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Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!


How could that article ever be used to convince someone that abortion is morally okay? Take one belief you hold seriously. Let's say you're a committed pacifist. Would a list of dubious anecdotes about alleged pacifists being hypocritical change you into a hawk? It's ludicrous. It doesn't speak to the topic of abortion's acceptability in the slightest. It's just a smug ad hominem against everyone with opposing beliefs on this issue.

I'm sure in pro-life circles they pass around cherished articles that describe how nefarious and other those conniving choicers are. It's all echo-chamber intellectual narcissism, whichever side is doing it.

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Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Bruce Leroy posted:

It's useful because it points out the rank hypocrisy of the anti-abortion movement.

Firstly, I appreciate your measured response. I think this quote highlights my point though. Hypocrisy exists in every movement, it being an integral part of the human condition. Human failings do not in any way affect the truth or validity of an argument. Let's say there's a debate about the existence of God going on: sooner or later, someone on the religion side will bring up the many atrocities committed by the Godless Russian communists. It's a fallacy worthy of a six year old: as if Stalin being nasty means that God must exist.

Equally, it would be entirely assine to reject left economics because Lavrentiy Beria was so depraved. Arguing for a fairer distribution of wealth does not mean you defend the GULAG, as they are entirely seperate issues. Equally, advancing the view that unborn life is worthy of protection does not mean you are an apologist for the actions of everyone who has ever shared that opinion.

It's quite clear why the abortion article was originally posted, and why it's so popular around here - it would be really fun to read if you are pro-choice. Plenty of othering, a reassuring sense of moral superiority, and grist to the mill of confirmation bias. Of course, all those characteristics are also why it's entirely useless for creating a genuine dialogue. The same thing happens in every debate and around every contentious issue. Each side preaches endlessly to it's own choir. For religious folk, words like God, Bible and Jesus are very powerful, so they can't resist using them all the time in their outreach literature. What they don't realise, of course, is that type of language has absolutely no traction with their target audience. I'm reminded, in fact, of trying to learn Irish in school from books written entirely in Irish, which again shows how little empathy authors can have for the audience they are trying to reach.

I emphasise that I'm not trying to start a derail here about the rights and wrongs of abortion. I picked the example to draw out what it means to genuinely engage with your opponents, and to point out the futility of wallowing in the comforting cliches of your own side.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

GodlessCommie posted:

How about an article or a graph about how raising the minimum wage is a good thing and won't raise prices too much?

Not trying to push an agenda here or anything, but the article mentioned in the OP -


also finds a 79% consensus among economists that "A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers" So, ya know, don't throw that article around too much if the stimulus point is the only one you like.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Cream_Filling posted:

Basically, his point is that the adjective "free" in "free market" has really just turned into a general positive term like "good."

A rather elegant synopsis, this. Words like liberty and freedom are mostly used for their connontations and emotional resonance rather than any rigorous definition. It's a clever bit of political framing - if you're against free markets, does that mean you want shackled markets?

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Here's a scholarly article I found interesting: Not Saint Darwin. It may be useful in creating a calmer environment for dialogue with people who reject evolution. It elucidates the development of evolutionary thought, and in so doing it deflates a lot of the irrelavant hagiography around Darwin. It's an insightful article in that it shows that modern evolutionary thought was sired by many individuals, the same as any other scientific paradigm.

In truth, I can see how some people are suspicious of evolution - not only is it counterintuitive, but people talk about The Origion of Species as though it were a sacred text. From the outside, it can look a lot like venerating the man with the impressive beard. People might even think that the term Darwinism has similar legitimacy to ideological positions like Stalinism or Calvinism. We should strive for language that makes it clear that evolution is about science, not discipleship, personality, or ideology.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Bluff posted:

Also, I'd like to get a working knowledge of Micro/Macro economics. Unfortunately, after watching inside job i'm wary that the field is essentially being coopted by business interests railing against regulation...is there any recommendations for independent books/online courses to check out?

I'm no expert on economics, and I loved Inside Job, but I wouldn't form an opinion on a whole field of academic research based on one documentary film. That's where things like creationism come from.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

rscott posted:

Austrian economists literally reject empirical evidence when forming their models and are nothing more than a bunch of guys bullshitting from their armchairs.

Hey, not having a go at you, I don't even know what your economic opinions are, but this is an interesting little post. It seems that it's trendy thing to attack economics because it's perceived as having questionable assumptions at its core. Here's a few things to bear in mind when throwing out allegations like that:

* What alternative economic system proceeds from a rigorous, empiric understanding of human behavior? Socialists love sneering at mainstream economics because rational actor theory is naive. What is the firm theory of human action that underpins socialism? What behavioral psychology experiments did Marx perform before taking to his armchair to expound his theories?

* Perhaps economics appears overly simplistic to the layman, because, well, it's made overly simplistic for the layman's benefit. My secondary school physics book neglected air resistance in its treatment of ballistics. Does that mean that professors of physics believe in an ideal world free from drag and friction? Of course not - professional economists are often keenly aware of the shortcomings of the models they construct.

* I'd be careful about hand-waving away whole fields of academic study. I'm sure creationists have lots of little soundbites that show how all of modern biology is a nonsense. There's a fine line between having healthy skepticism and indulging in glib anti-intellectualism.

Having said all that, you're talking about Austrian economics, which is quite heterodox so I see where you're coming from. My points are more aimed at those who'd dismiss all of modern economics with one or two easy cliches.

Also, great post there Helsing.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Helsing posted:

It makes sense to think of Libertarianism as being more of an attitude than a doctrine. Its an extreme reaction against government authority more than its a reasoned set of positions on how to best secure the good life or increase the general welfare. That makes it much harder to argue the merits of the system because you either value their rather arbitrary idea of liberty or you don't.

I think you're right - it's very easy for a political philosophy to lose its moorings, becoming a crusade for pure ideals rather than a system to make as many people as possible decently happy.

In that vein, I came across this article, Marxism of the Right, which deconstructs libertarianism in language that isn't off-putting to conservative types.

Another great article to bear in mind in approaching these kind of debates, is this piece about the work of Jonathan Haidt. He's done a lot of research in the field of political and moral psychology, trying to pin down what is the basic difference in mindset between liberals and conservatives. The insights about the groupthink and core irrationality that we are all susceptible to are essential. It's impossible to have a constructive discussion with someone if you view them as being an ineffable other, motivated by bizarre beliefs that they must have been brainwashed into.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Loving Life Partner posted:

So if you read a book like Capital that destroys capitalism, and a book like something Mises writes that destroys socialism, and it seems like you can probably find a book that posits good theories and decent inferences to destroy any established system or order or government, so where the hell do you decide to stand as an individual?

Are there benefits and drawbacks to all systems and we need to identify which to use and which to discard on a case by case basis, and have a hodge-podge of existence that's always changing?

Don't worry about the cheerleaders who uphold the political binary that lets them split the world into goodies and baddies. Feel free to put something new on the table, I'm sure there's lots of clever ways to structure a society's wealth that nobody has thought of yet. Don't let dead beardy guys have the lost word on this.

As a side note: distributism might be worth checking out. The work of E.F Schumacher is also pretty interesting.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

icantfindaname posted:

Marxism can be a useful analysis, but I maintain that it's not an end all theory that makes everything else obsolete. Neoclassical economics can actually take a particular market, examine it, and produce a (rough, usually) number for say the elasticity of demand, or do regression analysis for businesses and banks. Obviously this isn't the end all of economics, but saying it's useless and should be thrown out because it usually promotes a bad ideology seems dangerous to me.

I've enjoyed reading the back-and-forth between your brave self and a few of the other posters, and this post seems like a fair way to wrap it up. In my view punches were landed on either side, and I think that neither Marxism nor neoclassical economics emerges unscathed. Just as I'd expect: certainty is not easily had in this world, and just because your side is flawed doesn't mean my side is infallible.

We need to drop St. Marx thinking. Consider, say, someone like Ha Joon Chang; one can dissent strongly from modern economic orthodoxy without reverting to simple socialism. My own feeling is that structuring your economy requires subtlety and wisdom. We don't have grand sweeping theories that give us a perfect template for designing microprocessors or antibiotic drugs. Some questions are necessarily complex, and I see no reason why the challenge of resource allocation would be well-served by doctrinaire thinking.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

rscott posted:

Oh the truth lies somewhere in the middle does it?

No, what I mean is that there is no middle. An electric motor is not a compromise between a diesel and a petrol engine. It's a different solution to the same problem. There are potentially millions of ways of allocating resources in a society, and arranging those various systems along a straight spectrum bookended by Marx and Hayek is meaningless.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

SSJ2 Goku Wilders posted:

You could say that for practically all neoliberal economic models ever conceived

Are there any economic models that don't rely on simplifying assumptions?

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Blind Pineapple posted:

Does anyone have some good resources for why government spending is necessary to combat poverty? I guess it should be obvious, but a libertarian I'm arguing with thinks that since the US spends X amount of money on social programs and poverty is still high, government spending doesn't work (and should be left to the free market which does everything better).

In terms of finding common ground, it would be useful to admit that there are many cases where government spending is wasteful and counter-productive. A useful resource might be something like this: http://evidencebasedprograms.org/wordpress/

I'd try to frame government spending as being a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for reducing poverty. Wisdom, and evidence-based policy, are also required to get the desired result.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Habibi posted:

I need some good resources on 9/11, whether online or book.

This isn't directly related to what you're looking for, but it's a fantastic resource and deserves a broad readership: The Terrorism Delusion. The subtitle, 'America’s Overwrought Response to September 11' is a good summation of its thesis. It's a very well referenced look at the nature of terrorism in America, and succeeds in showing that 9/11 was really just a once-off lucky break for a tiny contingent of badly-organised amateurs, that didn't portend any meaningful threat to the West.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

JamesJBuffalkill posted:

It's an idea that I don't recall reading around D&D, which makes me a but skeptical. It seems that, at it's core, you would do away with corporate taxes and just more heavily tax the individuals that would receive the money. Could someone clarify?

I'm far from being an expert, but as much as I can surmise this proposal is very much a point of consensus among economists. Here's a quick little sketch (of a podcast) showing agreement between five professional economists with quite different political inclinations: Six Policies Economists Love (And Politicians Hate) It seems that in every respect it's better for society to just directly tax those who benefit from corporate profit rather than going after corporations themselves. It's a shame it's not politically tenable. The other five points on that list are all interesting too, particularly the scandalously regressive taxation embodied in mortgage interest tax relief.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Cahal posted:

At this point I've come to the conclusion that markets are mostly 'good' at providing things that we don't really need.

Just an aside, and not trying to be snide, but how do things like these forums fit into your scheme? I think they're a good thing, I was glad to pay the to get on here, and I would have no faith whatsoever in the Central Cultural Commissar spontaneously providing well-moderated comedy forums as a service to the workers.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

buttcoin smuggler posted:

Can anyone suggest references on micro finance? I recall reading somewhere that it may actually hurt the people being loaned to. Any information about whether it has a net positive or negative effect would be appreciated.

It's not definitive but GiveWell have a useful overview. They use empiric metrics as far as possible in ranking charities so I'd give their views some weight.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Most of the resources in here are to help people debate, but I hope this little video can help people discuss:

Jonathan Haidt: How common threats can make common (political) ground

It's an assiduously balanced examination of how to look beyond your own ideological fetters to find some common ground with the people across the floor.

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Kafka Esq. posted:


edit: also, hard to believe you recommend Niall Ferguson if you know anything about historical studies. Is there someone more reputable?

By 'reputable' I presume you mean something more conducive to a pleasant confirmation bias?

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Hollis posted:

Anyway yea, it was late at night and I probably shouldn't have argued that whole, "your morals are not everyone's morals" issue and yes is was a terrible terrible mistake to get into a debate on abortion and I regretted my decision immediately.

Yeah it's always a dicey topic, I hope you don't lose a friendship over it!

Anyway, I think it's unhelpful to bring people's own actions into the discussion when a moral issue is being discussed. I'm not saying that for reasons of etiquette or niceness, just because you can't actually win an argument that way. It just brings things off in tangential directions: there's no logical flaw in your interlocutor here saying "Yes, I am a constant moral failure, however this lamentable fact in no way affects my arguments against abortion/American foreign policy/corporate personhood/water fluoridation/what-have-you"

I'm somewhat reminded of that smug image that points out the revelatory fact that some Occupy protestors use products created by corporations. It's an awful, clumsy piece of propaganda, intended solely to shift the perception of the group into the 'hypocrite' category, which, somehow, means their arguments don't have to be listened to...

Bob Nudd fucked around with this message at Jul 13, 2013 around 21:34

Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

Kudaros posted:

Because my wife is a wizard, we have somehow managed to convince a bunch of people to come to our house and listen to debates, speeches, presentations or something, and have something resembling dinner party. The plan is to show youtube videos (or audio) that might get people to think a little bit about ~issues~. The real goal is to stop going out and spending money for a bit.

Sounds a bit like you're having an Asteroids Club meeting. In as much as you want people to change their views, psychology suggests that dining together, and identifying common threats, will really help facilitate an open atmosphere.

How common threats can make common (political) ground

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Bob Nudd
Jul 24, 2007

Gee whiz doc!

PerniciousKnid posted:

In 2013 America, all the Republicans I know respond to mention of issues like climate change with something along the lines of "experts don't know poo poo", which, I don't have a response for other than to acknowledge that the person has no interest in discussing in good faith.

Getting people to discuss in good faith is the central challenge. All people everywhere will indulge in motivated reasoning and my-side bias when dropped into polarizing arguments, for well understood psychological reasons. If the conditions of the discussion are changed, then so will people's discursive style. Two factors seem to be especially important in facilitating discussions that transcend tribal binaries: firstly, establishing shared interests by identifying common threats, and then fostering openness by breaking bread together. This is how you press the disarm switch for the motivated reasoner in your head. I imagine that most discussions you've had with Republicans haven't happened under these happy conditions, and so there'll be all sorts of biases and fallacies bouncing around and both sides get to go away thinking that the other is intransigent and willfully ignorant.

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