantly have such negative vital statistics (below replacement-level fertility, marriage, etc.). I've yet to see anyone put forward the case that the Left's social model is a sustainable one.

Reader

Some of Posner's points are well taken, and I agree with the comment that demographics plays a major role in the decline of conservatism. But to say that the basis of the "new conservatism" (as he defines it) is "emotion and religion" fails to examine the basis for these positions.

The reference to "homosexual rights" is a case in point. As individuals, homosexuals have always had equal rights, but societies maintain themselves by upholding social norms which underpin the family and by rejecting violations of those norms. The family has functions basic to society which are intrinsically heterosexual - procreation, child-rearing (mothers and fathers have unique roles in the life of a child, are not fungible), and vital importance of tying males to marital responsibilities, something that will only happen in a relationship with a woman. Homosexual conduct is itself not a threat to the family, but sanctioning necessarily affects the broader culture.

This is a concise way of putting it, but I would challenge those who believe that the pro-homosexual position is intellectually defensible to explain why societies which have accepted it concomitantly have such negative vital statistics (below replacement-level fertility, marriage, etc.). I've yet to see anyone put forward the case that the Left's social model is a sustainable one.

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