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Old 09-08-2011, 07:42 PM
Jay J Jay J is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Little Rock, AR
Posts: 436
Default Re: Ostracize Dan Savage

On the Texas and sodomy thing, with the Coulter-Savage issue jettisoned, I think continuing on that line will get very peripheral pretty quick. Unless you object, I'm going to set this one down. Now, moving on...

If you and I are noble savages in a jungle with nothing but our hunting spears to sustain us, we both go hunting together, throw our spears at the pig, and only mine kills the pig, then the pig belongs to both of us. It was a mutual effort, and over time I've eaten a few pigs you've killed.

On the other hand, If you hang out in the hammock and never go hunting, then you have no right to my pig. The only way you get it is if you take it from me, which basically makes me your slave.

I think the desire to not be someone else's slave is as much a part of human nature as their sexual orientation is. I also think that all economic laws regarding what belongs to who is an extrapolation of this basic principle, and any diversion of what the laws should be is not based on a disagreement on this basic principle, but is based on a disagreement on whether one policy or another contradicts the basic principle.
I should thank you for bringing this up, because this shows a more fruitful line of discussion that I was allowing in my comments, which were a bit defeatist about whether any kind of understanding could be found on such disagreements. I mean, it's still very possible, (maybe likely?) that there are some irresolvable moral views at bottom, but your argument above makes me wonder if it's not partly (or even wholly) about how much we believe the actual state of affairs in the world approximates the hypothetical scenario you sketch above.

I realize it's a hypothetical, but I suppose I think there are too many hang ups in real life to use your hypothetical. I'm not clever enough to offer a rival hypothetical, so let me just say that I think we don't all start out the way you may think. I don't believe the ways wealth and achievement are dispersed in the world is a result of everyone starting out on an even line and running a race to the finish. I know you probably don't disagree wholly with that either, I just want to emphasize that I not only think this about the big picture history of slavery and the relation of labor and capital and what not, but I think in relatively subtle ways the structural obstacles in the way of the poor and excluded are still very significant.

This diagnosis makes me a person, roughly speaking, of the left. My relatively sanguine view of markets makes me, roughly speaking, a left neoliberal. Matthew Yglesias tried to speak up for deregulation once upon a time, then realized he liked all kinds of regulation, but still wanted to insist that some deregulation was good. Some of his commenters jokingly said "so when it's good it's good, and when it's bad, it's bad?" That got me to thinking that there had to be a way to articulate the distinction Yglesias was getting at. The most promising tact I've seen so far is from Scott Sumner, who has coined the therm "statism" (well, I'm sure the word was used before, but his usage is somewhat novel, I think), which talks about certain kinds of regulation that governments tend to impose that are bad. I'm very underqualified to tease it all out, and Sumner is probably to the right of me even on this issue, but to grope at trying to qualify it, Denmark could get high marks in statism (meaning, a good grade, which is low statism) while still engaging in high government spending.

I'm sorta getting off on a tangent, so let me reign it in and say simply that there are different shades of leftist (this is true of the right too, I'm sure). What pundits do is they attack the other side (in spite of all the shades) and what I am saying is that specifically aggrieved people get some leeway from me when the target those responsible for their plight. I know we've left behind the hypocrisy issue, so I hope I'm not violating a previous tacit agreement, but what I'm getting at in the abstract, is that to me there is a distinction between someone whose struggle is personal on the one hand, and someone who is essentially a political pundit on the other.

To use an example I'm sure we could agree on, if members of a certain community were getting their land taken by immanent domain, and there was a certain powerful faction of the democratic party that frequently talked about how people didn't really have rights to their homes, I would take that background into account. On the other hand, if a pundit came along and just generally lobbed rhetorical bombs at republicans *in general* say, someone like this


I would give more leeway to the people with the personal issue that aimed their comments toward the people that were responsible for continuing the policy (even if they were very intemperate with their comments).

I'm not sure if I'm still whipping that dead horse, but if we're still talking in any way at all about whether the right and left can have issues that are extremely personal, as personal as one's sexual nature, I concede that it can go both ways. Whether we agree on just where the lines are I kinda doubt it, because I tend to lean left on who killed the pig, who came along and stole it, who was provided with the best weapons, and stuff like that. But I can agree in the abstract that the values that drive the right can be as personal and sacrosanct as one's sexual nature, which is more of an issue of the left when it comes to homosexuality.

ADDENDUM: I should probably leave well enough alone. But I just want to say that I can see that it may have seemed like I was saying issues over sexual nature are *always* more personal than the kinds of issues that motivate conservatives. I was speaking with the implicit background on talking about a political pundit, which is more a matter of fighting over the difference between Bush and Obama, Pelosi and Boehner, Clinton and Gingrich, etc. I know these Dem-Rep disputes are very important in our public discourse and they should be, but they're pretty marginal compared to whether one's sexual nature is illegal, second-class, or what have you. That's why I came up with the example of people getting their property taken (and it would help if they were middle class or poor) and then having to listen to political leaders talk about how they have no right to the property in the first place. I was trying to make it dramatic and personal. On the other hand, whether the tax rates are at 35% or 39% is not the kind of issue that ameliorates bombastic rhetorical behavior.

And I don't even want to say that people discriminated against in such a way that implicates their basic humanity, like homosexuals are, have a *justification* for bombastic rhetorical behavior. I do, however, want to make the more modest claim that our typical day-to-day political disputes are not the same in kind as the very personal issue of one's sexual nature, so some very personal issues ameliorate this behavior moreso than if the behavior is caused by a disagreement over whether we should extend unemployment insurance another year. The reason I said I was more of an essentialist about sexual nature than private property is that in order for our typical policy arguments over economics to carry the same moral oomph as arguments over homosexuality, (given the current state of law in this area) then it would seem like I would have to be an essentialist about property, since then even marginal changes in policy would cross very bright moral lines.

OK I think I've explained myself to death. But knowing me I'll probably think of something left unexplained. When that happens, I'll try to resist adding more explanation.

Last edited by Jay J; 09-09-2011 at 04:05 PM..
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