A Modest Proposal to Promote Domestic Tranquility

May 20th, 2010

By Dan Miller

Jim Taylor, PhDHuff and Puff and down fall the houses of falsehood

Here is a truly fascinating article from Huffington Post by Jim Taylor, PhD in psychology and lecturer at the University of San Francisco, a well known bastion of unbiased intellectual thought. Mr.* Taylor complains that the sources of information nowadays are too many, too prolific and too motivated by politics and/or ideology, and that we lack the resources, intellectual and otherwise, to distinguish “facts” from “falsehoods” and from opinion. President Obama recently said much the same. They are, of course, right correct.

Mr. Taylor directs his message not to those whose “facts” are incongruent with his.

The reality is that, for these extremists, when ideology comes face to face with the facts, facts are the victim. You need look no further than the birthers, truthers, death panelists, and Sarah Palin devotees to see the profound disconnect from fact for those who hold extreme ideologies.

Rather, his message is directed toward the reasonable folk who agree with him.

This post is directed toward to [sic] everyone else, those who, whether a Republican or Democrat, Christian, Jew, Muslim, or atheist, environmentalist or industrialist, socialist or capitalist, are reasonable people who believe that truth should trump ideology, who are interested in separating fact from fiction, and want to know both sides of an issue before forming thoughtful and well-supported opinions. Just look at the health-care legislation. Decent people can disagree about what is the best health care system for America, but that determination should be based on facts, such as how many people will be covered and what will the costs be, not ideology or prostituting to special interests.

Truth is good; untruths are bad; distortions, spins and misinformation are bad. Gosh Darn! We agree.

However, Mr. Taylor’s prescription (in this context, perhaps I should accord him the honorific “Doctor”) is as follows:

The federal government should create a Department of Information whose responsibility it is to determine the facts behind any decision that confronts our country. I know what you’re thinking: This sounds like something that belongs in a totalitarian regime. But the reality is that someone has to decide on what is factual and what is not. So who can we trust to give us the most accurate information available? Big Business? Traditional media? The blogosphere? I certainly wouldn’t trust any of them.

Though our government is far from perfect, it does exist, at least in theory, to serve the best interests of the American people. That’s more than can be said for any other influences in our society; everyone else has a self-serving agenda. And our government already decides what is factual in many areas, whether the Office of Management and Budget deciding how much the health-care legislation will cost, the Federal Reserve describing the state of our economy, or even the decisions handed down by Supreme Court (though, interestingly, they are called opinions not facts). I know, budget estimates are often wrong, the Fed has made glaring economic-policy mistakes, and the Supreme Court has made some lousy decisions, but those mistakes may be more a reflection of the complexities of life and honest disagreement on ambiguous issues rather on than intentional misinformation.

Here’s the next part of my proposal. Anytime there is a factual dispute, the Department of Information would render a decision on what the facts are. Those parties who come out on the short end of those decisions would not be allowed to use their “facts” any longer (just like having potentially dangerous drugs or products taken off the shelf). If they do, there would be fines levied to punish the transgressors. This system would not only make clear what the facts are and empower those who want the facts to be known, but it would also discredit the lunatic fringe and reduce the influence of their views on the majority of people.

Now that’s a stupendous idea, despite that ratty old Constitution written by a bunch of long dead obscenely rich white male jerks (please excuse the redundancy) obviously cursed with an overabundance of Neanderthal genes! It should be tossed into an (ecologically sound) trash bin. Should it fly (and Mr. Taylor acknowledges that it might not — but then, scientists were once said to know that a bumblebee couldn’t fly), anyone who advocates that 2 + 2 = 6, that the Germans and Japanese were the bad guys and the United States and Great Britain were the good guys during the Second World War, that Arizona’s Jim Crow immigration law is reasonable and constitutional or that under the Health Control Law costs are likely to rise, medical care to suffer and/or that the old farts might get the short end of the stick – being in all cases clearly misguided, politically and/or ideologically suspect wrong – would have to shut up or be punished by fines. Big fines, I hope. Perhaps Huff and Puff and Daily It’s So Kos I Say So should get some of the fine proceeds. That will show those damn Fascist ideologues on the right. If only King George Bush II the Perverse or Prince Cheney the Unspeakable had thought of this and implemented it! But then President Bush’s faith-based initiatives were bad and President Obama’s faith-based initiatives are good. Maybe there is an ideological difference. Or maybe President Obama is the physical embodiment of faith.

What are facts, anyway? Obviously, it’s a true fact that man-made global warming is happening and that the consequences will be draconian unless we cease spewing toxic CO2 into the atmosphere — now, Damnit! Saint Al the Gored is correct, there is no legitimate scientific dispute and civilization as we know it will fall into oblivion if he can’t buy another mansion or jet aircraft out of the (non) profits from cap and trade transactions. Once upon a time, more physicians preferred camels to any other, well, I suppose, cigarette.

Back when the Health Control Law was passed and signed, and only some of Santa Claus’ elves (and maybe Rudolph) at the North Pole had read and understood it, there were no “facts;” only opinions based, quite likely, on the same reliable sources as those upon which Attorney General Holder relied in criticizing the new Arizona immigration statute — television and newspaper reports by folks who hadn’t bothered to read it either and who, I might suggest, were among the ideologically blessed. Responsible officials can’t be bothered with the trash spouted by those of impure ideology or worse. Get thee behind me, Satan, Fox, Beck, Palin, Rush et al! Make way for The New York Times and MSNBC! Quick! Before they die.

Still, if there were to be an official governmental arbitrator of what is fact and what is falsehood, it would greatly simplify life. The entire problem of separating the wheat from the chaff would be pushed off on someone else and hidden behind one of Douglas Adams’ SEP (Somebody Else’s Problem) fields where nobody could see it. The SEP field theory was noted in the second (or was it the third?) of Adams’ five book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. I have read that “Adams had a keen interest in the effects of drinking on intelligent people, and discovered that you can get past writers block by drinking vast amounts of alcohol, blacking out, and waking up in a cow field.” I don’t believe it for a moment and hence it is not a real fact.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that alcohol is inexpensive and there are plenty of cow pastures here, I have implemented a remotely similar strategy at home. We have four dogs. Two of them are too puppy-like and carefree to worry, and I don’t like doing it myself. So, I have delegated all responsibility for worry to the two pups who seem best fitted to the task. Getting a lobotomy might serve the same purpose, but might not be covered by my health insurance: it might be covered under the new Health Control Law, but I don’t know and need a Department of Information to tell me. Regardless of that, the pup delegation costs absolutely nothing. I have denied them internet access, imbuing them with a degree of purity generally lacking in others. Now, I can be happy and carefree. Something similar would, in my carefree state of mind, be superior to Mr. (Dr.) Thomas’ offering, and might also encourage the adoption of unwanted puppies otherwise doomed to execution. That, at least, seems worthwhile.

________________________
*When I was in undergraduate school eons ago, people with medical degrees were referred to as Doctor. It was considered snobbish for a PhD to refer to himself as “Doctor” because all of his peers also had that degree. Even lowly instructors and the post-doc teaching assistants who handled small seminars for the Big Man had them. Students absorbed this perception, and Professor Doctor Smith was referred to simply as Mr. Smith. Alas, that was then and this is now, but I still adhere to the notion. 


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34 Responses to “A Modest Proposal to Promote Domestic Tranquility”



  1. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    “Wow, I can’t believe the response that my post has engendered!! Even with my “note: please don’t miss my ironic tone” (a pretty clear sign post, I would think), my irony was completely missed. Thankfully, a intrepid reader emailed me to find out the truth about my post (which is more than I can say for the others who partook of this feeding frenzy on my cyber-carcass). Because he figured that I was too busy to respond in detail, he offered me a single multiple-choice question:

    “My estimation of the idea of a Department of Information, as written about in my article, should be understood as:

    A – a goal to be achieved

    B – a dream to be considered

    C – a fantasy, but wholly impractical

    D – the stuff Orwellian nightmares are made of
    But given the number and vitriolic tone of the comments, how could I not respond in detail and provide clarity (dare I say, accurate information) on the intentions underlying my post.

    Let me start by saying that I am no libertarian, but I am also no socialist or fascist. And, now please listen carefully, I was NOT SERIOUS in my proposal of a Dept. of Information. That is truly an Orwellian nightmare (so my answer would have been D). ! I knew that section of my post would provoke strong reactions (and it has all over the blogosphere), but I didn’t expect it to cause readers to miss the fundamental point of the post, namely, “But the real purpose of my post is to emphasize how important it is for us to embrace accurate information to not only help us make decisions that are in our best interests, but also to use it as a cudgel against those who wish to distort or ignore the facts and impose their extreme ideologies on others.”

    I would encourage readers to re-read my article, but skip the section on the Dept. of Information. I would like to think that if I had not included the Dept. of Information, most of this audience would agree with most of my ideas.

    I welcome vigorous debate, though I prefer it to be civil and respectful. I don’t have all of the answers, but I do like to stir encourage the exchange of ideas from all points along the ideological continuum. But the ad hominem attacks on my intelligence, my profession, my professional competence, among many other insults act only to diminish whatever reasonable ideas may have been presented. Disagree with me? Absolutely! Challenge my ideas? Bring it on!! But insult me personally? That just makes you look petty, childish, and weak of argument. I understand that libertarians are feeling frustration and anger these days (as are just about everyone engaged in the political process), but please don’t take it out on me.”


  2. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    P.S. Mr. Miller cherry picked my post for quotes to build his effigy of me to burn in front of the rabid crowd. But, by doing so, he became a blatant example of just the kind of misinformation that is infecting our political system. More importantly, in his tunnel vision to turn my fairly reasonable post into something that just about everyone would hate, he missed the real point of the post.


  3. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    P.P.S. as to your comment about the use of Dr. with those who hold Ph.D.s in Psychology (it being snobbish and all). I can’t speak to your experience as a college student, but it has been common practice just about everywhere for as long as I have had a Ph.D. (25 years) for those with a Ph.D. in Psychology to be referred to as Dr. because, I suppose, it is a health profession, as opposed to geology, math, etc., in which, yes, professors are generally referred to as Mr.

    But was such an ad hominem attack really necessary?

    Oh, BTW, “Mr. (Dr.) Thomas’ offering” (sic!) :->


  4. Brian Bagent |

    About the only place I agree with Dr Taylor is that PhDs are, and have been for some time, afforded the honorific “Doctor,” but generally only in a professional environment.

    Otherwise, one would have to be around the bend to suggest that any government agency EVER be the arbiter of what is factual and what is not. How long before the “Department of Information” becomes the Ministry of Truth, before it becomes merely a house of agitprop? What happens, Dr. Taylor, if the government should be overtaken by Fascists and people like you are fined out of existence?

    Truth and facts do not need a government ministry to support it – they can stand just fine on their own. We are a free people, and can decide for ourselves what is factual and what is not, what is true and what is not.

    “If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” — George Washington


  5. Tom Carter |

    Dr. Taylor, I read your Huffington Post article and the comments it received. I’m not sure it was a “feeding frenzy” on your “cyber-carcass.” Many comment streams, even on HP, are much worse.

    Dan didn’t miss your irony, but I think you may have missed his satire, which I think was pretty obvious. Just begin with the nod to Swift in the “modest proposal” of the title of Dan’s article.

    While your “Department of Information” wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, it’s too close to what some people would like to see happen. And, as you note, it doesn’t matter whether one is liberal, conservative, etc — many people see their version of truth as absolute and consider anyone with an opposing view as ill-informed at best and evil at worst. I would take issue with the idea that this is something new or different, though, except perhaps in degree. I lived through the late sixties and seventies, and it’s hard to think there’s more bad information and hatred in the air now than there was then. The problem today, as you pointed out, is the explosion of information sources, many of them completely off-the-wall. The media is part of it, as ever, but today their biases are just more evident.

    It’s obvious, even through the irony, that you believe there is a “truth” in politics and government policy, and that if everyone just knew that “truth” everything would be better. However, it’s also obvious that your version of truth is based on your personal political ideology. The fact is, there often isn’t any real truth in politics, especially where the most contentious issues are concerned. Think about it — what’s the “truth” about abortion, gun control, economic and fiscal policy, health care reform, terrorism and Islamic extremism, and anything else that generates broad public disagreement? If you think you know the answer to that question, then I would respectfully submit that you’re part of the problem.

    And by the way, while you tried to position yourself as a centrist of sorts, you gave the game away at the very end: “All for a hanging chad…” That implies that if Gore had won in 2000 instead of Bush, everything would have been much better. My truth is that as bad as Bush was in many respects, Gore might well have been just as bad or worse. That’s more a commentary on the dearth of good choices our political system gives us (as in 2008) than it is on any particular version of “truth.”


  6. d |

    I’m for a hanging chad. Ah,but Tom,it might have been much better,we will never know,now. Could not have been worse,in my opinion,not a fact. I agree with Dr. Taylor,something does need to be done about facts. If you have a point to make,no matter how crazy you are,and I know, you can find facts to back it up on the computer. The weirdest and the most fanatical can back up their views. The Gov.,however,would totally control the “facts”,if allowed to decide what they were. I am pretty sure Dr.Taylor was not serious,but merely pointing out how insane it has gotten,out here in the press and cyberland. Dan,as usual,very good satirical take, on Dr. Taylors ironic look, at the problem. Hey,he worked hard for it,call him Doctor,he is one,unless it’s one of those false statements floating out there. Even I,could call myself,Dr.d and you guys would not know if it were true,most of you.[maybe you could tell because I sound like a hick]


  7. larry ennis |

    Oh boy, where to start.
    Dan Miller isn’t alone in his suspicion that some in our society would like to censor the thoughts and actions of the rest of us. A Department of Information is in my opinion more than a figment of Dr. Taylors imagination. The recent actions of the Obama regime to shield the administrations pick for Supreme Court Justice is a good example. The White House chose to produce their own video taped interview of Ms. Kagan instead of letting the media/press question her. The taped interview of Kagan is a great illustration of information control. There’s little doubt in my mind that this president would, in a heart beat, take away any Constitutional right that stood in his way. Even though Dr. Taylor may have approached the idea of information control with a tongue in cheek attitude there are many that are dead serious about instituting such measures.


  8. Tom Carter |

    Undoubtedly there are a lot of people who would like to shape and control the flow of information and establish official truth. Those people are most commonly found on both the left and right extremes of the political spectrum.

    “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” — Oscar Wilde


  9. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    @all who responded to my comments: Thanks for such a civil exchange.

    @Brian: Again, I was NOT SERIOUS. But thanks for accepting that Dr. is okay. And you don’t have to call me Dr. Taylor.

    @Tom: You’re right that the HP comment stream wasn’t harsh, but I have been vilified on several libertarian sites, for example:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/05/huffpo_blogger_proposes_depart.html

    http://lucianne.com/thread/?artnum=540509

    There is a fine line between satire and sarcasm and mean spiritedness. Admittedly, Dan’s post was pretty tame compared to others (see above links). Perhaps I was being overly sensitive.
    Actually, I don’t believe that there is a “truth” in politics and government policy, but there are facts, based on data, and those facts have been distorted by many.

    As for my “hanging chad” conclusion, I realized that wasn’t a “fair and balanced” (please note irony) remark, so I removed it from other versions of the post that went on other web sites.
    @Larry: I agree that there are many who want to control the facts. But to be fair, it occurs on both sides of the aisle.

    @Larry: I agree that there are many who want to control the facts. But to be fair, it occurs on both sides of the aisle.


  10. d |

    Is this a picture of Dan or Dr. Taylor? If people can’t tell it is satire or tongue in cheek,maybe it is the writers fault,or is everyone dense? Just a thought.


  11. Brian Bagent |

    My father is a retired PhD. Most of our neighbors were colleagues of his. At backyard BBQs and out hunting or fishing or working on cars, it was “Mr. Jones” or “Mrs. Smith.” Around campus and most especially in the classroom, it was “Doctor.” When called to testify as expert witnesses (at the legislative level or trial level), it was always “doctor” as well.

    We generally reserved “professor” or “Mr./Mrs.” for Masters and PhD candidates.


  12. Tom Carter |

    Doris, if you pause your cursor on the photo, you’ll see the caption. It says, “Jim Taylor, PhD.” If you click on Dan’s name on the author list, you’ll see his photo with his bio. You, in particular, might like his “ride” in the picture.


  13. Brianna |

    I agree that Dan quoted the most damning parts of your article without mentioning that you were being ironic in them, but I also agree that Dan had serious reason to be concerned about your editorial. It is quite clear that “Department of Information” aside, you believe that you and those who agree with you are closer to the truth than most, and that everybody else is therefore clearly listening to crazy people distorting facts. Frankly, this sort of attitude does belong in an Orwell novel, whether you agree with the actual establishment of a Ministry of Truth or not.


  14. Dan Miller |

    I am sorry that Mr. Taylor was so offended by my rather obviously satirical article; Very soon after it was published, I e-mailed him a link in the hope that he might respond; he did so.

    I did catch the irony, but the irony seemed to diminish as the article progressed toward its conclusion. Here is a part of the proposal:

    Though our government is far from perfect, it does exist, at least in theory, to serve the best interests of the American people. That’s more than can be said for any other influences in our society; everyone else has a self-serving agenda. And our government already decides what is factual in many areas, whether the Office of Management and Budget deciding how much the health-care legislation will cost, the Federal Reserve describing the state of our economy, or even the decisions handed down by Supreme Court (though, interestingly, they are called opinions not facts). I know, budget estimates are often wrong, the Fed has made glaring economic-policy mistakes, and the Supreme Court has made some lousy decisions, but those mistakes may be more a reflection of the complexities of life and honest disagreement on ambiguous issues rather on than intentional misinformation. (emphasis added)

    I submit that the government and its various departments have self-serving agendas, are no more to be trusted to separate the wheat from the chaff than others, and that it is up to us to do it for ourselves.

    “Facts” are very important, and nearly all of them presented in a political context are distorted beyond recognition, and not only by the biased media and internet blogs. The Government is no less guilty, and any suggestion that it decide what the “facts” are and are not is deserving of satire if not disdain. Here is a recent article I wrote on Attorney General Holder adverse comments on the new Arizona immigration law, based not on reading it but on what he had gleaned from newspaper articles and television programs. His omission even to read the new law was egregious and, unfortunately, pretty much the way things have been handled. President Obama’s various comments also reflected both a political agenda and ignorance of what the new Arizona law actually says.

    The Health Control Law, of over two thousand pages, was enacted with few if any legislators having read it. It would have been very difficult to read in view of the artificial time constraints and more difficult to understand. As its implications drizzle out it is becoming apparent that it was not as sold. As the various governmental agencies propound regulations based on the new law, the “facts” will become even more obscure.

    The global warming farce is another area where government “facts” are highly unreliable. Once “reputable” scientists are presumed to have a monopoly on truth and dissent is claimed to come only from the disreputable, truth becomes an Orwellian concept. The free exchange of data, with collegial discussion of what the data mean, is necessary but is rendered difficult if not impossible by overlays of politics and ideology with a heavily applied patina of governmental blessing.

    I read the various comments appended to the Huffington Post article, some arguing for reinstatement of the so called fairness doctrine. As a communications attorney, I dealt intensively with fairness doctrine questions for years and came to realize that it stifled rather than encouraged debate on controversial issues of public importance. Sometimes, it was possible to state with reasonable certainty that the doctrine would not apply to a proposed radio or television program. Sometimes, it was possible to state with reasonable certainty that it would apply. Unless I was able to give a definitive answer that the program would not invoke the doctrine, most clients simply did not air it and instead aired some innocuous fluff praising Red Cross fund raising or lamenting forest fires. That was years ago; I suspect that in the current political climate even these topics might be controversial. The demise of the doctrine most likely encouraged the proliferation of talk radio and thereby to what some see as information overload. If there is a solution, governmental action to protect us from “facts” and ideas with which it disagrees is not one I am prepared to accept.


  15. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    @Brianna: Please do not presume to know my thoughts or intentions. Re: “It is quite clear that “Department of Information” aside, you believe that you and those who agree with you are closer to the truth than most, and that everybody else is therefore clearly listening to crazy people distorting facts.” Not only is it not clear, what you say is not true. And I would submit that liberals could accuse you of the same thing.

    If you had read my entire post, you would have seen that I talk about information and facts, not truths. I just want people to base their arguments on facts not ideologically driven belief that are not grounded in facts. That goes for the Left and the Right.

    @Dan: I wasn’t really that offended. Like I said in my email to you, I’ve had a lot worse thrown at me (see links above).

    I agree that our government has self-serving agendas. And I agree with your condemnation of Holder for being uninformed in judging the AZ law.

    As for your mention of the recent Health Care law, climate change, and fairness doctrine, all topics worthy of debate.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that I was not serious about my Dept. of Information. And that, despite my sign posts alerting people of that fact, literally all but one commenter on several libertarian web sites either didn’t read the signs or didn’t accept me at my word and proceeded to beat me unmercifully (metaphorically, of course). That should give all of us pause on the purpose and value of the blogosphere.

    Don’t get me wrong; Though I have my reservations on days like this, I’m a huge believer in the blogosphere commentariat. Read these two previous posts on the topic:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/the-blogosphere-jungle_b_404529.html

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/in-praise-of-the-blog-com_b_463978.html

    We can disagree for sure; that’s part of a democracy. But when we demonize those with whom we disagree, then we lose something more than our democracy; we lose our humanity.

    Dan, perhaps I have projected my recent experiences with libertarian web sites onto you. I can say that this particular conversation has been quite civil and respectful. And that is my main wish.

    Thanks for reading and commenting on my comment.


  16. d |

    Tom,I do indeed like his ride,and I envy him and his riding environment. Dr. Taylor,mutual respect for our opposers is always best. We might even learn from each other,if we only bother to listen, and not jump to conclusions and judge.


  17. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    Well said, D.

    You might check out my Monday HuffPost post. I will be addressing that issue directly.


  18. Brian Bagent |

    Dr. Taylor, the sad reality is that things lampooned and laughed and satirized about today are frequently taken very seriously tomorrow.

    If you doubt it, look no further than Alexander Hamilton’s arguments (in Federalist #84) against the inclusion of a Bill of Rights to the constitution.

    A hundred years ago, people in this country would have laughed at the thought of there being any restrictions on gun ownership, or that there was any doubt as to the meaning of the first amendment. Now, we have a supreme court nominee that thinks that there are occasions when freedom of speech should be suppressed.

    I’m not saying that you endorse the idea of a ministry of truth, but there is no shortage of people (mostly “progressives”, I might add) who would be more than happy to take off and run with your wit, implementing it as federal law if the opportunity arose.

    Be careful what you ask for…


  19. Brianna |

    “If you had read my entire post, you would have seen that I talk about information and facts, not truths.”

    I read your entire post, which is why I think your attitude is dangerous. Unless you’re honestly suggesting that this little quote:

    “Well, that’s what people with agendas do; politicians, any groups that begin with “Big,” television and radio talking heads and, of course, the lunatic fringe falsely yell fire in the theater of American life and it is causing a panic in our country.”

    and by extension your entire post, was not meant to be a dig at Fox, conservative talk radio, and the libertarian-leaning “big government” sites? I think your editorial makes it quite clear that you think these groups are part of the (mis)information in your “(mis)information age” and that the Huffington Post and its ilk are on the side of the angels (else, why would you write for it?).

    The problem with believing things that are wrong is that eventually, truth will always out (just ask the Church). The only way to prevent that is through the use of force… and the only way to legally (note that this is not synonymous with “justly”) use force is through government. When you are on the wrong side in such a debate, you essentially then have two options: beat them, or join them. I think the modern Liberals and the Huffington Post are on the wrong side of this debate… which means that eventually, if they don’t want to join the Right, they’re going to have to beat them. And you know what? When I look back through history, I unfortunately can find all too many examples where they did exactly that.

    You may not support a department of information now, but five years from now? Ten? Just how long can one stand to hear people espouse beliefs that grate at one’s very being before they become so desperate for it to stop that they’re willing to do it at gunpoint? Libertarians have certainly borne it that long, but they don’t do it because the important part of being libertarian is that you don’t use force to get people to do something. As Ayn Rand said (I’m paraphrasing a little, but I don’t have the book here), “Do not think that we know best for you. We may indeed know best for you, but it is not best for you until YOU know it.”

    Modern Liberals, on the other hand, are not exactly known for their strong prejudice against using government to solve their problems. And your post, along with where it got published, strongly marks you as a modern Liberal. Hence my judgement that while you may not support a department of information, your attitude is still one that belongs in an Orwellian novel.


  20. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    @Brian: I agree with the assessment in your first sentence. Yes, very sad.

    And you just had to take your shot at progressives, didn’t you? :->

    I’m going to suggest that there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides of the aisle and the farther Left and Right that you get, the more information is misused. When you start to take a holier-than-thou attitude, then you become like the ideologues that you decry.


  21. Brian Bagent |

    There may indeed be plenty of blame to go around, but from where I sit, when the progressives are the point of the spear, and 80% of the shaft, well, that’s a problem.

    I went to school with a guy that was, looking back, a religious fascist. He was a really nice guy, and we got along well. They are certainly a part of the problem, and would probably jump at the chance to suppress criticisms of Christianity. But they are a small minority. The issue here is who stands in the bully pulpit in the arena of ideas: it is almost exclusively those with leftist ideologies.


  22. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    @Brian: Who has the bully pulpit shifts constantly. For many years, the Right had the stage and the Left was angry because it had no voice (and I don’t think Libertarians were too thrilled with the Bush II years either).

    Now the Dems have control and the GOP and Libertarians are mad as hell because they have no voice.

    My point is that whoever has the power controls the agenda. For those out of power, besides making a lot of noise, all they can do is wait till the next election.

    In any event, Libertarians seem to be making head way. Perhaps Rand Paul will get you a seat at the table of power.


  23. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    @Brian: P.S. You say “from where I sit.” That’s the point. You see the world through the lenses of your ideology. I see the world through mine. The reason I engage with (and often get cyber-abused) with those of different ideologies is because I am not sold on my beliefs and want to hear what others have to say. And I find that if I can get people to just calm down a bit (by not reacting to the anger and insults), we can actually engage and have a meaningful conversation.

    That is the strength of democracy. Most everything else in the political blogosphere is just a bunch of fascist dictators of their own internal worlds trying to impose their ideologies on others (as surely as has happened in Germany, China, Iran, etc.). That includes those on the Left and the Right.


  24. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    @Brianna, Yes, I can be labeled a liberal, but that is an inadequate descriptor of the broad range of beliefs that it may or may not hold. Are all Libertarians alike? I doubt it. So I try not to stereotype them. I would appreciate the same respect.

    Re: “Well, that’s what people with agendas do; politicians, any groups that begin with “Big,” television and radio talking heads and, of course, the lunatic fringe falsely yell fire in the theater of American life and it is causing a panic in our country.” I said politicians, not Republican politicians. And “Big” can include Labor, Media, and Education.

    Also, please don’t think that you know what I believe or what my intentions are. That is a weak tactic to stereotype me, justify your anger, and give you an excuse not to engage in a substantive discussion. If you were really interested in a deep conversation, you would have asked me how I feel about your concerns.

    No one on the lunatic fringe (left or right) is on the side of angels.

    Wrong side of the debate? I have another option other than beating or joining. How about talking and compromising? That is the only way that real solutions that are fair to most Americans can arise.

    Of all those who are likely to use force, it would seem to be the Right given that they own guns and the Left doesn’t. :->

    There are battles, victories and defeats in every election.
    I think the saddest thing about these conversation is that there is a lot of anger and a lot of trying to force ideas onto other people, in the absence of that, best to just to attack them. Too much emotion and not enough reason on both sides.

    BTW, I would love to write for conservative and libertarian sites, but my ideas are either not accepted or I am burned in cyber effigyfor them.


  25. Brian Bagent |

    I don’t want a seat at the table of power, and I don’t know any libertarian that does. I wish to live a life unencumbered by do-gooders of the left and the right, who know what’s best for me and are willing to make me do it, at the point of a gun if necessary.

    No, I wasn’t happy with Bush (or his father).

    Wrong side of the debate? I have another option other than beating or joining. How about talking and compromising? That is the only way that real solutions that are fair to most Americans can arise.

    When we libertarians view an option as tyrannical, even if it is just the camel getting his nose under the tent, we won’t compromise. We’ve learned our lessons from history – there is no compromising with bullies of the left or right. The bullies always want something from the government or done by the government. We, on the other hand, want nothing from or by the government. For us, a compromise is to give away a piece of the only thing we truly value: our liberty.


  26. Dan Miller |

    Dr., Mr., whatever Taylor: May I refer to you as “Jim?” You may certainly refer to me as Dan and I hope that you will continue to do so.

    In view of my confessed old fart ways, that would make things easier. Besides, I intended no disrespect to your academic credentials. Academic snobbery is one of my pet peeves. When I was graduated from law school in 1966, I was awarded a Bachelor of Laws degree — even though I already had a BA degree in economics from rather a prestigious university. When many law schools began giving Juris Doctor degrees, my law school offered to exchange, for a $25 fee, my old degree for a new JD degree. I declined the honor because I didn’t care and, like my law partners, had never bothered to post my diplomas in my office.

    You say,

    Well said, D.

    You might check out my Monday HuffPost post. I will be addressing that issue directly.

    Would you please be so kind as to post a link here? I would very much like to read it. Perhaps Opinion Forum might publish it if you wish. I hope that happens. I frequently published as a “guest author,” and only recently became one of the regulars.

    Brian, I too went to college, and had as a roommate for two years a chap with whom I vigorously disagreed. Both of us gave as well as took heated criticism each of the others’ views. He was a self proclaimed Communist and follower of Trotsky. I was not. We disagreed on many things, but remained friends and were able to discuss our differences. I don’t know whether his views changed as a result, but think we both enjoyed the civil exchanges.

    I look forward to reading the Monday article on Huffington Post

    As to “liberals and conservatives,” I would like both terms to be stricken from the lexicon. I tried to make that point here in my first article published on BlogCritics two years ago.


  27. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    @Dan:

    Dr., Mr., whatever Taylor: May I refer to you as “Jim?” You may certainly refer to me as Dan and I hope that you will continue to do so.

    >>Please, yes, call me Jim. Very few people use the honorific.
    Well said, D.

    Would you please be so kind as to post a link here? I would very much like to read it. Perhaps Opinion Forum might publish it if you wish. I hope that happens. I frequently published as a “guest author,” and only recently became one of the regulars.

    >>Will do. How might I get some of my posts published on OF? And it is exclusively a Libertarian site? I have to admit that I get tired of being insulted after a while. And I don’t do fluff.


  28. Tom Carter |

    Jim, send a link to your article to editor@opinion-forum.com.

    The article can be original or a cross-post from somewhere else.

    Opinion Forum isn’t intended to be liberal, conservative, libertarian, whatever. All stripes of opinion are welcome.


  29. Dan Miller |

    Jim,

    I was about to send you the link Tom sent. As I was doing so, we had one of our normal-this-time-of-year thunderstorms and I had to shut down quickly. I have learned from expensive experience that I need to do so.

    Again, I look forward to seeing your article. My stuff has been published here, at BlogCritics, at Pajamas Media and at American Thinker. I have been very favorably impressed with the comments here and at Pajamas Media.

    I look forward to future civil discussions.

    Dan


  30. Dr. Jim Taylor |

    @Tom: “All stripes are welcome,” said the wolfs lying in wait.

    @Dan: To quote a great American (he said with irony) re: “future civil discussions,” “Bring it on!”


  31. Brian Bagent |

    Dr. Taylor, the only two libertarians that write here are Brianna and myself. Tom can’t really be pigeonholed, Larry is a pretty rock-ribbed conservative, and Jan is the resident lefty.

    If nothing else, your essays are likely to promote some significant discussions. I don’t think any more could be asked of a blog of any stripe, and most blogs and BBSs seem to be a litany of “rah rah rah.”


  32. d |

    We would all love to read your articles here,Dr. Taylor.


  33. Brianna |

    @Brianna, Yes, I can be labeled a liberal, but that is an inadequate descriptor of the broad range of beliefs that it may or may not hold. Are all Libertarians alike? I doubt it. So I try not to stereotype them. I would appreciate the same respect.

    > I may not be the same as all other libertarians, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a basic gauge of my political positions by calling me one. To me, a modern liberal (as opposed to a classical liberal, who is much closer to a libertarian than those who call themselves liberal today) is someone who believes that government plays a fundamental role in helping people and solving their problems, who believes in “economic rights” or a “social safety net,” and that government has some role as an economic or political “leveler.” If these things do not define you, then I will apologize for calling you a liberal and stereotyping you.

    Re: “Well, that’s what people with agendas do; politicians, any groups that begin with “Big,” television and radio talking heads and, of course, the lunatic fringe falsely yell fire in the theater of American life and it is causing a panic in our country.” I said politicians, not Republican politicians. And “Big” can include Labor, Media, and Education.

    > Judging by the tone of your post, I doubt you included these groups in your original assessment, but will grant the benefit of the doubt.

    Also, please don’t think that you know what I believe or what my intentions are. That is a weak tactic to stereotype me, justify your anger, and give you an excuse not to engage in a substantive discussion. If you were really interested in a deep conversation, you would have asked me how I feel about your concerns.

    > You are what you do. Or in this case, what you write. I judge you by your words because I believe in exercising judgment in all things and because I have nothing else to judge you by. Feel free to write here, Dr. Taylor, but if you do then I suggest that you take your pleas for non-judgmentalism elsewhere, because it is a creed I do not follow.

    No one on the lunatic fringe (left or right) is on the side of angels.

    > No, but one of the big problem with bad guys is that they usually think they’re good guys. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but it rarely includes lighted signposts. Just because someone is walking the road to hell doesn’t mean they realize it, or even that they are evil in the sense that they are deliberately trying to inflict harm. As C.S. Lewis said, “God save me from the do-gooders.” I think your beliefs as I judged them to be from your editorial are something that could lead to evil. Doesn’t mean I think you are.

    Wrong side of the debate? I have another option other than beating or joining. How about talking and compromising? That is the only way that real solutions that are fair to most Americans can arise.

    > I will reiterate what Brian said: I do not compromise on basic values. If somebody wants to rob me and I do not want to be robbed, then letting him get off with only half of the money is not effective compromise. Or to bring it into the realm of politics, if I do not believe taxation is moral and you do, and we compromise on a tax rate of X which is less than what you wanted but obviously more than I wanted, which was zero, then I have effectively lost because I have conceded the basic premise that taxation is OK and I guarantee you that once I have ceded that ground, you will get your desired rate of taxation eventually. And if you don’t believe that, just look at the history of the income tax.

    Of all those who are likely to use force, it would seem to be the Right given that they own guns and the Left doesn’t. :->

    > A foolish, cheap shot, revealing you as completely ignorant of the attitudes and reasoning of a group of people who are far less likely to pose a threat to you than almost any other subset of humanity. Speaking as someone who knows gun-owners and has trained in unarmed self-defense for years, those who train themselves in any form of self-defense, whether it be with a gun or some other method, are almost invariably not interested in harming anybody for any reason except protecting themselves, their loved ones, and to a certain extent their property.

    There are battles, victories and defeats in every election.
    I think the saddest thing about these conversation is that there is a lot of anger and a lot of trying to force ideas onto other people, in the absence of that, best to just to attack them. Too much emotion and not enough reason on both sides.

    > It is impossible to force someone to accept an idea. The best you can do is force them to do things in accordance with them.

    BTW, I would love to write for conservative and libertarian sites, but my ideas are either not accepted or I am burned in cyber effigy for them.

    > Feel free. Tom certainly won’t stop you, and I wouldn’t if I could (which I can’t). Hope you don’t mind vehement disagreement though, ’cause you’ll be getting a lot of it.


  34. Opinion Forum » Smoke or Fire? |

    [...] and may not be all that enlightening to others. One such moment occurred recently when a discussion came about here on Opinion Forum about a piece by Dr. Jim Taylor on The Huffington [...]


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