Why Ben Shapiro Is A Total Fraud

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Image via Gage Skidmore.

[Update 5/8/2017: Given that there have been rumblings of a ‘debate’, Ben Shapiro is invited, below, to a Skype/phone debate with Dan Schneider as moderator. Alternatively, he is free to respond to this piece in writing as he sees fit, which would allow us to formulate our thoughts and cross-check each other’s references — Shapiro’s biggest foible and point of dishonesty. Note that I do not know whether Shapiro even knows of this article, nor will I reach out to him. I am leaving this message up due to the number of e-mails requesting some sort of ‘action’.]

A couple of weeks ago, conservative pundit Ben Shapiro delivered a Reddit AMA (‘Ask Me Anything’) on r/politics, a left-leaning subreddit which – to Shapiro’s credit – has never been a fan of his work. Yet as a liberal, myself, I’ve nonetheless found common ground with a number of Shapiro’s views, ranging from his critique of the Left’s attacks on free speech, to their over-use of emotion in what ought to be cold and detached argument, to the futility of identity politics, liberal intolerance, and – of course – a decades-old embrace of Third Wave feminism as a rational response to gender issues. No, r/politics isn’t THAT far left, but when I saw the AMA announcement, I nonetheless respected Ben Shapiro’s willingness to engage in what can be a notoriously unforgiving format with a group of people unsympathetic to his views. I expected, therefore, to see a little give-and-take, some dumb, bait-y questions, but also a few good ones, too, that he was perhaps not used to. Naturally, these would be questions that Shapiro – given his ‘attack-dog’ reputation – would of course answer. More, he would answer them in depth, after having time to think and formulate his responses, if only to prove once and for all that he is not the monster that so many claim he is, but might very well be the Right’s biggest intellectual star.

Well, I was wrong, to put it mildly. I was unfamiliar with much of Ben Shapiro’s work prior to his AMA, but, frankly, I am confused why he even agreed to the format in the first place, given how lazy and self-serving his answers are. He intentionally avoids the more difficult questions, goofs off on what he DOES choose to tackle, and refuses to meaningfully engage in any follow-ups despite others’ prodding. Not exactly the hallmark of a probing and far-ranging mind. Either Shapiro just doesn’t give a damn, and tried to use Reddit for publicity rather than genuine engagement, or he is as intellectually vapid as his worst critics suggest. More, despite a well-executed AMA serving as a kind of précis for one’s worldview, I cannot even use the bulk of Shapiro’s comments to string together anything coherent on that front, and must dig into his articles and videos in order to elaborate on the scant piffle he does provide. Thus, what had started as a brief note on Shapiro’s disingenuousness has now turned into a point-by-point takedown of modern, bastardized conservatism as a whole, highlighting not only Shapiro’s poor thinking skills, but his utter hypocrisy, as well. Needless to say, the silly, fawning tone with which Shapiro has been described reveals how utterly desperate the Right has been for a champion – for anything, really – to the point that they’d settle on a vapid, pussy-grabbing TV mogul for President, on the one hand, and an intellectual con as the purported ‘corrective’ on the other.

And that’s because despite the Republicans’ cowardly embrace of Donald Trump, Ben Shapiro has stood by his principles – dumb as they may be – in both criticizing the President as well as some of the more unsavory characters Trump’s campaign helped energize. In fact, he even alienated Breitbart after the rag refused to defend their own journalist from physical assault, and later weathered anti-Semitic attacks from alt-right trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos while the Ted Cruzes and Paul Ryans of the ‘conservative’ wing merely caved.

In the end, however, principles are nothing without some bedrock of reality, a thing Shapiro desperately needs a dose of after years of arguing with liberal caricatures on TV and brain-dead college campuses. Indeed, for despite Shapiro’s intellectual pose, he cuts himself off from the real world by not examining his own  assumptions, nor the logical conclusions that a truly consistent position demands. More, he is FAR too willing to take a conservative bon mot (“abortion is murder!”) on the strength of its popularity rather than its immanent, logical value, and has the same simple-minded approach to complex issues that he hates so much in the Left. But whereas the Left is often either absurdly reductive or needlessly complicated on any given issue, Shapiro prefers both, limiting the world to sound-bites even as he throws in pointless variables that ultimately confuse even Shapiro. In many ways, then, he is merely the ‘cold, detached’ iteration of the over-emotive liberal whiner, for just as the whiner uses emotion as a cudgel to beat back reality, Shapiro’s utter lack of self-control takes an otherwise useful tool – information – and mismanages it to the point of irrelevance.

Now, there is lots to get through, so let us start where my curiosity first began: the Reddit AMA. The top-rated question – which Ben Shapiro no doubt saw – was this:

[–]HoustonRocket 444 points 7 days ago

Hey Ben. You voiced your displeasure in the past at how it is unethical to force pro-lifers to fund Planned Parenthood through tax dollars. Do you also think it is unethical to force certain people to fund the subsidies of meat and dairy products if they do not believe those products are ethical? Thanks

Good question, but with a poor follow-up that unnecessarily gives Shapiro a way out of the logical conundrum. As some readers no doubt know, Shapiro is a ‘principled’ conservative with libertarian leanings: meaning, he would likely cut quite a few subsidies if he could, thus allowing Shapiro to merely answer ‘Yes’ and move along. But the issue, of course, is NOT with the example provided, since it’s merely a case-in-point for a global problem that Shapiro’s assertion points to. If it is in fact unethical to force someone to dole out tax money for something he does not believe in, then it stands to reason that other protected classes must exist, as well. Now, it is quite possible that Shapiro might demarcate abortion from all other exceptions, but why – when the standard is mere personal revulsion – stop at abortion? There are countless other logical categories, from pacifists funding war, to Jainists chipping in for road-cleaning, where the offended party might feel just as strongly against some item of the Social Contract that the rest of us must consent to. More, note how abortion is utterly divorced in this case from the global libertarian scope. Shapiro is not even making a libertarian argument against abortion – for there is no such thing, as I will later show – but appealing to an individual tax code by way of a local ethic damning that (and only that) tax. By NOT appealing to the ‘unjustness’ of taxation, as a whole, Shapiro manages to open up his own economy to a free-rider problem of which he would quickly lose control, thus making a caricature not only of the abortion issue, but Shapiro’s wannabe exceptionalism, to boot.

Not that it matters, however. Despite it being the AMA’s most popular question, Shapiro decided to completely ignore it, likely because he saw how deep of a hole he’d dug once he was actually faced with the logical consequences of what might have been an off-the-cuff remark.

Moving on:

[–]bbiggs32 223 points 7 days ago

Hi Ben.

I was wondering, how’s Kansas doing after their relatively large tax cuts? Is the wealth “trickling down”?

Thanks

A bitchy question, perhaps, replete with the missing period on ‘Thanks’, but also a fair question nonetheless. Again, Ben Shapiro is not a full-on libertarian, but that’s irrelevant, since he supports many of the same measures – tax breaks for the wealthy, huge reductions in entitlement spending – Kansas has recently undertaken with predictable results. From the libertarian perspective, they are arguing for a system that – for good reason – has NEVER been implemented in its pure form. I mean, it would be unethical to do so, but even disregarding basic human decency, it would be impossible to implement without a violent revolution (‘coercion’, in libertarian parlance), after which the resultant anarchy (sorry, libs!) would inevitably give rise to the same subsidy mindset – i.e., factionalism – as a mere product of animal psychology.

More pointedly, however, libertarianism suffers from the same endless purity-testing that its hated mirror image – stateless communism – undergoes, with every iteration of Stalin, Lenin, the Paris Commune, etc., being bastardizations of the REAL thing…if only the ‘fakes’ would get out of the way, and let the true believers deliver on their promises. Likewise, the more typical, Shapiro-like conservative response to Kansas’s budgetary woes and tepid business growth runs the gamut from “that’s not what I’d do!” to pointing out all the ways the Kansas model does not live up to some non-existent ideal. In other words, the No True Scotsman fallacy writ large – across 82,000 square miles, no less, where people’s suffering is both irrelevant as well as a piece of key evidence which can never be turned in against the believer’s own zealotry.

Yet, again, Ben is silent on a tough query, forcing me to dig up other materials where he makes his position clear:

The wealthy in this country are by and large the job creators. Tax them, and they will cut jobs because it impedes their ability to create. Money only stretches so far so it’s not a matter of the wealthy simply wanting to earn more, but a matter of making prudent decisions that don’t deplete their capital in a time when they could lose everything in a weak market. If they’re not creating jobs now, they’ll be cutting jobs if the taxes rise…

The truth is that if you talk simply in terms of effectiveness, the most effective thing is to not tax the upper end of the income bracket very much at all because those people are the ones actually earning money, producing products, providing services and hiring people. A flat tax is the best balance between equity and efficiency. I think it’s perfectly equitable because by nature percentages are perfectly equitable – it’s not a flat sum, it’s a flat rate. If someone has a smaller pie, a smaller piece will be taken out of the pie.

A controversial point of view, as far as the research goes, yet look at how confident Shapiro is at his own pronouncements. To be sure, there has been exactly ZERO evidence that taxation is anything more than 1) a collective means of ensuring social goods that an individual cannot guarantee; 2) equity. Business, innovation, and recession have existed in pretty much every mature tax climate, with study after study indicating not only the problem of getting an academic consensus on whether tax cuts promote growth, but also how wildly divergent their conclusions have in fact been. This is not an ‘opinion’, nor some liberal conspiracy against big business. This is an honest reflection of the ONLY data that we have available. If I were to guess, I’d presume that a neoliberal tax policy has a modest (at best) effect on growth, but wreaks havoc on every other metric of the social good: really, the only logical way to measure economic success in the long run. Yet it’d only be a guess, anyway, unlike Shapiro’s childish desire to craft policy based on nothing but a hunch: and a hunch that’s been derided by economists and statisticians for decades, at that.

Graphs showing tax rates and GDP growth over time

But let us assume that Shapiro is correct. Let us assume that low tax rates do in fact promote growth and employment. The assumption is that everyone benefits, but while taxes have been cut from an ‘official’ (but rarely paid, of course, by the rich!) 70-90% down to the 30s and 20s, with multi-millionaires often paying even less in between kickbacks and massive tax-dodging operations, the everyday American isn’t doing so well. Real wages have declined alongside four decades of massive tax cuts, even as worker productivity has risen quite a bit. Shapiro likes to say that people more or less get what they deserve, and that ‘unfairness’, in the cosmic sense, does not imply any inherent fairness in redistribution. More, the suckers just need to work. Yet Americans have worked, at more hours for less pay and less stability, netting corporations trillions since the 1970s and getting little in return. In Shapiro’s proposed system, workers have done exactly as they should. But the second the idea of a minimum wage or a progressive tax is brought up as some sort of reward, they are treated exactly as what they’re NOT – an obstacle to growth – rather than what they are: a buffer between the bottom and the runaway rich, and a means to balance nearly half a century of losses with data-driven entitlements that ultimately do MORE for fiscal balance than Shapiro’s economically haphazard, faith-based system of tax cuts for the rich.

This brings us to the issue of a minimum wage, as well as the recent effort to increase it. According to Shapiro:

A minimum wage requirement always impacts an economy horrifically. A minimum wage doesn’t work and always increases unemployment. It’s just basic common sense that the minute you tell people that they have to pay more for labor, they’re going to buy fewer units. If the price is raised on gasoline, people tend to buy less gasoline, if the price is raised on cereal, less cereal will be sold and if the price of labor is raised, people tend to buy less labor.

Yet this just isn’t true, both theoretically (an employer’s ‘monopsony power’ in an imperfect market) and empirically. First, the entire reason why there even HAD to be a minimum wage debate is because wages did not appropriately grow despite increased work hours, greater worker productivity, and exponential growth in corporate profit: all things Shapiro would argue as ‘good’, yet without the concurrent boon Shapiro’s system promises.

Second, Shapiro’s assertion isn’t supported by the data in the way that he thinks it is. Yes, it’s common sense that raising the price of labor might lead to a number of problems, yet this is true of literally ANY decision one might undertake, ranging from complex issues like war to personal ones, like losing weight. The real question is whether the benefits outweigh the losses, and in the case of a carefully-implemented minimum wage hike the evidence is clear.

Like many similar organizations, the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute argues – without citations – that the biggest effect of an increase is massive job loss for affected industries. More down-the-middle groups, such as the Congressional Budget Office, likewise predict significant job losses for an indiscriminate, federally-mandated increase. Yet a far larger, decades-spanning meta-study from the liberal Center for American Progress only sees upside, partly due to unintended consequences that have little to do with “cost of labor” analyses. This is further supported by empirical observations where a livable wage has in fact already been implemented. Could the truth be somewhere in between? Perhaps, but going even further, researchers Dale Baleman and Paul Wolfson analyzed over two hundred studies on the effects of a minimum wage increase, concluding that:

…[M]oderate increases in the minimum wage are a useful means of raising wages in the lower part of the wage distribution that has little or no effect on employment and hours. This is what one seeks in a policy tool, solid benefits with small costs. That said, current research does not speak to whether the same results would hold for large increases in the minimum wage…As many others have argued, programs such as the EITC and Food Stamps play a critical role in placing a floor under incomes and consumption, and higher minimum wages are not a substitute for such programs. In other words, the minimum wage is a useful tool for policy and, as with most policy tools, must be used wisely and in coordination with other policies to achieve the desired end.

As for more modern examples? Well, the Economic Policy Institute’s testimony before Congress revealed the following:

Whenever increasing the minimum wage is discussed, there is always concern that doing so might hurt job growth or imperil businesses that employ low-wage workers. In the 22 times the federal minimum wage has been raised, and the over 300 times that states or localities have raised their minimum wages just since the 1980, these concerns have never materialized. The effect of increasing the minimum wage on employment is probably the most studied topic in labor economics, and the consensus of the literature is that moderate increases in the minimum wage have little to no effect on employment. In fact, this was the conclusion of a letter sent to the leaders of both houses of Congress in 2014, signed by over 600 PhD economists—including 8 winners of the Nobel Prize. The letter stated, “In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.”

Further, a more recent study of eighteen states that have enacted minimum wage increases saw NO appreciable negative effects in the target industry, with employment rates pretty much identical in the same industry in states without the hike. More, one study on increasing New York State’s minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour (more than double from just a few years ago) concludes that there will be little to no effect on unemployment and only a negligible increase in prices: a much-studied proposal that is now law, yet a thing few economists – Shapiro’s prediction of “horrific consequences” notwithstanding – seem nervous about. It may be true that it’s best to leave minimum wage increases to the state and local levels, where they can be incremented and adjusted as needed, but to make a blanket denunciation of ‘the’ minimum wage, as Shapiro does, is simply wrong.

As it stands, then, today’s minimum wage controversy it is little more than a philosophical disagreement between the Keynesians and the neoliberals. Perhaps one CAN argue (if that’s the word) that a minimum wage is ‘coercive’, and ‘evil’, and a form of ‘theft’, but one CAN’T claim that it’s not smart policy: if by smart we mean that it reduces poverty while increasing health, happiness, and self-sufficiency, and even maximizes worker productivity as per the academic consensus. So, let’s see: an uptick in self-reliance, AND an economic boon to the corporate job-makers, yet conservatives are against it? Jesus- if only their ideology was consistent with their axioms! And while this all may be an interesting debate to Ben Shapiro, who constantly chides already overemployed people to ‘get a job’, the real world actually has to work, often in conditions that Shapiro will only hear of, then promptly forget as soon as it’s no longer convenient for his own narrative. Ah, just like a lefty, Ben, except the blather has less to do with penises and vaginas and their preferred nomenclature, and more with a religious attachment to secular bullshit.

[–]El_jefe66 252 points 4 days ago

Hi Ben,

Regarding health care as a “right”, you’ve argued people aren’t entitled to doctors’ time and resources. How do you justify this argument when people say “what about public attorneys (6th Amendment), or what about emergency medical services”?

As a follow up, do you think emergency rooms should be able to turn people away and not treat them?

[–]Ben Shapiro 151 points 4 days ago

There’s actually significant debate about whether the public was supposed to pay for the lawyer; also, there is a difference between you being compelled to enter the government system through prosecution, and you being compelled to buy a service by government. It’s the government prosecuting you, so they should have to help guarantee your rights in that given situation.

Now, this is a good way to frame the rest of the essay, since – unbeknownst to Shapiro –  there’s enough even in these two sentences to utterly bankrupt him vis-à-vis his other claims going forward.

First, let’s discuss rights, since Ben Shapiro is confused about their meaning. Although he likes to say ‘we have a right to X, but not Y’ as an expression of his ideology, the fact is, rights are NOTHING but what the Social Contract confers. It was as perfectly valid to say that blacks have no ‘rights’ in 1854 as it is to say that we have a ‘right’ to abort fetuses in 2017. In both cases, it is the Social Contract which has made that determination, not the ideological frameworks of abolitionists or anti-abortion nutballs. Thus, to say we have no ‘right’ to health care is merely a comment on a given temporal reality…and a comment that would be 100% false for seniors and Medicaid recipients, as well as for everyone else in any other part of the industrialized world. This may seem like a quibble, but pay attention to Shapiro’s words and insecurities as he tries to re-frame the debate on preferred turf. By calling his own ideological position an expression of ‘rights’ rather than some reflexive default to his own premise, he simply denies what in fact IS and hopes that you do not notice. And while Shapiro is absolutely right that liberals have a number of pathetic tactics they like to use in debate, this sort of low-grade dehumanization is the Right’s own secret weapon against the other side. Sorry, Ben! I know.

Second, note how he deals with the question itself. We do not have a ‘right’ to healthcare because we should not be “compelled to buy a service from the government”. In other words, Ben Shapiro is invoking the classic libertarian argument against coercion despite not being a pure libertarian, himself, and therefore not against taxation in principle. Yet while Shapiro might be OK with taxes for pro-Israel spending (‘necessary’ good), roads (‘collective’ good), or fraud protections (a government function he explicitly supports), he makes an arbitrary distinction between those rights and healthcare. But why? It can’t logically be any essential quality within healthcare if Shapiro’s argument is merely ‘coercion’, which is wholly independent of such qualities. Obviously, a collective tax on ANYTHING is a form of coercion since one is buying a government service. Yet just as with Shapiro’s silly contention on the ethics of forcing anti-abortionists to fund abortion with their own tax dollars, he is again creating a local exception inconsistent with his own global scope.

As for the second question which Shapiro refused to answer: the answer, of course, is ‘Yes’…regardless of what Shapiro might have in fact written if he’d cared to. And why the hell not? If health care is not a right, as Shapiro argues, then why would a non-payer (assuming we have perfect knowledge of future non-payment) be entitled to a doctor’s time and resources in the emergency room? Go ahead: turn away the sick and dying, for just as doctors have their own market obligations, so do the poor. And this psychopathic suggestion, by the way, comes on the heels of Shapiro’s hypocritical desire to ‘save the unborn’, where government is obligated to bring a pregnancy to term when a fetus has no self-conception, but is then free to dump child and mother to the whims of an imperfect market when both can understand terror, pain, and abandonment.

But wait. Perhaps Shapiro does have a solution after all:

[–]broodcapital 64 points 6 days ago

Have you ever been so poor that you could not afford health insurance? If not, what would you do if you lost your health insurance?

[–]Ben Shapiro [S] 4 points 6 days ago

I would go to members of my family, then members of my community for help. That’s what social fabric is for.

Are you laughing? Luckily, I do not have to explain how stupid, disingenuous, and out of touch this lazy and self-serving answer really is, as Reddit has already done it for me:

[–]troubleondemand 155 points 6 days ago

What a fucking ignorant and elitist answer.

[–]ZlatanIslamovic1 41 points 5 days ago

Agreed. Does Ben Shapiro and people that share his beliefs possess any sort of ability to see themselves in someone else’s shoes that might not be as lucky in life as them?

[–]broodcapitalAmerica 17 points 4 days ago

It’s clear that he has never been poor or interacted with anyone that is in poverty.

[–]HighGradeImbecile 15 points 4 days ago

This explains American Libertarianism, the inability to see that other people are dealt different hands in life and therefore might be less able to do the things they are able to do.

That’s the setup. Now, let us dig in to the issue which most clearly exposes a modern conservative’s intellectual dishonesty: abortion!

[–]caroline_crlsn 40 points 6 days ago

Hi Ben,

What would be a “limited/small government” argument for pro-life policies (i.e., limits on abortion by trimester or regulations of abortion clinics)?

Thanks!

[–]Ben Shapiro[S] 156 points 6 days ago

All human life deserves protection. That is the fundamental basis of government.

Note the specifics of the argument: “All human life deserves protection.” Of course, that’s not really what Shapiro means, for it is not ‘protection’, in general, that’s the fundamental basis of government in Shapiro’s mind, but protection against murder, which is – coincidentally enough! – his definition of abortion. Otherwise, we are stuck with protections that contradict Shapiro’s worldview, such as zero-consequence emergency room visits (protects life) as well as both legitimate regulations that have saved lives (such as removing lead from the environment) and unnecessarily burdensome ones (such as New York City’s proposal to eliminate large sodas from certain locations).

Now, let’s keep this in mind as we examine Shapiro’s attack on abortion:

I mean- Jesus. Where to begin? In Shapiro’s typically lazy, haphazard fashion, he literally tries to throw everything at you in the hope that something sticks: the parsimony argument, slippery-slope, kindred-species, a ‘sanctity of life’ assumption, and even a deluge of emotional manipulation to shift the terms of the debate towards preferred ground. This is not to say that Shapiro even knows that these arguments have names and have already been debated (and some settled) for decades, or else why dilute his own position with their sloppiest, least convincing iterations? More, the top comment from the video seems absolutely stunned at the ‘quality’ of Shapiro’s argument, leaving one with the distinct impression that neither Shapiro nor the commenter have ever engaged with an opposing viewpoint in an honest, deep, and intellectually curious way.

There’s a lot to unpack and throw overboard, so let’s take the video apart before settling on Shapiro’s key claims. Yet just as I plan to engage Shapiro on his turf, out of a good faith attempt to rebut his most pressing concern (life-as-inviolable), I will ultimately end the argument with my own needs: pragmatism and the realities of the Social Contract. More, I will do this without accepting the logical necessity of rebutting the slippery-slope, showing it to not only be philosophically inconsistent on its own terms, but completely at odds with Shapiro’s implicit acceptance of the question’s more global scope.

The video starts with- you guessed it- a straw man wrapped in a tangent of Shapiro’s own making. Taking a pro-abortion video from actress Olivia Wilde, he is ‘disgusted’ by her alleged hypocrisy in talking sweetly about her own pregnancy in the same breath as discussing abortion rights. “This is about perverse a notion as I can imagine,” he says, “that as you are about to have your child, you’re thinking, ‘boy, wouldn’t it be great if I could still kill this thing?’” Uh, no, and even the use of subtly miscued words (‘wouldn’t it be’ vs. the more logical ‘have a right to’) is there to put forward a narrative that simply doesn’t exist. Ridiculously, Shapiro then asserts that she MUST be thinking ‘Maybe I should just kill it…’, but why? Because Shapiro is so closed-off intellectually that he can’t imagine someone taking a detached position 100% antithetical to her own stated desires? As if, you know, she in fact accepts she is not the measure of the world, and what’s right for her may not always be right for others? Ah, but life is much too sacred for such thought-experiments, I guess…as long as you’re unborn. Then anything goes, really.

Wilde goes on to discuss human rights, at which point Shapiro impatiently cuts her off to begin his emotional onslaught. “This is going to be mildly graphic, but it’s important,” he says, already suggesting there will be more pictures than dialectic. “I’m sick of the euphemisms! This is not aborting a fetus. It is not getting rid of a ball of tissue. This is a baby…” The screen shows a botched late-stage abortion (perhaps 24+ weeks) by Kermit Gosnell, followed by scientific depictions of gestational stages. “No one has a right to choose this picture. That’s a baby!” he repeats, all the while sprinkling allusions to his own “beautiful children”, offering graphic descriptions of minority-case abortions (“crushed skulls”, “brain gets sucked out”), and even manages a Freudian slip that lets his true feelings known and bankrupts his own argument. Just look at what he says of Gosnell: that he was “the most prolific serial killer in American history”. But why? Because he performed abortions? Yet so do thousands of other doctors, some of them far longer than Gosnell and likely with even more ‘casualties’. If ALL abortions are murder, as Shapiro claims, what’s so special about Gosnell? Oh, that’s right; he performed illegal, late-term abortions where the fetus looks more like a child, deluding the hyperemotional Shapiro into accepting it as ‘true’ murder (hence the ‘serial killer’ cognomen) against the other, run-of-the-mill abortions he implicitly knows to be anything but. Damn- Shapiro didn’t even get to his argument yet, and STILL managed to undo its conclusion!

And if that wasn’t enough, consider Shapiro’s unsettling hypocrisy just a few minutes in. Recently, he was asked about abortion in the case of rape, and he pointed out that if abortion is in fact murder, rape “cannot change the calculus”. That’s correct, and something that ‘weak’ anti-abortionists who make exceptions for special cases absolutely need to consider. Yet while he complains at the student’s “use of an exceptional case in order to…guilt me into supporting a broad-based abortion platform”, what does Shapiro do in the video? Oh, right, he dangles an image of an exceptional-case, late-term abortion (roughly 1% of all abortions) in order to bolster an EMOTIONAL argument for a broad-based anti-abortion platform. Gotta love the Right’s manipulativeness, even as they gaslight the Left into believing that it’s strictly THEIR behavior that’s at issue.

I mean, re-watch the video again, if you must. Can you HONESTLY say that its content is any different from a typical feminist screed, save that the bullshit comes from the other side of the political aisle? Give Shapiro an Antifa mask and let him argue that conservatives should be banned from public speaking, and the intellectual tactics (or lack thereof) would be identical. Yet before we can even address Shapiro’s main point- what is ‘murder’, exactly? More, why is it not even discussed, much less defined? Shouldn’t we know what we’re talking about before a conversation begins? In fact, I’d argue that murder is the unsanctioned taking of a human life: sanctions, of course, which we permit and remit at will depending on the particulars of the Social Contract. More pertinently, what is the ontological sense of ‘human life’ when, definitionally, the human being is not even born: is not even a full-fledged logical category, much less an autonomous person that – in all commonly-aborted stages – is almost parasitically dependent upon its host? Do we confer, for example, EVERY categorical privilege of the oak tree to an acorn? If so, why, and what is the essential quality that’s under discussion? If not, do we simply make an ad hoc exception on the ‘sanctity’ of life (which is mere question-begging, naturally) in order to retroactively apply our own group identity (‘the born and autonomous’) to one arbitrarily-privileged subgroup that has not even met the sole prima facie requirement of membership?

So- in order to deal with all this sophistry, we’re now on the slippery-slope, the video’s key philosophical argument and probably the most common argument against abortion today. Shapiro casts doubt on the idea that a fetus is a baby ‘only’ at week 24, or 16, much less on the actual day of birth, preferring to side-step the above objections. He denies, for instance, the ‘clump of cells’ characterization (although for a period that is ALL a fetus is), implying that inviolable life begins at the moment of conception, wherein all abortions are now impermissible. Typically, the philosophers’ response at this point is to argue that “a continuous route of development from route A to B are not fundamentally different with respect to some property P” (to quote David Boonin), just as the miniscule difference between the light at noon and right after up until a second before midnight “does not mean that we must conclude that midnight is as bright as noon or that we should treat it as if it is”. Yet some might push the argument further, insisting that the lack of fundamental change from conception (as a ‘potential’ human) to whenever (as a fully viable one) ALSO implies the same potential exists right before conception, as well. This creates a logical quandary for the anti-abortionist, as it seems he must now argue for the preservation of the most basic genetic material in a way that no libertarian (on either side of the Left/Right divide!) could comfortably do.

Yet Shapiro would no doubt reject this as a needless reductio ad absurdum, since he could just as easily assume one fundamental stage of life: the exact time when conception instantiates. Ok, but as Boonin points out, the zygote’s ‘instantiation’ still has “the sperm and ovum as two distinct organisms” even as they change and interact, while the end-point of the sperm’s penetration is still “one distinct organism operating inside another”. The male and female chromosomes release and begin to pair off, but, as per the ship of Theseus, just when do sperm and egg cease being distinct entities if we can still point to their individual (and most fundamental) parts at, before, and even after instantiation? Their genetic material is still ‘theirs’, albeit in a different relationship once it’s released, once again upon entanglement, and then again once the process is complete. Even as all this is happening, both sex cells are merely being re-contextualized without quite ceasing to be: the point, oddly enough, that some might argue is the ‘true’ instantiation within the instantiation. Yet all we’ve had is stages without any fundamental shift, merely changing the original question of conception to a kind of quantum puzzle that asks the same question of its own self! More, even if we had a point of instantiation, there is still the issue of determining why THIS point is the one that’s ethically relevant as opposed to the second before or after, and by what precise mechanism instantiation grants it that moral privilege. The appeal, again, must be to some unproven premise and/or social adjudication that is no different, axiomatically, from the abortionist’s Social Contract.

To be sure, I am NOT denying the reasonableness – at least in the anti-abortionist’s mind – of trying to find some end-point to the slippery-slope, but there is a deeper truth at play here which Ben Shapiro’s argument brings out. In short, for all of Shapiro’s critique of the Left’s moral relativism (a critique I often agree with, by the way), he must STILL choose a perfectly arbitrary yet convenient point of departure for both a legal and ethical definition of life. The difference between us, however, is that while Shapiro fidgets and fights at such a task, then pretends abortionists are immoral for engaging in the same wrangling, I am perfectly willing to accept an arbitrary yet pragmatic definition which takes an end-point demarcated for some social good (even if it violates the ‘inviolability’ of life) rather than stick to logically unfalsifiable categories. Even the privileging of a fetus as ‘distinctly’ human when, say, acorns are never to be thought of as trees, creates yet another axiom for the anti-abortionist to defend: namely, what is it about human life that absolves it of the need to be scrutinized and boxed into the same categories as all other natural phenomena? A true liberal, of course, can merely answer ‘Because…’ and point to the Social Contract as his expedient while safely eating meat and killing spiders at will. Shapiro, however, must get metaphysical, and rely on the one thing he said he’d NEVER use: religion, or whatever ad hoc, secular equivalent of religion he wishes to concoct. Shapiro is neither a vegetarian, however, nor – absurdly enough – a ‘believer’ in animals’ free will, for while the abortionists are not allowed to demarcate as we see fit, he can safely divorce an animal’s suffering from an ovum’s, and even befog our own place in the animal kingdom just because. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Ben. It just makes you an unwitting abortionist. Welcome!

Yet the Social Contract is even more than that. To begin, I’d define it as an arbitrary global point of departure (full of other, more local points of departure) that is popularly agreed upon for the sake of some demotic good. If argued from one’s original position, it is a means of not only seeing the world more fairly beyond the veil, but allows us to do precisely as we see fit, adding and subtracting from the tally of what’s allowed/not allowed without either worrying about the ‘need’ to impose religious-based values (as Shapiro implicitly does) nor about Nietzsche’s hypothesis of world de-valuation. In a way, we can create values as quickly as we can create and strip rights. Nor is this an argument for moral relativism, at least in the sense that we do have specific premises – right-to-life at point X, right-to-dignity until death – both unalterable AND forever shifting. Just as this ‘point X’ granted us a society that has been able to reduce violence and increase wealth a thousand-fold, the right-to-dignity has expanded to include things (such as the right-to-life!) Shapiro-types could have NEVER dreamed of in their immobile, caste-like perceptions some millennia ago.

So, to answer Shapiro’s query of when it would be inappropriate to kill a fetus: on the day of live birth. Anything before that – brain, no brain, heart, no heart, viable, non-autonomous – is fair game for an abortion. Is this sick? Psychopathic, even? Perhaps. Yet if these are the terms we’ll bandy about, is it less or more psychopathic than Shapiro’s insistence that a woman who is beaten and raped be denied emergency room treatment due to her inability to pay? Or then forcing that same woman to carry the resultant pregnancy to term, feeling her own body change – a constant reminder of her own rape – getting fatter, vomiting, suffering mood swings, pain, depression, pissing herself, and, when the time comes, being compelled to not only pass on her own genetic information, but her rapist’s, as well? Hm, if phrased like that, well…But, don’t worry, girl! Ben’s a hero. He would – he said so – part with a little cash to help you out in whatever way you need, although, to be sure, there are many of you, but only one Ben. Perhaps I am wrong, though? Perhaps there are in fact many Bens. There’s the Ben who is concerned about the most precious group in our society: the unborn. Then there’s the Ben who tells you to beg friends for money after you – precious resource! – are actually born. There’s the Ben who will take out his wallet for you when the occasion demands. And, of course, there’s the Ben who will turn you away at Bellevue while cooing at your distended belly. No, chivalry is not dead, ladies. There’s still Ben, by God, and the dumb bitches who get raped. Here, bitch: have a dollar. I’ll make sure you pray for you at Temple.

Now, I know that Shapiro will bristle at the suggestion that anti-abortion is, ipso facto, a misogynistic stance. But why? Sanctioning abortion is- beyond what I’ve already argued- a mere recognition of the need to level the playing field as per the Social Contract. More, this is ordinary biology: the very biology, ironically enough, which feminists have tried to argue against, and which Shapiro merely pays lip service to without in fact understanding. What is a male? The disposable sex. What is a female? The gatekeepers of sex. Naturally, they each have their respective advantages and disadvantages, with men’s chief historical liability being subject to war, murder, and various grunt work, while women’s being subject to compulsory birth-giving, boredom, and passivity. As a result, men have sought ways to bring about peace- and control women!- since time immemorial, while women have tried- among other things- to control their own reproductive cycles. But redistribution is NOT justice! Oh really, Ben? Might I propose that you would, in typical conservative fashion, absolutely lose your mind to learn that women are sentenced less often and for far less time for the same crimes that men commit? Unfair, huh? Discriminatory, even. Do you wish to change this? Why? Women are simply using THEIR biology and exploiting men’s natural compassion for women in order to gain an advantage that men can never have, just as they are condemned to things- for the same physiological reasons- which men will never go through! So, which one is it, Ben? Do we give BOTH sexes the option of redress in ways specific to their sex, or do we- after embracing our own misogyny- redress men’s issues, first, then pay off any unwanted pregnancies by throwing money at the mother? Odd, indeed, that after all of your supposed ‘enlightenment’, she still looks so much like your little whore.

Yet if Shapiro’s anti-abortion argument didn’t convince you that he is a mere religiot in disguise, let’s take a look at his allegedly ‘secular’ opposition to gay marriage:

Late last week, after the Supreme Court of the United States declared without any Constitutional basis that the Constitution mandates same-sex marriages be state legitimized across the nation, a disquieting level of triumphalism broke out from coast to coast. The president shined lights representing the gay pride rainbow flag on the White House — a gross boot-on-the-throat display from an anti-religious leader. Corporations, undoubtedly fearful of the consequences of ending up on the wrong side of the riotous left, began tweeting out rainbow symbols. News outlets similarly embraced the rainbow symbol, as though it were uncontroversial to do so; BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and Mashable all turned their logos rainbow, with BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith explaining, “We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides.”

Hm, typical Republican culture-war fluff, but pay attention to the part that I’ve bolded. Naturally, any argument against gay marriage needs to both be a legal and ethical one, since we are discussing the extension of legal rights to individuals who might in fact have no claim on such a privilege.

Let’s move beyond the romantically idiotic language of Justice Kennedy’s decision…

Ah, look. Just one more sentence in, and Shapiro already declines to discuss the one objective thing purportedly under review. So, the legal scholar is being paid to write what, exactly: an opinion piece on how to interpret the law without the law as a referent? Interesting.

The notion that gay rights advocates and their allies, who have spent decades suggesting that the institution of marriage represents patriarchal oppression, love and respect marriage so much that they wish to join in its binds, is inane. And the idea that the gay rights movement desperately seeks the tax assistance available to male-female married couples was made false long ago with the promises of civil unions.

Ok, Shapiro racks up three logical fallacies in just two sentences: the fallacy of division and a red herring in sentence 1, and a straw-man in sentence 2. Impressive, eh? He begins not only with a blanket condemnation of homosexuals by targeting a cross-section of their most visible members, but also throws in their purported behavior – an unrelated variable – as a plausible reason for not extending them a civil right…which, by the way, will rather conveniently no longer be discussed from a legal perspective. Thus, we do not even need to address Shapiro’s characterization of gays in order to dismiss it- a bad sign for the rest of his argument. Yet the next sentence is just as silly, as the uniqueness of male-female marriage is not merely limited to tax assistance, as the straw-man claims, but everything from life insurance to certain medical benefits, as well as protections at the federal level which civil unions do not provide. Not that it’d matter, anyway, for the deeper, ontological questions involved, but shouldn’t one at least know the terms under discussion?

No, the gay rights movement and the broader American left celebrated the same-sex marriage decision in wild fashion because the decision established two fundamental notions: First, that government has replaced God in the moral pantheon of the United States; second, that the new god-government has the power to root out and destroy any God-based institutions, destroying the social capital and fabric that holds together the nation.

Again, even if true: so what? And government – or rather, the Social Contract more generally – has always been the fundamental moral arbiter of every single society on the planet, and, barring some cybernetic intervention, will always continue to be. That’s because God – a mere fiction – is simply a subcategory of the wider, more global fiction of sociability. Yet God is a variable, I’d argue, that needlessly complicates the global scope, where Occam’s Razor can make short work of it as we look for a less invasive premise. More, it’s not a point I have to argue, anyway, since God doesn’t exist.

Snipping a little bullshit, we soon get to this:

Now, the notion that the gay rights movement seeks the “dignity” of marriage is similarly ridiculous — movements that seek “dignity” do not hold parades featuring the Seattle Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and a bevy of chaps in assless chaps. But they do seek the “dignity” of being told by a higher authority that their actions are right, just and good.

Oy. Could it be that they seek the ‘dignity’ of the equal protections enumerated above? And could it be that they’re entitled to them whether they’re marching naked in the street wearing butt plugs, or sitting at home studying the Talmud? Nor do they need to be told their actions are right, just, and good. Their actions are merely neutral, and irrelevant, at that, to the question under review. I mean, do heterosexual couples shout over their ‘goodness’ when they get married? Do they weep over their own ‘unjustness’ when they get divorced? Does any sane person EVER categorize and grade their most private and banal actions in such a way?

With God safely shunted to the side in favor of Justice Kennedy, the next step in the gay rights movement will be the smashing of idolaters — namely, those who cling to their religion and church in spite of Justice Kennedy’s New New Testament. Leftists have already moved to ban nonprofit status for religious institutions that refuse to acknowledge same-sex marriages; leftists have already sued into oblivion religious business owners who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings. It will not stop there. Religious schools will be targeted. Then, so will homeschooling programs. The secular religion of the left has been set free to pursue its own crusade against the infidel.

Actually, I sort of agree, at least on some points. The Left (including me) wishes to see the death of religion as a whole. Yet the Left (excluding me) does not seem to realize that for every ‘real’ religion that inevitably gets abolished, there will be another, more stubborn one to take its place. There’s already the cult of scientism, for one, and the various political creeds into which folks of all persuasions seek some much-valued entry. But while the Left’s error in all this is assuming they will be successful in an ever-changing mission, Shapiro’s error is in assuming that ‘the’ mission ends with the Abrahamic bullshit of some two thousand years ago. In both cases, the participants are deluded. In both cases, the participants merely accuse and inveigle until they are utterly convinced they’re right. Yet I must ask: just what does all of this have to do with gay marriage?

Oh, that’s right: this is merely the dumbed-down version of an argument he later made elsewhere, when Shapiro didn’t have to pander to Townhall:

Shapiro’s assertion is that government ought to be out of marriage, in general, and out of gay marriage especially since a legal right to gay marriage (on top of having “no social value”) can easily open the door to a kind of forced affiliation between gays and non-gays, to the point of religious infringement and a mismatch between the private and public spheres. A bakery, for example, was successfully sued for discrimination when it refused to make a cake for a gay wedding due to religious beliefs, with other businesses now facing similar legal threats. To Shapiro, this is a non-negotiable infringement on religious freedom, but is that really true? More, what are the implications of such an argument? Can a doctor who subscribes to Christian Identity refuse to treat a Jew at an emergency room out of the belief that he’d be furthering ZOG? Even if he is the sole doctor on staff, and the patient dying? What if he had his license, practice, and equipment subsidized by the state and subject to state regulations? Or what if we’re discussing a Catholic hospital which- oh, I don’t know- refuses to treat its own patients due to some personal idiocy, thus putting lives at risk by not following accepted protocol? One can argue that life/death trumps religious integrity, but on what basis, exactly, when the issue (as Shapiro frames it) is freedom from affiliation? Finally, why can’t similar exemptions be argued after the fact- if only to satisfy some outrageous hypotheticals which nonetheless have the same logical underpinnings?

Of course, a libertarian might respond that the doctor- in the first case- has no business being a doctor, anyway, since he will likely have to come across Jews in his practice and will therefore not be holding up his end of the contract. Yet won’t the same apply to a baker who will at some point be asked to bake a cake (as he’s done many times before) for a legally-sanctioned marriage (ditto)? Or a pharmacist who will be asked to prescribe yet another medication among the thousands of others he’s dutifully prescribed? That this marriage happens to be homosexual or this medication happens to be mifepristone is – as Shapiro indubitably knows – an irrelevant demarcation in the eyes of the law. After all, they are legal! Further, there can be few (if any) legal exemptions given the state’s vested interest in reducing discrimination and the undue hardship that might come with bias, whether it’s dying in the exceptional case or merely being forced to pick another bakery in the more minor one. Yet the point is that both the exceptional and minor cases are logically equivalent at their axiomatic root, and to avoid quibbles and complex regulations the state prefers to not get in the business of trying each instance case by case, opting for a blanket disapproval of ALL discrimination against protected groups. And while Shapiro might not ‘like’ the recent rights-extension, it is now simply the new point of departure, and any argument he makes has to begin there.

Turning to the “no social value” argument, Shapiro’s conception of marriage involves the state’s vested interest in population control. I disagree, but to give Shapiro the benefit of the doubt, let us merely argue on his turf, and denude him from there. According this claim, it was historically assumed that a couple would have children, and marriage licenses (at least in part) were given in compliance with this vested interest. Even if true, however, the state’s assumption was merely a good-faith belief, not a compulsion. I mean- duh? If you can literally strip an object of its purported underpinnings, yet still have it function without a hiccup, it is probably safe to say that there are variables you’ve not considered. Second, and more decisively, even if ‘the’ underpinning of marriage is population management, it does not follow that the existence of marriage as-is cannot confer other benefits that the state might also have an interest in. These include stability, an ‘official’ structure for children where parents can enjoy new legal benefits, and a deeper social glue that, ridiculously enough, Shapiro thinks is weakened with an extension of marital privilege to people who have dreamed about it for decades: a longing Shapiro dismisses by fiat in the most lazy way possible.

More, even if one were to argue (as Shapiro does) that children raised by gay parents tend to fare worse than those in straight couplings, it is just as true that biological children raised by black parents fare worse than white children from white backgrounds, or that handicapped parents on welfare in Appalachia do worst of all. More, it would be even harder to argue that- since we cannot stop gays, blacks, or the handicapped from procreating- such a child raised in a married household, with ALL official state sanction and legal rights, would do worse than in an unmarried one, where these benefits do not exist, and the child is forced to grow up with the understanding that his parents’ love is sanctioned by neither the state nor his own community. Yet Shapiro’s burden is now to prove precisely that- a task he refuses to undertake, and for good reason.

But perhaps the biggest benefit of gay marriage is something Shapiro ought have been the first to see. Just think, for a moment, of what a law is at its essence. A law is not merely a proscription or allowance. It is not simply a means for the rich to control the poor. It is not ‘just’ a minority’s last line of defense against the supermajority. Rather, it might be all of these things, at different times, but with a critical addendum. In short, the law is a negotiated understanding between a society and its members, often making what is implicit explicit, even if it sometimes means spearheading ‘vested interests’ ahead of public opinion for the sake of a well-established good. In this way, gay marriage merely codifies what a comfortable majority of Americans have wanted for at least a decade, with no logical downside (and, no, Rightist fear-mongering does not quite pass the bar). Had gays been 50% of the population, no doubt Shapiro’s argument re: vested interests would have to change, since we would suddenly have people living the same ordinary, banal lives in the macro otherwise more easily ignored in the micro, even as the essence of both – love, death, children, taxes – is unchanged.

Yet legal protections are less dependent upon number as they are on successfully establishing discrete categories and logical continuity. To Shapiro, this category is radically new, radically unjustifiable, for it officiates nothing less than the throwing aside of God. In reality, however, this newly-protected class is little more than a riff on everyone else who has wished to sanction their own coupling. As Shapiro unwittingly suggests, they wish for their bond to be recognized even though (legal protections aside) it is not necessary- a name doesn’t change a thing! Yet they seek it, regardless, as I’ve sought it, and Ben sought it a decade before me, because labels are a human foible, and while Shapiro denies gay folks the most simple human motivations, they will in fact continue to do as everyone else has done: marry, divorce, fail to raise their kids right, then seek some new category to deride that the rest of world now seeks to champion, but which to them smells too much of social upheaval. Hey, Ben- remember when Jews weren’t allowed to… Ah, Christ, but that was ‘different’, wasn’t it? Well? And yet the world cycles on.

Naturally, things are little changed when he argues about the shortcomings of identity politics:

Now, prior to going any further, I must admit the following. Like Shapiro, I bristle at the notion of white privilege, and most ‘privilege’, really, as typically applied to some large category of people divided by class, background, personality, and countless other variables that can’t be so easily dismissed. In fact, it’s shocking how dumb the Left has been to harp on privilege, NOT because it doesn’t exist, but because of how utterly meaningless and psychologically destructive the concept can be. After all, what does white privilege mean to a coal miner on food stamps taking care of his diabetic mother? Or male privilege to some schlub too passive to get ahead in life by sheer brutality, and too dumb to get ahead by talent? It is as silly as positing American privilege to a fatherless black kid in a slum merely because Africans have it worse. The fact is, these ‘privileged’ groups are so busy with their own misery that conceptualizing something worse is not only futile- it’s a goddamn ontological insult! Yet instead of bringing them into the fold, the Left has cast these people aside, denying their problems (men’s, especially) all the while guilting them for votes. It’s a losing strategy, no doubt, and Trump’s victory was as much of a backlash against the Democrats’ hypocrisy as it was against political correctness more generally.

Yet just because the PC crowd has exaggerated some realities and mixed in some bullshit along the way does NOT mean that privilege, as a whole, is a useless way to look at the world. I have at different points been fat, fit, ugly, handsome, comfortable, not, passive, assertive, and know precisely what avenues open and close – often by no effort of your own – depending on what side of the divide you’re on. In short, I’ve seen first-hand what such intangibles can offer one in everything from the way a banker treats you, to the number of smiles a cop or stranger will divulge. Yet I’ve never been black, and therefore can’t deny that just as a thousand little variables have forged a unique experiential world just for me, race might be another variable – perhaps a far larger variable – as well. And while I do not know ‘that’ world in the way I know mine, I’d gladly bet that there’s NOTHING quite like being a beefy, 17 year-old white kid with an attitude and some cash in his pocket strutting with the knowledge that he is closing in on a future most can only dream of- just give me a staff and a circumcision and I can part the motherfucking ocean! Nor do I feel ‘guilty’ about this- I simply recognize it as is, no different from any other fact of life gimleted into me with years of feedback and affirmation. And since I do not feel guilty about my position, I also do not have any emotional need to deny it, either, as I recognize that my value resides only in the things within my control, not whatever the world decides to give or take from me on a whim.

Mere anecdote is not evidence, however, so let’s get to the meat of Shapiro’s claims and go from there. He begins by asserting that white privilege has been used as a way of silencing anyone who is not of color – absolutely true, by the way, and something that’s even been used to bludgeon me whenever I’d voice an opinion unpopular with the Left. He then goes through a slew of supposed privileges, many of them downright silly (white band-aids, for example) and doing much harm to true liberal causes. Yet Shapiro is not satisfied to merely leave it at that,  choosing to counter a liberal myth with a myth of his own: equality of opportunity. Thus, I am uninterested in debating the sillier points- most of which I’ll grant- but rather the deeper elements of American racism on which he is flat-out wrong. The core of Shapiro’s claim is this:

Nothing that I’m saying here suggests that discrimination has never existed in America’s history. That would be stupid and afactual. But to suggest that it is a continuing factor in American life that is putting people under the boot of the white establishment is just factually nonsense.

Rather than dealing with this claim generally, let us examine three paraphrased assertions which led Shapiro to this conclusion:

1) Anti-racism activists claim that bank lending discrimination was and continues to be a problem for the black community, but this isn’t true. In fact, the perception of non-lending even spurred the government to create a subprime mortgage market in order to deal with this alleged problem, directly leading to the 2008 financial collapse.

In a way, bank-lending arguments are perhaps at the core of the racism debate in America, a fact which Shapiro likely understands and disingenuously straw-mans. That’s because while Shapiro keeps his assertions to the present day, this is a non-starter since urban life in the 1920s was more integrated (despite greater racism) in many places than it’d ever be again. From the 1930s on, redlining was codified in a series of New Deal programs that, although in some ways progressive, nonetheless targeted mixed neighborhoods for break-ups and explicitly promoted both physical and economic segregation. This meant that whites would be cordoned off from blacks in the cities, then get their ticket to the suburbs via discriminatory mortgage loans which still excluded non-whites well after World War II. Meanwhile, blacks- having already been shuffled around a few times- were invited to the only places they could now afford: the functionally ‘white’ housing projects and ghettos whites had just escaped, quickly dropping property values even before these neighborhoods had become violent and ill-serviced and thus (by Shapiro’s own logic) helping precipitate both. In response, investment into these communities dropped, further isolating them, driving up the prices on basic goods like food and gas in newly-minted ‘food deserts’, increasing crime, immobilizing residents, and generally making such neighborhoods even less desirable to investors, a cycle which continues to this day. Couple this with lower wages for blacks – i.e., an inability to save – plus the lack of return on their rock-bottom property values, and a huge swath of black Americans were back to a similar position they’d already climbed out of half a century before! In short, it’s not simply that we had a ‘failure’ in desegregation, but that re-segregation was a semi-official policy for decades, turning otherwise stable and desirable mixed and black neighborhoods into the voids which- by never being properly addressed- could safely be blamed on their residents. Unless Shapiro is prepared to blame the Civil Rights movement for some mysterious degeneration of black culture, the above narrative remains the most widely accepted explanation for black poverty:

All of these tools and approaches were facilitated by the federal government and its partners at the state and local level. For decades, it was a project of Democrats and Republicans, who worked to appease a white supremacist majority, and often, shared their assumptions. This continued into the 1960s, and arguably, never stopped: Public housing projects, for instance, were placed in these segregated, depressed neighborhoods as a compromise with conservatives who opposed them outright. This, in turn, ensured concentrated poverty and all its attendant problems, as well as bad schools and poor public services. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was meant to tackle all of this, but as Nikole Hannah-Jones details for ProPublica, it saw sporadic enforcement, if that.

After a half century (or more), it’s not hard to see how we get to here from there: When you prevent a whole class of people from building wealth, accessing capital, or leaving impoverished areas, you guarantee cultural dysfunction and deep, generational poverty. When it comes to inner-city poverty—we built that.

Moving into the present, Shapiro cites a study indicating that ‘true’ bank-lending discrimination doesn’t really exist today. Well, first of all- that’s simply immaterial, given how all of the above put quite a few blacks into a position where they can’t even ASK for loans to begin with, much less be discriminated against. Second, it is simply untrue, since any number of studies from the last two decades indicates that mortgage discrimination is still widespread. Shapiro cherry-picks one piece of data, but here are the mainstream numbers from the 1990s, which assessed both a for-profit and racial motive independently; a more recent study which reveals a clear bias against black loan applicants with photos; bias against ‘black’ names; yet more of the same; and, to top it off, a huge settlement, a moderate one, and a smaller one due to the practice, from banks of all sizes and geographic distributions, with a New York Times article commenting on yet another lawsuit in New Jersey and penalties extracted from multiple cities across America for similar violations, only to conclude that we now have “more active redlining investigations underway than at any other time in the past seven years.”

Note also Shapiro’s subtle blaming of the poor for the 2008 mortgage crisis- that their dishonest complaining about discrimination created an inaccurate perception of an otherwise fair lending system, thus encouraging both the state and private equity to get fat off of a non-existent issue. Yet the complaints were not only NOT needless, as I’ve shown, but Shapiro even manages to confuse the bottom line. If American business is so badly regulated that financial institutions were able to commit such massive fraud in THIS sector, what’s to stop big business from choosing some other target for their greed? Oh, right, they did exactly that less than a decade before with Enron, WorldCom, the dot-com bubble, and everything else, really, meant to ‘trickle-down’ and ‘help the poor’, but was simply the filling of a niche which should have never existed in the first place. Like with so many other corporate products, is not so much that subprime mortgages are inherently bad. It is merely that the risks were socialized and the profits privatized when a mix of both could have easily prevented these issues to begin with.

In other words, Shapiro is not only wrong in the spirit of his assertions, but the letter, as well. Despite his posturing over the Left’s overuse of emotion, it’s clear that he has taken an emotional position, first, and has sought a post hoc rationalization by cherry-picking a few outliers from an overwhelming body of evidence, blaming the poor for everything from their own red-lining to world financial collapse. Is he any less slimy on the issue of black poverty as a whole? Let’s see:

2) Black poverty is not a result of racism, but something that’s gone awry in black culture. For example, the liberal Brookings Institute asserts that to NOT be permanently poor, one simply needs to finish high school, get a job, and not have children out of wedlock. Yet unwedded motherhood has risen sharply in the black community, from 20% decades ago to 70% today all the while America has become a less racist country.

Oh, what do you know- Shapiro denies white privilege, on the one hand, yet admits that black people, on average, must deal with more crime and poverty than whites? So, how is this an argument against privilege, exactly, when on pure probability blacks (by Shapiro’s own examples) have MORE obstacles to deal with before they get to the same outcome? I mean- just compare his conveniently unfalsifiable theory- ‘black degeneracy’- with the well-documented narrative I’ve presented, and tell me what’s more rational? Yes, Shapiro is partly right about the figures (more on this below) as well as the Brookings study, yet the mere fact that blacks have the OPTION to ‘do better’ if they just accomplish X, Y, and Z does not mean that the variables he alludes to play no role in the PROBABILISTIC issue of how often these choices get tapped over the alternatives. Obviously, it is not that a percentage of black mothers can’t stop themselves from having children out of wedlock, but that a percentage of them don’t. Yet the suggestion that they merely ‘cut it out!’ is akin to telling a stateless society that attrition is bad: yeah, no shit, Ben, but how do you actually stop it without the introduction of a Leviathan? Has this EVER happened, in ANY society, save the hypotheticals which libertarians dream in? More pointedly, what is the Leviathan for this particular issue, and why hasn’t it been tapped- surely, according to Ben’s logic, one of the most important policy issues of our day? And just what do the numbers mean, anyway, since Shapiro gives you only half of the picture? After all, while unwedded black mothers are in fact having fewer children than ever, married black women are having even fewer children than either unmarried black women or married white women, black/Hispanic teen pregnancy has dropped by 50%, yet black poverty and income inequality is still growing:

It is important to realize that the “percent of births” is not a birth rate. The birth rate is the number of births for every 1,000 women in a specific category. The last marital birth rates calculated by the National Center for Health Statistics were for 2002. In 2002, the black marital birth rate was 64.9 births for every 1,000 married black women. The white marital birth rate was 88.2 for every 1,000 married white women. The black marital birth rate was 23.3 births less than the white rate. In the past, the black marital birth rate was higher than the white rate. Because there is such a low number of births among married black women, the percent of births to unmarried black women is especially high.

To summarize: there is no data to show that the black “illegitimacy” figure of 70 percent has been caused by unmarried black women having more kids than they did in the past. In fact, the trend is the exact opposite. What is clear is that the behavior of married black women has changed, to the point that married black women are actually having less kids than married white women.

In other words, here we are, arguing on Shapiro’s preferred turf, even as Shapiro, himself, neither understands the math he is referencing nor its implications. More, according to Shapiro’s own reference, the three rules for kids to live by are best understood in the context of wider, liberal policy initiatives for society to live by: to make those three rules appear as logical and desirable as they in fact are. And if in fact the state has a vested interest in heterosexual marriage (as Shapiro argues) for the sake of population control, why oppose the policies which have been shown to improve success by every known metric? Too ideologically impure, perhaps? Yet they’re effective. There is ‘personal responsibility,’ yes, but there’s also the tension between freedom and probability. It is a tension that seeks to balance the truth that ‘people are free to do as they wish’ with a billion other, equally true moments that make freedom a less meaningful concept depending on who you are. If that weren’t so, we’d not have had the same irrational bouts of history over and over again until we’d collectively said ‘Enough!’, and put the same faith in the Social Contract which Shapiro prefers to put in God. In some ways, then, my goals are not too different from Shapiro’s. The only difference is that Shapiro wishes to skip the math and just chide and pontificate in the hope that somebody will listen. But just as Ben ‘won’t care’ about people’s emotions, probability – a die loaded in white people’s favor – doesn’t give a damn about Ben’s moralizing. I mean- look back over the past 10,000 years. Has it ever?

3) Liberals like to say that blacks and perhaps other minorities are discriminated against by the police and the justice system as a whole. There is no evidence of this, however, and one study even found that blacks speed more often while Peter Moskos of John Jay College insists that police shootings of whites are in fact overrepresented.

Perhaps the easiest assertion to dismiss, and one which divides black from white most sharply in today’s climate. Prior to getting to the key claim, however, let us deal with Shapiro’s two pieces of evidence: ‘driving while black’ in New Jersey, and Peter Moskos’s study.

First, a little background on the New Jersey racial profiling controversies of the 1990s. Study after study as well as countless official records indicated discrimination in pretty much every form, from speeding stops, to ticketing for various offenses, and searches conducted all over the state but especially on the New Jersey Turnpike. More, the NJSP eventually admitted this, with cops reporting that they were encouraged by their superiors to profile explicitly based on race- charges, by the way, still repeated today by officers all over the country. Further documents revealed potentially criminal acts at the highest levels of the NJSP, as officials withheld information from federal prosecutors to divert attention from these illegal practices. Now, all of this is not controversial- it’s been settled. And while some critics grumbled about John Lamberth’s methodology, his own study merely corroborated what had already been in the documentary record: namely, that 42% of all stops were of blacks- 3 times the total black driving population in the areas surveyed, and, more importantly, very much in line with other state studies to the present day.

Of course, New Jersey is not special here, but the virulence of the NJSP’s practices encouraged both scrutiny and additional studies. Shapiro alludes to one such study which looked at actual driver behavior on the Turnpike by race. He states, correctly, that 23% of all speeders were found to be black, about twice the expected number, but implies that this same cross-section of black drivers gets 25% of all speeding tickets- roughly in line what one might expect based on speeding rates- as he collapses the study’s findings with unrelated data. In fact, the study’s authors explicitly state that they were NOT measuring police and ticketing behavior, merely the one racial variable, while 25% is not a Turnpike number but an overall state statistic for which there is no concurrent driver data. Further, a more recent study found that the vast majority of Turnpike drivers (black and white) commit driving violations for which they could be stopped – including speeding, thus suggesting a selective enforcement on par with Bloomfield, NJ’s recent controversies. Most decisively, even if the study is correct about black drivers’ disproportionate speeding, keep in mind that Lamberth’s numbers indicate that blacks are still stopped (for all reasons) at 3 times the predicted number overall, and almost twice of what their alleged speeding behavior predicts. Couple this with the aforementioned 100,000 pages documenting explicit abuses by the NJSP and identical findings nationwide, and Shapiro’s reference is little more than an interesting aside to a far deeper problem he’d rather ignore.

The second piece of evidence is Peter Moskos’s comments on police violence: that adjusted for the homicide rate, whites are more than 1.5X as likely to be killed by police officers as blacks. By contrast, the unadjusted per capita deaths of blacks compared with whites is 2.5-3.5X, a number- Moskos argues- that activists have long latched on to as evidence of racial bias without considering the full picture. On the other hand, it would be disingenuous to ignore the MASSIVE amount of data indicating that the violence of individual blacks has little to do with the violence exacted upon them when controlled for similar offenses. In other words, ‘adjusting for the murder rate’ for an entire race is logically meaningless when we are dealing with non-murderers whose only relation to these statistical perpetrators is skin color. Thus put into context, Moskos’s numbers imply racial discrimination definitionally– precisely what Shapiro is attempting to disprove.

Similar findings indicate that while blacks and Hispanics (such as in New York City’s ‘stop and frisk’ policy) can make up almost 90% of all pedestrian stops, they are less likely to be found with weapons and drugs than whites. And while critics argue that racially disproportionate stops are due to violent neighborhoods being disproportionately black, New York data indicates that blacks and Latinos are still the overwhelming targets in low-crime, low-minority neighborhoods for random stops- facts supported by dozens of other studies, as well as the endless anecdotal evidence ranging from my and my friends’ experiences growing up, to amateur gonzo films on YouTube and cops’ own admissions of systemic bias and enforced profiling. More officer stories exist, of course, replete with cop-initiated lawsuits, audio recordings of higher-ups, and even one case study of 24 out of 25 minority cops who themselves reported being frequent victims of racial profiling when off-duty- with five of the cops having had guns pulled on them by other officers! Honestly, if Ben Shapiro with his posh suits and yarmulke could live a dozen lifetimes back-to-back, do you think he would have a single gun pulled on him by an officer- for any reason? How many times would he complain of profiling? Is Ben simply more law-abiding than 96% of officers? Or does he simply fit another profile altogether- that of a non-threat who will always be on the right side of a probability space he can safely pretend to not exist?

And that’s just New York City. Former Baltimore police sergeant and whistleblower Michael A. Wood says the same, while Loretta Lynch’s Justice Department (which Shapiro conveniently dismisses as ‘racist’) conducted a massive investigation of the city’s discriminatory practices and constitutional violations, indicating that:

The department found reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of:

– Conducting stops, searches and arrests without meeting the requirements of the Fourth Amendment;

– Focusing enforcement strategies on African Americans, leading to severe and unjustified racial disparities in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Safe Streets Act;

– Using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment;

– Interacting with individuals with mental health disabilities in a manner that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act; and

– Interfering with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment

Of course, there’s more, crushing what’s left of Shapiro’s argument. There’s this study of police behavior in Virginia, another in San Francisco, another in Ferguson, MO, another in Chicago, one in Illinois more generally, another in Maricopa County, AZ, one in Oakland, Albuquerque, Houston, Maryland, Ohio, New York, Florida, North Carolina, and several other states, a nationwide study on cop-on-cop violence, another nationwide look at custody deaths spanning five decades, police bias more generally, shooting bias, bias against black teens, and more. Many of these adjust for violence/neighborhood – precisely as Shapiro demands – and some even find that blacks have less contraband rates and/or summons-worthy offenses despite being stopped more often, indicating a bias that does not even align with the stated needs of law enforcement. Naturally, this can all be seen in the justice system more generally, and while critics might harp on the fact that there’s some dissent here, with a number of studies (especially ProPublica’s) coming under fire, it’s undeniable that the vast majority of evidence points to racial bias at all levels of justice.

Finally, there are two issues typically ignored in discussions of race, crime, and equity. The first is the commonly-cited defense of discrimination as mere pragmatism: for example, screening Muslims more stringently at airports, or using the disproportionately large number of crimes committed by blacks to profile blacks anywhere– even outside of high-crime areas. Yet these defenses fail to understand why these practices are both unconstitutional and unfair. It doesn’t matter that blacks, as a group, are associated with ‘X’ when we are ultimately dealing with individuals that- by definition- have nothing to do with a group-tendency. This is why throwing out a woman’s astrophysics resume in favor of a man’s merely because men show more achievement therein is so egregious- there is nothing logically stopping this woman from doing as well as any individual male. By that same token, if it were somehow provable that having a certain name – say, Ben Shapiro – was disproportionately associated with sex trafficking, would it be just to target all Bens on the highway to check their trunk for children? Should we be more willing to run up on them with guns drawn- as the off-duty black cops experienced? Is that a logical solution to crime, or would it merely breed the sort of resentment and social unrest which blacks are now accused instigating?

In short, the only reason why race is often defended as a legitimate bias is because it is so visceral, easy to see, and easy to stereotype. By contrast, a name is pretty much an abstraction outside of the scope of experiential typing, even if it might have exactly the same logical relationship to some proposed variable. Further, to use the Bloomfield, NJ study as a guide: even if it’s true that the police target black and Hispanic neighborhoods MORE because of higher crime rates, it is also true that ‘incidental’ targeting translates into a de facto tax that these poor neighborhoods have to disproportionately pay. Think about it- if blacks in Bloomfield are pulled over for everything from busted taillights to tinted windows, and are ticketed for such things as per the law, there is nothing inherently wrong about police behavior in this case. Yet if (as Bloomfield’s police chief claims) this happens NOT because they are explicitly targeted, but because police resources are merely being allocated the most logical, crime-prone areas that ‘just happen’ to be black, it means that a far larger proportion of the same violations go unpunished in majority-white neighborhoods, thus filling city coffers on the backs of its non-white residents. Say what one will of the logic behind this, but it also means that blacks are suffering- intentionally or not- an undue financial burden on top of every other problem discussed.

This leads us to the second and even more important issue: the privileging of certain crimes over others. According to the Gini coefficient, crime is correlated not merely with poverty, but especially with income inequality, as well as the perception (right or wrong) of male-male competition. For this reason, the sort of crime that poverty breeds tends to be the most visible and visceral- drugs, robbery, murder, and the like. Logically, only a certain ‘type’ will engage in the most egregious of these, and will use his natural talents to flourish in the environment. Yet- as Dan Schneider argues- dress the sociopath in a suit and let him run Enron or an apartheid state like Israel, and he not only has the capacity to do a thousand times the harm he might have done in the streets, but will enjoy unique protections a drug lord can only dream of. So, while black people are told to ‘stop killing’ and ‘be responsible’ for the destruction a tiny fraction of them wreak, an equal fraction in the white community do just as much (and often worse!) in their own spheres. And while I once knew a few kids getting jailed over drugs, fighting, and similar nonsense, my OTHER circle- young, Russian, from ‘good’ families and the like- was often involved in massive tax and insurance fraud and other scams, not to mention the trillions netted every year by corporations which illegally stockpile cash, side-step regulations, and crash the entire world economy with nary a prison sentence. Really- what’s worse on the scale of human suffering? Did the architects of the Iraq War get an execution? Or the folks who lied about tobacco’s ill effects? Big pharma? Frackers? Why not? No, crime is not poverty-driven, but character-driven, and color-coded at that: evidence that ‘privilege’ is not merely HOW one gets targeted by the world’s muscle, but that certain behaviors- often the most criminal behaviors- are rendered invisible by it.

So, is it ever justified in Shapiro’s world to cry ‘bias’? Well, I guess that all depends on who you are. Ben finds black people’s complaints both illegitimate and annoying, as they are simply a means to control the conversation rather than deal with a well-structured argument. Yet when the Justice Department releases data Shapiro doesn’t like? It is simply “racist”. Obama complains about the xenophobic campaign waged against him by a good swath of whites? He’s a “bigot”. A dumb comedian compares your political conservatism to Irving Kristol’s? He’s an “anti-Semite”. America makes a few mild, token rebukes of Israel’s genocidal policies? It is a “Jew-hating” administration. “No, but…” Yes, Ben, I know, I know. It is always ‘different’ when a situation – any situation, really – involves oneself rather than one’s target, when one finds that a blanket dismissal of another person’s concerns is in fact quietly entangled with one’s own.

Let us return to where we started (whew!)- the Reddit AMA:

[–]michela_9[S] 128 points 6 days ago

Hi Ben,

What are your thoughts on the March for Science this Saturday?

[–]Ben Shapiro [S] -74 points 6 days ago

It seems that much of the March for Science has less to do with science than leftist propaganda masquerading as such.

[–]doltcola 116 points 6 days ago*

I’m gonna be honest here. I came into this AMA with an open mind. I have a friend who really talks up Ben Shapiro and all the 9 yards. I really thought I could get some perspective and maybe a different way to look at things, but all of the answers I’ve been reading here have been shallow as puddle of piss. Am I wrong when I say a lot of these responses are lazy? Does it hurt to elaborate just a little bit?

[–]deaduntil 58 points 6 days ago

Ben Shapiro made his bones at Breitbart, driving up pageclicks, hype, and outrage. There’s no real reason to think he’d be a particularly thoughtful or worthwhile thinker – it’s not a selection process that produces one.

There are people who are thoughtful conservatives with a different perspective out there, but they don’t come from alternative media.

And there you have it. For while I don’t pretend that the commenters, above, would necessarily fare much better if pressed to explain their own worldviews, they are obviously much closer to the ‘common sense’ model Shapiro only pretends to champion, popping in and out as the occasion suits him, dropping a study here, an insult there, but refusing to ever map out his own dead-ends and entanglements. And that’s because modern American ‘conservatism’ is anything but- merely a haphazard collection of unfalsifiable claims which can never be brought to their logical conclusion without self-destructing. In a way, then, it’s little more than the uglier sister of modern liberalism, parasitic as the two are on the token variants of classic ideals which neither side has truly come to terms with.

Yet for all that, I just can’t bring myself to adopt Shapiro’s tack of waging war against some ‘side’- some imago of my own making. As I’ve argued before, true conservatism and liberalism are two world-tendencies predicated upon an organism’s needs: the need to stray, on the one hand, but also the need to periodically return to one’s source, and reject that which- after some experimentation- turns out to have not worked. THAT is the function of the liberal/conservative divide, and it always amuses me when conservatives assume things will merely be how they’ve always been, and liberals insist that everything they’re fighting for can be won on the exact terms they’ve imagined. In short, if liberals are here to probe ideas and try new things at the risk of failure, conservatives are here to ensure that liberals don’t get us in too deep and trip into some bottomless pit of their own gouging.

Perhaps this is why both sides are so suspicious of one another, as neither is ‘stronger’, nor more ‘important’, but why- let’s be real, now!- conservatism is especially virulent and hysterical no matter where it’s found. I mean, just look at Shapiro’s tactics, from the wholesale rejection of scientific data, to the emotional ploys he denies others, to the constant allusions to some great culture war that in fact has been with us since Sumer and Akkad. Conservatism knows it is unstable for it is by definition reactive. It wishes to slow a world down that liberals – in a strike against them – often manage to spin out of control. Yet whether liberals are successful today or tomorrow, the point is they ARE successful, which is why today’s liberal is little different from the liberal of yore. By contrast, today’s conservative is about a thousand standard deviations to the left of where conservatism once was, and will, when the time’s right, merely be today’s liberal, albeit some decades too late. Give Shapiro about a century and his next iteration will be arguing for expanding universal healthcare for animals, but not- he’ll insist- for androids, based on some new demarcation he’ll think is perfectly logical.

And perhaps this is where Ben Shapiro fails as a spokesman for the conservative movement, and why I can’t respect him intellectually. Yes, he is better than TV pundits and more articulate than many liberals, but he is lazy, smug, and too content to coast above the swamp merely because he doesn’t have to quite dip into it. I mean- why else settle on an anti-abortion argument that philosophers have declared dead for years now, when better arguments exist? Or destroy a cogent claim on the Left’s exaggeration of privilege by denying it outright? A true conservative is there to keep the Left’s excesses in check, NOT attack them for what they’re right on, just as the Left is there to push conservatives out of their complacency, but not to the point of formlessness and waste. Anything less and one ends up with Ben Shapiro’s self-destruct mechanism. And- ah, there’s the button. Click!

393 Comments Why Ben Shapiro Is A Total Fraud

  1. Ezekiel

    Okay – a lot to take in, for someone who just recently started taking politics seriously, but damn. This is an evisceration. I admired Ben Shapiro for similar reasons (his calling out of Leftist claptrap) and – coming from a Conservative background myself, even if only by dint of growing up in an Evangelical Christian milieu – never really questioned his more “substantial” arguments. He seemed a more logical alternative to the Yiannopolous idiocy. However, I stopped following him; out of laziness, more than anything, but the outright condescension and ad nauseam repetition of un-challenged points made him a bore. I mean, he keeps boasting of his on-air clash with Zoey Tur as if he had Ali’d the Left’s George Foreman.

    A big problem with Shapiro is that he thinks himself capable of separating his faith-based thinking with so-called “rational/secular” thinking when the absolutism he applies to most of his positions completely exposes their ideological link. His gay-marriage argument is simply a dirty excuse to justify his religious views with government (in)action – and to think Dave Rubin considers Shapiro a worthwhile spokesperson for the Right! As for the abortion stuff: your pointing out his hypocrisy on the issue is spot-on. He’s perpetuating the rather puerile method many alternative media YouTube channels deploy of splicing viral videos and providing unbalanced commentary – commentary oftentimes equal to the silliness of the target video! or, at most, pointing out plain, common sense. Nothing really special, or helpful.

    Shapiro, Thomas Sowell, and Milton Friedman get a lot of YouTube love by conservatives for being their ideological champions, and while I’m not sure about the latter two, Shapiro definitely does not deserve that mantle. Or, unfortunately for them, he does. He doesn’t deserve any of the anti-Semitic remarks but he continues to build his reputation on blasting stuttering questioners in college visits or weak opponents from the Left, so it’s time his ideology got an incisive critique.

    Much of the information in your piece I can’t immediately absorb, being so green to this field of thought, but you did a great job of being fair (with some humorous, well-aimed snipes) and offering a rich array of evidence for a reader to study in his/her/zir own time. Plus, you take the mind-blowing approach of desiring to be correct on the matter, rather than Left/Right/etc. Have you shared this with reddit, or emailed it to Shapiro himself? I’d be curious to see how he responds to it on his show, if he should so choose. But knowing him…

    P.S. Are you familiar with the YouTube channel, Secular Talk? Curious what you think, if so. I’ve watched a good number of his videos and found them solid and consistent.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      You used to be a conservative? Interesting. Do you still maintain a few of those positions? I’d argue they’re wrong about most things, but right about a few.

      Did not realize Shapiro still talks about Zoey Tur. I mean, OK, a nasty and mentally ill person refuses to debate you and then threatens you, and that’s your best fight against the Left? This is precisely why Shapiro is so ugh. He’s an ‘intellectual’ in his 30s debating TV personalities and college kids then sits back with his hands behind his head, feeling self-affirmed. What a waste.

      I have a book by Sowell, and he’s just odd. He has something interesting to say here or there but the conclusions do not follow from the premises, or even from the evidence he presents. And Friedman just puts a ‘smarter’ spin on what’s essentially indefensible for the reasons the article discusses.

      No, I didn’t send this to Shapiro or post it to Reddit. You can do that if you’d like, since I as a rule do not post these materials to Reddit due to the voting system in comments. I think Reddit would like it quite a bit, though, especially since r/politics just had this AMA.

      Heard Secular Talk a few times. He’s OK, I mean I agree with most of his positions, but I’m more interested in hearing people express new or different positions in novel and memorable ways rather than hearing my own thoughts in another person’s mouth. He is better argumentatively than Cenk Uygur but he doesn’t have Cenk’s charisma or mannerisms.

    2. Kyle

      I’m in pretty much the same boat as you lol. Christian conservative who just recently got into politics and saw Ben as a campus hero, but not without his fair share of flaws. Also, I can’t thank the author enough for challenging my thoughts, because honestly, that’s where all the fun in politics and philosophy is.

    3. Kyle

      I’m in pretty much the same boat as you lol. Christian conservative who just recently got into politics and saw Ben as a campus hero, but not without his fair share of flaws. Also, I can’t thank the author enough for challenging my thoughts, because honestly, that’s where all the fun in politics and philosophy is.

    4. paul

      Your criticism of Ben would be better taken if it wasn’t based on a reddit Q&A which does not suit well for a meaningful back and forth. Your attempts to look at Ben’s other postings/youtube etc. does help however, your criticism is more a differing view while comparing apples to oranges at times to paint Ben’s views as inconsistent.

      For example, you and Ben may differ on abortion but it’s based upon different starting points of life. For those who believe life starts at conception then they would agree with Ben. To compare humans and animals is a straw man argument, except for the few who may somehow believe that the life a cow, dog or whatever is the same as the life of a human.

      Regarding “Rights” as a social contract I think Ben would agree with you on that except for the “Rights” enumerated in the Constitution, which are not social contracts but legislated “Rights”. Religion being one of them.

      Is a cake really the same as a medical treatment at ER? A gay person’s right to medical care is more compelling and thus may require more protection than a gay person’s request for a cake. What’s the harm in going to another baker? They don’t get the cake they want? true, but the business owner gets to abide by his religious conviction, his freedom of religion at the expense of a gay person who can get a cake made somewhere else. If there is a difference in qualify of the cake, so be it, it’s a cake. At the ER, the religious doctors views may not trump the life in front of him. So, let’s not mix apples/orange.

      Regarding taxes, I didn’t quite understand all of what you said but it’s not that Ben wants to tax the poor/middle class more, it’s let’s tax everyone less. To see taxing the wealthy less as costing the poor and middle class is not the same. If the economy does not support the lower level of taxation then the wealthy won’t be able to avoid higher taxes. However, to go Bernie and create short term equality by giving everyone more is stupid. If the example of that one State is what happens nationwide, then the experiment has failed and a new tax regime may be needed.

      As for minimum wage, it may be needed to protect the poor/uneducated from being taken advantage of but if the rate goes too high then the benefits to the few will be at the expense of those who need the opportunities.

      Ben never proposes a quick fix solution to any of the problems and demands more accountability for an individual’s own action. His reference to going back to one’s family/society for help is a bit annoying as it’s not realistic in this day and age but he understands there needs to be some sort of a safety net for those impoverish. The level of which may be lower (in terms of benefits) than most people but how much should a society provide at the expense of those who have? Ben calls it stealing which is more divisive than it needs to be but in a capitalist economy where wealth is created and owned by those who have to continue to take without accountability is not justifiable as well.

    5. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Paul,

      Your criticism of Ben would be better taken if it wasn’t based on a reddit Q&A which does not suit well for a meaningful back and forth. Your attempts to look at Ben’s other postings/youtube etc. does help however…

      As you go on to point out, my criticism is not based on a Reddit AMA- it merely uses the AMA as a framing tool to discuss his views more broadly. You recognize this, and must see that this objection was kinda pointless.

      For example, you and Ben may differ on abortion but it’s based upon different starting points of life. For those who believe life starts at conception then they would agree with Ben. To compare humans and animals is a straw man argument, except for the few who may somehow believe that the life a cow, dog or whatever is the same as the life of a human.

      I do not understand your argument, partly because I have not made the argument you assert. The life of a cow/dog, etc., is “the same” in what way? Where was this written, and, more importantly, what would it mean, if in fact it were written? Do you mean “the same” in terms of worth? Inviolability? Ensoulment? In any case, this would merely take us back to social contractarianism, which brings us to your next objection:

      Regarding “Rights” as a social contract I think Ben would agree with you on that except for the “Rights” enumerated in the Constitution, which are not social contracts but legislated “Rights”. Religion being one of them.

      Question- do you understand my objection to Ben’s slippery-slope critique of abortion? Do you know why I bring up instantiation, and the like? Or why it makes little philosophical sense to differentiate point A from point B when the reasoning is identical to the liberal position? It is a genuine query, because much of what you point out has already been answered in the article itself.

      Is a cake really the same as a medical treatment at ER? A gay person’s right to medical care is more compelling and thus may require more protection than a gay person’s request for a cake.

      Yes, but that is NOT the argument being made. The argument is that of religious INFRINGEMENT, which is unchanged in both examples. The medical example seems far more obvious, to us, because basic human decency is now expected whereas a few centuries ago, refusing to treat a Jew or a black person for whatever reason was NOT unexpected. Yet the parameters do not change, however. The point is that there is no philosophical rigor to the objection, since we allow people in America the privilege of running a business in exchange for other freedoms. One of those freedoms is discrimination, which is legally OK in your personal life. It does not matter whether this service is baking a cake or saving a life according to the terms of the argument. You can certainly make another argument, and try again, but it cannot be this one. Just look at the tangle you get yourself into:

      If there is a difference in qualify of the cake, so be it, it’s a cake. At the ER, the religious doctors views may not trump the life in front of him.

      Why not? The argument is “religious infringement”, NOT “religious infringement EXCEPT in the case of…” Do you understand why? That “except in the case of” stipulation has ALREADY been added by the state decades ago, in the protected class clause, which deemed that it was not only life that trumps a person’s religious convictions, but discrimination, too.

      Regarding taxes, I didn’t quite understand all of what you said but it’s not that Ben wants to tax the poor/middle class more, it’s let’s tax everyone less. To see taxing the wealthy less as costing the poor and middle class is not the same. If the economy does not support the lower level of taxation then the wealthy won’t be able to avoid higher taxes. However, to go Bernie and create short term equality by giving everyone more is stupid. If the example of that one State is what happens nationwide, then the experiment has failed and a new tax regime may be needed.

      Yet there is no logical reason to tax everyone less- especially not the wealthy. Like I said, given the fact that we lack strong evidence on taxes and growth (as well as no real reason to privilege economic growth over any other potential good), we must default to the tax-equity position.

      As for minimum wage, it may be needed to protect the poor/uneducated from being taken advantage of but if the rate goes too high then the benefits to the few will be at the expense of those who need the opportunities.

      This is no doubt true, but the point is that there is a logical way of increasing minimum wage with little to no negative consequences, as outlined by the 200+ study meta-study I supplied.

      Thanks for reading.

  2. Nancy

    I worked for someone whose managing skills were often negatively critiqued. One person even wrote expressing their complaints about what they saw going on and they were right about most of the things. The manager brought the letter to me and asked what I thought about it. I told her, ” If I got a letter like that I would examine myself.” And because she trusted me, I helped her along.
    So that is what I would say to Mr. Shapiro – If I was written up like this, I’d examine myself.” Deeply.

    Reply
  3. Fabio

    I appreciate your attempt at an honest (though biased) critisism at Ben Shapiro, but it really seems as though you’re trying to shove your enormous vocabulary in the face of the reader. And i don’t mean to use that as a full on dismissal of your argument, but the left does tend to use fluffy language to hide poor arguments.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I have little to no jargon (except in the more technical discussions of abortion, which is merely per the course) and the vocab is pretty standard, unless you’re simply used to online articles. Not trying to be nasty or dismissive, either; just pointing out what I’ve observed reading political books in my teens to then watching the growth and dilution of Internet writing.

    2. Jordan Carlin

      In a way you could say the same about Shapiro though, he speaks at such high velocity – in a Sheldon Cooper sort of way- that nobody can seem to have time to digest at what he’s actually saying.

  4. James

    “In short, the law is a negotiated understanding between a society and its members, often making what is implicit explicit, even if it sometimes means spearheading ‘vested interests’ ahead of public opinion for the sake of a well-established good”

    This is a dangerously poor definition of the Law, which is, was and shall always be rooted in violence. The Law dictates which actions the state has both the legal authority and obligation to use the threat (or practice) of violence to stop. Even fines and summary offenses have this aspect on the tail end of you choose not to pay them.

    This misunderstanding is why the Left consistently mistakes more laws for positive change. Marriage shouldn’t be the government’s business in the first place. Government is not some entity that always has and always will exist, it’s simply a way to manage living around a large number of people. Streamlined is always better.

    How anyone could dismiss Thomas Sowell’s mountains of work and data as “odd” in one sentence and expect to be taken seriously is a mystery.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      “This is a dangerously poor definition of the Law…”

      Which is why it is not my definition of the law, but an addendum to it. Surely you read the preceding sentence?

      That said, the rest of your comments devolve to mere question-begging- namely, your libertarian (I presume) stance on the state and violence, premises I do not agree with and which you, lacking an argument, are not in the position to change. To say the law has nothing to do with manufacturing an understanding between people is just silly.

      And the govn’t certainly is “some entity that always has and always will exist”- or rather, the Social Contract is, as I’ve explicitly argued, whether it’s the ineffectual agreements between primitive groups that can lead to murder rates as high as 60%, or the introduction of a Leviathan, which has reduced violence and human suffering a thousandfold. Bow to it, baby, ‘cuz the historical alternative is to smile from the top of a pike.

      And re: Thomas Sowell. This was an offhand response to a comment, not some prefiguration of yet another essay. Yet many of his positions are the same as Shapiro’s, and argued for in the same way, and have thus implicitly been tackled:

      http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell051499.asp
      https://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2017/05/01/tax-cuts-for-the-rich-n2320748
      https://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2016/07/12/the-war-on-cops-n2191290

      This wasn’t a critique of merely Shapiro, but that of the ‘conservative’ (yeah, right) movement as a whole. You need to get a handle on how information in one sphere can be extrapolated into another. Sowell’s intellectual edifice was caught in the same crossfire without being named, and thus crumbled.

      Sorry.

  5. Dan Schneider

    That so much time is wasted on a person who offers so little is the real shame. It’s why I waste very little effort these days on the DFWs and JCOs of the lit world.

    One thing, you use, ‘more’ several times when I think you mean ‘moreover.’

    All laws and rights are fictions. When we encounter the first hostile extraterrestrials this will be brought home. But, yhey are useful and good fictions. Gov’t’s sole purpose is to provide things that individual citizens cannot do for themselves- this includes a plenum of things (readers may need to look up ‘plenum’) from military protection, civil protection, healthcare, policing, and so forth. Having lost a job a few years ago because a long time employer was breaking local county fire and safety laws that I reported them on, and being fired because of it, due to living in a right to work state, I know the idiotic view of the law and its subservience to monied interests better than most.

    Good essay, overall. I have no interest in Shapiro, but if you can engage him in a dialogue, I’ll offer to host a debate between you two.

    Reply
    1. Keith

      It is amazing how rights have been so canonized. The strongest thing you can say about them is that there is likely, in the ether, a certain combination of rights that will, on the whole, maximize human potential and well-being while minimizing societal intrusion into individual lives, but even this would be contingent on factors social, cultural, political, etc., and it’s not anything remotely close to innateness.

  6. Keith

    It is a good essay – bit overlong relative to the subject, as I stated in private – but it’s amazing that contemporary conservatism is so thin, intellectually, that this guy has a platform. I could genuinely make better arguments for this guy’s views than he can.

    Reply
  7. Blaine

    On the abortion argument, his logic is not invalid. All of his conclusions are based off of his belief that an unborn baby still has rights. All of your conclusions are based off of your belief that they don’t. Your differences are ideological, not logical.

    Reply
    1. Dan Schneider

      There are no logical argumants against abortion; certainly not based in science. To say that is to claim it’s ideological to laugh at Flat Earthers, those who believe in a historical Jesus, or Creationists.

      You revealed your own ideology in making such a statement

    2. Blaine

      Are there any logical arguements against Hitler attempting to murder everyone with a genetic disease at the beginning of his regime? You still believe that was wrong, right?

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Blaine- yes, his logic is not invalid, but his argument is unsound. That’s not some minor philosophical difference. I agree that, logically, there is no reason to prefer death vs. non-death, genocide vs. no genocide, etc., but that wasn’t the point of the argument. Shapiro begins with an illogical premise which he continues to assert and refer to, thus begging the question wherever he fails to make his argument scientifically. He slippery-slopes his way to a conclusion that can only work if you accept the original premise. The default position is NOT ‘the unborn are human with full human rights’ in the same way that an acorn is not an oak tree, and barring a proper argument, the point of departure is still the default position.

      Of course, it would then (and only then) be incumbent upon me to argue why the default position is better, logical, or both, but that is WAY outside of the scope of this essay. What I have is enough to kill off the anti-abortion argument. It is not an argument for the alternative, although I would obviously argue the alternative’s better.

    4. walter

      Alex, the premise upon which one version of a secular argument against abortion depends is:

      it is wrong to intentionally kill innocent members of the species Homo sapiens on the basis of biological characteristics over which they have no control

      Since we live in a fuzzy world and not the world of pure, binary axioms, you’re left piling on caveats:

      it ought to be illegal for a person to intentionally kill innocent members of the species Homo sapiens on the basis of biological characteristics over which they have no control, unless there is strong evidence that would convince a reasonable person to believe that the innocent is likely to cause death or severe permanent injury to that person and there is no reasonable alternative but to execute the innocent

      Obviously the “it is wrong” premise relies on one’s belief that morality is not a shared delusion (or useful intersubjective fiction).

      For folks willing to reduce all ethics and politics to a que cira cira “Social Contract” — in a manner that would force them to accept, e.g., “the widespread torture and rape of young boys for entertainment” is *merely* “suboptimal for a flourishing society” — I have nothing to say, because I don’t believe that they accept that premise, and instead are desperately struggling to demonstrate their intellectual consistency bona fides.

      Returning to abortion, I can imagine an analogy regarding pregnancy-caused-by-rape that might reduce the bar for harm that would need to be evidenced to support a woman’s justification in killing her unborn offspring.

      Let’s visit the philosophical asylum known as Abortion Analogies:

      If a woman placed her sleeping toddler on a bunk bed, tied a rope around the toddlers waist, worked it through a pulley, and looped it around the trigger of a gun locked inside a vice and pointed at her own head, then put a second gun in her own hand, leveled the gun at her toddler, injected herself with an almost incapacitating dose of ketamine, and then waited to see if the toddler (in her sleep or after waking) ended up rolling toward the edge of the bunk, shooting her toddler when she has barely moved, I’d have to say that the mother is a murderer and the blood of the innocent is on her hands. Even if the toddler was right on the edge before she pulled the trigger I’d assign blame to her.

      If the exact same circumstances occurred because someone _else_ made the only morally relevant decision effecting the circumstances, and placed the mother and her toddler in that Rube Goldberg chamber against the mother’s will, I can see how I’d consider the blood of the innocent to be on the hands of the person who made a decision that created the circumstances.

      Ratcheting down the diabolical nature of the Goldberg device might be useful in understanding the threshold of risk I’d expect a reasonable person to take in order to avoid killing an innocent who is only in danger because of that person’s choices . And I think it’d roughly correlate to the degree to which they ought to be expected to understand the risks, and the degree to which they are actually likely to be in serious danger (i.e., the closer the toddler gets to the edge, or if you imagine a less lethal device, the specific amount of harm likely to occur).

      But women don’t *choose( to be raped. In our weird analogy, they haven’t knowingly risked putting themselves and an innocent human in circumstances where they might feel the desire or need to kill that innocent human.

      So I’d think we wouldn’t expect them to tolerate as much risk to themselves as we would someone who knowingly took actions that created the scenario.

      I know it’s just a silly/creepy analogy, but most abortion analogies are.

    5. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Walter,

      Alex, the premise upon which one version of a secular argument against abortion depends is:

      it is wrong to intentionally kill innocent members of the species Homo sapiens on the basis of biological characteristics over which they have no control.

      That wouldn’t necessarily work in all cases, unless you add things to the argument even beyond that which you’ve added. For example, a living, non-suffering vegetable can still be a member of Homo sapiens, but can still be killed for reasons of waste, uselessness, pain to the surviving family members, and so on. The salient point is NOT being a member of the species, in this case, but having PERSONHOOD- whether full, or in part. In a century or so, we will be granting at least some personhood to monkeys (and perhaps other animals) and still exactly zero to fetuses. And, of course, one can still have personhood and still no right to life in special circumstances.

      Obviously the “it is wrong” premise relies on one’s belief that morality is not a shared delusion (or useful intersubjective fiction).

      You’re going to have to define this further. Morality is obviously not a shared delusion in the sense that morality has a clear biological basis proven over and over again not only in studies, but in empirical data re: human universals, taboos, and more. But the is/ought problem means that the OUGHT portion of a morality argument IS based on a shared delusion, from which psychopaths willing to act on their psychopathy are immediately exempt while still taking on the delusion’s legal consequences (imprisonment, etc.) purely by way of numerical might.

      For folks willing to reduce all ethics and politics to a que cira cira “Social Contract” — in a manner that would force them to accept, e.g., “the widespread torture and rape of young boys for entertainment” is *merely* “suboptimal for a flourishing society” — I have nothing to say, because I don’t believe that they accept that premise, and instead are desperately struggling to demonstrate their intellectual consistency bona fides.

      As I’ve said, my use of Social Contract refers mostly to derivation.

      But women don’t *choose* to be raped. In our weird analogy, they haven’t knowingly risked putting themselves and an innocent human in circumstances where they might feel the desire or need to kill that innocent human.

      So I’d think we wouldn’t expect them to tolerate as much risk to themselves as we would someone who knowingly took actions that created the scenario.

      This already jumps the gun, though, quite a bit. Most abortion discussions start from the assumption that we are dealing with an ‘innocent human being’ in the ways we typically understand this phrase. But I’ve cast doubt on this assumption, and assume the null hypothesis is that we’re NOT dealing with this sort of category of person at all. And why is my own assumption the null hypothesis? Because- even discounting the huge social costs of assuming otherwise- we simply ACT as if it is. We celebrate birthdays, not conception days. Almost every western-style democracy protects abortion rights. We feel much more attached to birthed babies, toddlers, teenagers, and adults than we do to a fetus that dies on day 5 of a pregnancy. Hell, even Ben Shapiro himself KNOWS this to be true when he argues that Kermit Gosnell (as opposed to one of tens of thousands of other life-long abortionists) is America’s “most prolific serial killer,” merely because he killed fetuses that already ‘looked’ more like fully developed babies- thus, playing on the emotional aspect of granting personhood rights, rather than the philosophical ones. Why do you think anti-abortion types show up with placards of dead fetuses after some visually lurid cut-off point, as opposed to showing us a zygote? Because they know a zygote can’t ever be part of a successful null hypothesis, on the basis of what they’re arguing and the consequences they are all too willing to let loose.

      I mean- if Ben Shapiro does not truly believe that abortion is murder, why should anyone else?

  8. Blaine

    As for the second part of your comment, you strawmanned me. But, I will not commit an argumentum lapidem and show you why those examples are an equivocation of my point.

    When you said “ideological” in your examples, you were referring to what they believe about a physical fact. I don’t agree with Flat Earthers either (duh). Flat Earthers don’t believe a Physical Fact despite obvious evidence to the contrary on the basis of what they believe.

    When I said “ideological”, I was referring to what Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Sheremet perceive human rights and the social contract to be, which is the philosophical outlook behind the conclusions they both made. Sorry for the misunderstanding, and thank you for your time.

    Reply
  9. Astro

    Too long. As a rule, if it takes you that many words to prove someone is a fraud, they probably aren’t. Not worth the time to rebut. Shapiro is not that important and neither are you.

    Reply
    1. Blaine

      I wasn’t saying he was a fraud, I’m saying he misunderstood my comment. And mine isn’t the longest one here. If your only complaint is that it was too long I think I did a good job.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Astro- sorry, I don’t follow your ‘rules’. And “Not worth the time to rebut” assumes you’d be able to. In fact, you’d be in the same position had I written 5 words or 15,000- namely, blundering, empty, and dumb.

    3. Czach

      Astro,

      The great thing about this essay is that it isn’t just a ‘rebuttal’, but Alex uses it as a jumping point to set up the ‘ground’ behind the debate as well – and uses it to ruminate on higher things within the sphere of politics.

      On the other hand, your comment is a rebuttal in the smallest sense of the term – a dismissal – speaking nothing of world nor reaching out to anything but yourself.
      Look at this paragraph that opens into the cosmic purpose of the political divide itself – do you think such a comment is merely ‘rebuttal’?

      “Yet for all that, I just can’t bring myself to adopt Shapiro’s tack of waging war against some ‘side’- some imago of my own making. As I’ve argued before, true conservatism and liberalism are two world-tendencies predicated upon an organism’s needs: the need to stray, on the one hand, but also the need to periodically return to one’s source, and reject that which- after some experimentation- turns out to have not worked. THAT is the function of the liberal/conservative divide, and it always amuses me when conservatives assume things will merely be how they’ve always been, and liberals insist that everything they’re fighting for can be won on the exact terms they’ve imagined. In short, if liberals are here to probe ideas and try new things at the risk of failure, conservatives are here to ensure that liberals don’t get us in too deep and trip into some bottomless pit of their own gouging.”

      Your life is probably filled with such petty wranglings that you cannot believe that attack/rebuttals can be more than such a thing – but true attacks are always more than the conflict, because they open up the field that the struggle takes place in.

    4. astro

      Alex-You seem a bit oversensitive to criticism.

      But OK. I’ll put my dumb, blundering empty mind to it. LOLL. The first six paragraphs you tell us Shapiro is supposedly “lazy” and “self-serving.” Incisive stuff. Only took two pages.

      Turning to the argument, the first question presented is curiously a question Shapiro did not answer. Which allows you to argue with clouds. Oh I don’t know. Maybe his answer would be that he considers abortion a form of murder and that he believes that it is a much more serious ethical/moral issue than not wanting to subsidize dairy products? Hardly unanswerable despite the slippery slope assumptions. Merely requires not treating all ethical objections as equal, which we never do. We make moral distinctions, just as the law does, and shockingly we are able to do so in practice. Still I find it amusing that you start with a question Shapiro did not respond to, and then seemingly only to set up strawmen just to knock them down.

      Next, you again present a question Shapiro did not answer, and instead insert something Shapiro allegedly stated elsewhere so you can presume how he would respond. Does not seem particularly fair or meaningful, but OK. So Kansas supposedly has budget woes due to low taxes. Are you suggesting that no state economies have benefited from lower taxes (Texas, Florida, etc) or suffered from high taxes (Connecticut, California)? You then proceed to cite some studies that support your viewpoint about higher taxes and raising the minimum wage while derogating studies that disagree. An economic issue with conflicting viewpoints? What will they think of next? Does this debate ever end? Not in my lifetime or yours. But if you think you definitively refuted the opposing view, more power to you.

      Next, you do not like some of his libertarian answers regarding health care in the Reddit Q & A. Actually neither do I. On health care I think he is all wet. Not too hard to critique. But that becomes a jumping off point for a long, meandering discussion about his position regarding abortion and his alleged hypocrisy along the lines of “if he claims all life is precious and worth protecting in the context of abortion, how can he say that health care is not a right?” Actually whether you or I are persuaded by it the rejoinder is simply that he does not see preventing murder (as he sees abortion) and providing subsidized health care on the same plane. And therein lies a basic and evergreen disagreement. You take issue, give us a usual discussion about when life begins (etc.) but the same old disgreement still remains. But again if you want to believe you have conclusively resolved the philosophical issue, whatever works.

      Then to gay marriage where we get another slippery slope argument with the claim that a bakery should not be forced under legal compulsion to make a cake for a gay wedding is equivalent to racial or religious discrimination. Here again, you are not critiquing any actual response. Perhaps Shapiro would respond that the first case involves legitimate religious convictions/traditions and that there needs to be a rational balance against a recently recognized right and established religious traditions, whereas the second case involves plain, old irrational discrimination. Agree. Disagree. Whatever. Still seems like a straightfoward response to your supposedly irrefutable logic.

      Finally we get a discussion about privilege where you disagree with Shapiro (and Thomas Sowell for that matter on the importance of culture) and cite studies that seemingly support your claims of racial bias in the justice system. Other studies are left out, inconvenient details ignored (for example buried in a footnote in the Atty. General NYC stop and frisk study was the fact that whites were actually stopped without reasonable suspicion more than any other group), and things like the demographics of crime not discussed. Again the standard disagreement and statistics battle.

      The rest is more of the same.

      Here are some other rules that may be helpful. First, become comfortable with criticism. You just published a (imho) longwinded “take down” attempt of someone you politically disagree with. You are big game hunting, trying to be noticed. People that engage in public criticism should not be so defensive. I merely suggested you needed editing. Second, try not to praise yourself so much in your own writing. Comes across as childish and insecure. Let other people praise your supposedly towering intellect.

    5. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Astro:

      Prior to getting to my response, I’m going to point out the chronology of events, and let others be the judge.

      YOU felt the need to address ME- a stranger- with a flippant, transparent dismissal of an article you’ve not understood. YOU said that I wasn’t “worth the time to rebut”, yet just hours later ended up writing the longest comment in this thread thus far. Why? Were you so upset at my needling that you had to come back with 9 full paragraphs just to emphasize how unimportant I am? Really- all this due to 3 little sentences, yet I’m the one who can’t “handle criticism”? Jesus, it’s like- here’s a bit of crape. Now hang.

      Turning to the argument, the first question presented is curiously a question Shapiro did not answer. Which allows you to argue with clouds. Oh I don’t know. Maybe his answer would be that he considers abortion a form of murder and that he believes that it is a much more serious ethical/moral issue than not wanting to subsidize dairy products? Hardly unanswerable despite the slippery slope assumptions. Merely requires not treating all ethical objections as equal, which we never do. We make moral distinctions, just as the law does, and shockingly we are able to do so in practice. Still I find it amusing that you start with a question Shapiro did not respond to, and then seemingly only to set up strawmen just to knock them down.

      I started with a question Shapiro did not answer because it was the highest-rated and most visible question, which Shapiro conveniently decided to ignore as it stymies his entire ideological framework. It also furthers my assertion that he is lazy. That you do not see this is your own issue to resolve.

      And it’s irrelevant whether he “believes” abortion is murder. I mean, did you fail to read that part, or what? First, he’s never proven that conclusion- merely question-begged his way to it in the hope no one would notice, then argued for an ethical exemption in his case. The argument, then, is from BELIEF. Yet any rational person can see that if you argue for one belief-based exemption, you can argue for almost any other, whether it’s vegans who question-beg their way into concluding meat-eating is murder, or folks who with much more justification do not wish to subsidize unwarranted, murderous adventures in the Mid East. They are not “clouds” unless one is ready to contradict oneself from one answer to the next. You are right, I made quite a few assumptions there- the biggest one being that Shapiro was intelligent enough to see how quickly he’d opened up his own objections to a free rider problem of which he’d quickly lose control. Was that assumption warranted? Dunno, because- as you’ve demonstrated- there really are a lot of idiots who can’t follow a rather simple line of thought.

      Next, you again present a question Shapiro did not answer, and instead insert something Shapiro allegedly stated elsewhere so you can presume how he would respond. Does not seem particularly fair or meaningful, but OK.

      Yes, another really popular question he conveniently ignores, which (again) further backs my claim that he was lazy. And it is both fair and meaningful if you were to be philosophically consistent- or are you attacking me for giving Shapiro too much credit there?

      So Kansas supposedly has budget woes due to low taxes. Are you suggesting that no state economies have benefited from lower taxes (Texas, Florida, etc) or suffered from high taxes (Connecticut, California)? You then proceed to cite some studies that support your viewpoint about higher taxes and raising the minimum wage while derogating studies that disagree. An economic issue with conflicting viewpoints? What will they think of next? Does this debate ever end? Not in my lifetime or yours. But if you think you definitively refuted the opposing view, more power to you.

      I am suggesting that one of the biggest and most extreme modern examples of his stated economic principles led to a spectacular failure- a failure that began immediately after these principles were tapped, and one that he refused to defend. You could have well-functioning states with high or low taxes, with a million other confounding variables to boot. Your point is what, exactly? Nor did I cite ‘some’ studies, but 1) 35 years of growth indicating little relationship with tax rates and GDP, which itself was based on a meta-analysis of multiple studies through 1995, 2) one of the larger pieces of evidence- an analysis of 26 studies by the Tax Foundation, which was analyzed in turn by CBPP to show that neoliberal tax reform is little more than a dart-toss. What I’ve ignored are libertarian think-thanks which routinely condemned by economists.

      Nor did I state that I ‘definitely refuted the opposing view’- I mean, what? Are you unable to read? Despite the lack of evidence, I actually grant Shapiro the ‘possibility’ (based on my own dart-toss) that such tax reform might in fact have a modest effect on growth, only to finish my argument on completely different premises altogether since both positions, as I explicitly state, are a mere “hunch” that must logically default to the tax-equity position until we get real evidence one way or the other. And still you’re not happy? Aww.

      Next, you do not like some of his libertarian answers regarding health care in the Reddit Q & A. Actually neither do I. On health care I think he is all wet. Not too hard to critique. But that becomes a jumping off point for a long, meandering discussion about his position regarding abortion and his alleged hypocrisy along the lines of “if he claims all life is precious and worth protecting in the context of abortion, how can he say that health care is not a right?” Actually whether you or I are persuaded by it the rejoinder is simply that he does not see preventing murder (as he sees abortion) and providing subsidized health care on the same plane. And therein lies a basic and evergreen disagreement. You take issue, give us a usual discussion about when life begins (etc.) but the same old disgreement still remains. But again if you want to believe you have conclusively resolved the philosophical issue, whatever works.

      Note your strange tack- I do not ‘like’ his answers? Uh, it’s beyond like or dislike- they are clearly ridiculous, if you simply look at his suggestion to beg friends and family for cash if you’re dying as reasonable health policy. For a guy who emphasizes efficacy and what “works”, this is an internal contradiction he must inevitably deal with.

      I also correct Shapiro on his own claim- he doesn’t mean “protection of life” (which healthcare can logically fall under) but “prevention of murder”, which is a completely different thing altogether. You think it irrelevant that he misuses words and gets basic definitions wrong, but I beg to differ. Nor is the second part needless or meandering. I point out that Shapiro keeps calling things ‘rights’ when in fact a right is a mere fiction and descriptor of some given reality at some given time- and even uses his bullying concept of ‘rights’ to shift his argument from a relativist position to one of immanent ethics, thus leading to his anti-abortion argument where this plays out more specifically. As for your other objections, see my comments above. Your same fallacy is at work there.

      Then to gay marriage where we get another slippery slope argument with the claim that a bakery should not be forced under legal compulsion to make a cake for a gay wedding is equivalent to racial or religious discrimination. Here again, you are not critiquing any actual response. Perhaps Shapiro would respond that the first case involves legitimate religious convictions/traditions and that there needs to be a rational balance against a recently recognized right and established religious traditions, whereas the second case involves plain, old irrational discrimination. Agree. Disagree. Whatever. Still seems like a straightfoward response to your supposedly irrefutable logic.

      Uh- what? Sexual orientation is a protected class according to our present Social Contract- just like race. No, they are neither contextually nor historically equivalent, yet they ARE legally equivalent since the state has a vested interest in preventing discrimination against protected groups. Nor is the state- as I point out- required to review things on a case-by-case basis, since you can literally come up with any sort of hypothetical that might fall under the umbrella of religious, etc. expression, which creates an ever-increasing burden on a protected class from which some perpetrator seeks to absolve his own responsibility. Had the bakery refused to bake a cake for a couple whose sole identity was “I enter bakeries, and curse at the bakers” there’d be no controversy. There’s a reason why such a group is not a protected class and why others are. I fail to understand how you don’t see this.

      Again- it is 100% irrelevant whether Shapiro would or would seek a “rational balance” or not. The point is that there can BE no “rational balance” under Shapiro’s own assumptions about religious protection, axiomatically, and, further, in the state’s own vested interests. It is one thing to not be friends with blacks or gays, or refuse to host them for dinner in your home. It’s quite another to refuse a business or medical service that- in exchange for permission to do business- exists under a state-defined rubric of non-discrimination. If there is any “rational balance”, it is in those examples of private conduct which both you and Shapiro conflate with something else altogether.

      Finally we get a discussion about privilege where you disagree with Shapiro (and Thomas Sowell for that matter on the importance of culture) and cite studies that seemingly support your claims of racial bias in the justice system. Other studies are left out, inconvenient details ignored (for example buried in a footnote in the Atty. General NYC stop and frisk study was the fact that whites were actually stopped without reasonable suspicion more than any other group), and things like the demographics of crime not discussed. Again the standard disagreement and statistics battle.

      Jesus, just look at your own dishonesty. ‘Seemingly’ support my claims? ‘Other studies are left out’? Really- I’m the one cherry-picking? By my estimate, roughly 80-90% of the studies that I’ve seen indicate racial discrimination at multiple levels of life, especially in law enforcement, which means I am taking a position consistent with mainstream data. This is further supported by whistle-blowing cops all over the country who indicate the same, as well as multiple investigations by the Department of Justice and 100,000 pages of internal police documents spanning roughly 20 years in NJ- the state Shapiro (by his own choice) decided to focus on, and the state that- in order to be fair- I likewise devote a good amount of attention to. And the Stop & Frisk study was fairly treated- ‘more than any other group’ is meaningless if the majority of folks stopped in a non-crime white area are non-white, while cops are putting forward lawsuits left and right complaining that they’ve been forced to racially profile as this was happening. To say that I’ve been in any way unjust here is ludicrous. You simply ‘dislike’ my position here. But tell me why I should give a fuck?

      Here are some other rules that may be helpful. First, become comfortable with criticism. You just published a (imho) longwinded “take down” attempt of someone you politically disagree with. You are big game hunting, trying to be noticed. People that engage in public criticism should not be so defensive. I merely suggested you needed editing. Second, try not to praise yourself so much in your own writing. Comes across as childish and insecure. Let other people praise your supposedly towering intellect.

      Thank you for your suggestions. And now, some for you. First, do not get involved in an argument for which you are ill-equipped. Try reading the article(s) in question, and write down some of the more difficult logic so you don’t find yourself in a conundrum of your own making. Second, do not contradict yourself- Shapiro cannot be “not that important” in one breath, while I am “big game hunting” in the next. By your own logic, there are far better targets for me to bleed. Yet here you are, feeling the need to fit me into some narrative just because I wrote 3 sentences that got you fired up enough to completely change your mind about my importance.

      Well, thanks for the affirmation, I guess. Now, where are you hiding that self-destruct button? Oh- there it is. Hold tight, now. Click.

    6. astro

      Alex-You might not be cut out for this line of work. At least not yet. Pot and Kettle and all. YOU (lol) just published a very lengthy attack on someone with a clickbait title on a public website with an open comment section. It is your website so with that allowance said, you then proceeded to overreact to the slightest criticism in the comments section (you need an editor; deal with it) and engaged in childish name-calling. You do it again in your “rebuttal”, which between the playground insults comes off as conversation from freshmen philosophy class. (“Yes but if you make one allowance for a moral belief, but all morality is relative, then you must recognize all moral beliefs are equal and therefore reductio ad absurdum in any practical application of moral reasoning.”). Ah, memories.

      If you want to argue with anonymous people in a comment section for articles on your own website, fair enough. But for pete’s sake if you get published in a magazine resist the urge. And most of all, if you think a comment is stupid or petty, IGNORE IT. You’ll thank me.

      No need for a last word.

    7. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Astro,

      You commented despite my unimportance- farting out of your mouth, basically, in the hope that I’d smell it and get pissed. Got slapped a little, then shot back with 9 fuckin’ paragraphs that were summarily dealt with. Continuing with your narrative re: my utter worthlessness, here you are again in an attempt to regain some face, yet refuse to engage what I’ve actually written to you despite the time I’ve wasted crafting a fair, thoughtful response to your objections.

      Now you impugn my motives, and assume this and that. Ok. Let’s pretend you’re right, and argue from your premises as I’ve so charitably argued from Shapiro’s. Hell, let’s pretend that I’m even worse than what you claim. Let’s say I’m a pedophile and murderer, and simply wrote this essay ‘just’ to humiliate Ben in an attempt to fuck his wife. And? What does my repulsiveness have to do the substance of my argument? More, why do you care? You don’t know me. You only see the text before your screen, and you’ve decided (for whatever reason) you do not like it. I’m still waiting, however, to hear what your point is.

      You say I can’t take criticism, but what did I do with your objections? I answered them in detail and tried to be as even-handed as possible. In response, I simply got more badgering, insults, accusations- which you expect me to merely ‘accept’ as if they’re legitimate critiques. So, why are you even here? Stop wasting my time- and, worse, from your perspective, stop wasting yours. Go home to your wife, have dinner, catch up on some reading, pull out a vibrator, and fuckin’ go to town. You’d get a lot more out of that than you ever will from our interactions, which are so one-sided that they’re both comical to watch and painful for me to write.

      Now that it’s been a few days and I’ve had some time to think, I (almost) regret writing this essay. Not that I don’t think it’s good- it’s better than virtually any political writing out there, if I may be so bold. Yet, as you might have guessed, I do have personal flaws I try to work on and often fail to resolve. One of them is my fixation on losers like Ben. This is, coincidentally, also the reason why I’m still writing to you. Oh well, we all have our demons, as the cliche goes. But I get the feeling I’d rather deal with mine than with yours.

      Note that, like my original comment, this is not an invitation to respond. This is an act of mercy. Just go, as this is the last time I’ll be addressing you.

      Thanks for reading.

    8. astro

      Alex-Well at least you are honest. Trust me, you are not close to the worst. Heck I once had a very well-known college professor threaten to beat me up for criticizing his Op-Ed. I think I had that email exchange framed I was so proud of it.

      I won’t be back so you do not need to respond. I won’t see it. I’m out. 🙂

    9. Invalid ID

      I bet he actually did hang up an angry email on his wall. I guess Astro doesn’t have much to take pride in. Thanks for admitting you’re nothing but a pathetic lowlife. This is so self-defeating it isn’t even funny. At least it knows when to fuck off!

    10. meso

      I agree with the first part. This article was way too long.
      To say Shapiro or Alex aren’t “important” that’s just silly.

    11. Stephanie

      Ben Shapiro is a Gish Galloper, and in the age of twitter I have seen people complain at the length of anyone attempting to respond to a Gish Galloper.

      You either don’t respond to every single point, and get attacked for not covering every detail or you address everything and then are attacked for writing too much.

      You’re a Joke, much like Ben Shapiro.

  10. Andrew Geary

    Shapiro is just another public “intellectual” whose purpose isn’t to expand discourse or understanding, but to act as an ideological hero for people to rally behind. What’s surprising is how dumb and lazy he seems. If he’s supposed to be the intellectual giant of the alt-right they must either be desperate, delusional, or simply don’t care and just want someone who can strike a pose.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Yep, although he’s not alt-right. He’s been abused by them with anti-Semitic slurs, etc., when he disavowed Trump and left Breitbart.

  11. Paul

    This could be the dumbest article ever written. I am not some Ben Shapiro fan or an American-Flag-attached-to-the-cab-of-my-truck-pseudo conservative. I’m neither.

    But I know garbage analysis when I see it. And this author’s overtly lengthy synopsis of one recent Reddit appearance is more galling than the conservative’s appearance over there.

    He clickbaits his article by labeling Shapiro a fraud, has a limitless # of synonyms for Shapiro’s “childish” thinking and yet wastes the reader’s first 10 minutes of time recounting two questions in which Shapiro did not even respond. This author fills us in on the reasons why the conservative author didn’t respond, apparently having been present and sitting next to Shapiro at his computer at the time.

    This author then laboriously winds his way through pages of analysis of ONE online AMA to draw his conclusion, despite admittedly knowing little of the guest previously.

    So, this author has drawn his conclusion based on the massively flawed and imperfect platform for hosting a Q&A. Where as he knew nothing of Shapiro’s previous work, he now magically is expert enough to render a conclusion after reading a one sentence response the guest typed out, for example, to a submitted question.

    The equivalent to this author’s work and summation in this article is for me to determine that an automobile is a piece of crap not because I test drove it, not because I understood the mechanical history of its manufacturing, or not because I fully consumed its safety testing, et al…….but from the 2 sentences the manufacturer included in its advertisement in the pages of Sports Illustrated.

    I’m responding for no other reason but my distaste for strong assertions (“Shapiro total fraud”) minus the evidence and/or requisite work from the author to have earned the credentials to use such strong conclusions. IE a Reddit appearance with 2 sentences-long answers and a handful of past articles is not enough to conclude this unless something else is to be gained: article views.

    Reply
    1. Ezekiel

      “I’m responding for no other reason but my distaste for strong assertions”

      written earlier:

      “This could be the dumbest article ever written”

      ???

      You have the credentials to make such a strong assertion?

      The lack of cooperation and willingness to respond to the quite leftist AMA is telling, on Shapiro’s part.

      Sheremet is critiquing the conservative mindset in which Shapiro participates, and espouses. The article is long, sure, but to dismiss it completely is wrong – he provides a good amount of evidence for his claims and linked videos in which Shapiro appears, and so critiques his spoken opinion. Not just one sentence and a handful of articles. Whether or not you agree with Sheremet is beside the point. At least read his article properly.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      And this author’s overtly lengthy synopsis of one recent Reddit appearance is more galling than the conservative’s appearance over there.

      Actually, it is an analysis of both his Reddit appearance as well as- oh, I don’t know- ALL of his key claims on abortion, gay marriage, economics, and racism as taken from his own articles and talks beyond Reddit. Guessing you didn’t read that far before you felt the need to pass gas?

      He clickbaits his article by labeling Shapiro a fraud, has a limitless # of synonyms for Shapiro’s “childish” thinking and yet wastes the reader’s first 10 minutes of time recounting two questions in which Shapiro did not even respond.

      It is ‘clickbait’ only in the sense that it’s an accurate reflection of what’s in the article, an article which YOU decided to click on. Nor is it a ‘waste’ when Shapiro explicitly avoids popular questions/comments that would reveal his own ideological inconsistencies, a pattern in his thinking which I highlight not only in the questions he misses but the far meatier stuff outside of Reddit which I later get to. Pointing out his failure to answer 2 or 3 questions is not ‘my argument’, as you disingenuously straw-man. Rather, it is a minor supplement to an argument which spans a full 15,000 words.

      This author then laboriously winds his way through pages of analysis of ONE online AMA to draw his conclusion, despite admittedly knowing little of the guest previously.

      Again- this is factually incorrect.

      I’m responding for no other reason but my distaste for strong assertions (“Shapiro total fraud”) minus the evidence and/or requisite work from the author to have earned the credentials to use such strong conclusions. IE a Reddit appearance with 2 sentences-long answers and a handful of past articles is not enough to conclude this unless something else is to be gained: article views.

      Right. You begin with “this is the dumbest article ever”, yet go on to feign a “distaste for strong assertions”. Then you pretend as if I’ve somehow cherry-picked Shapiro’s views. I mean- really? Does he have better anti-abortion arguments somewhere? What about gay marriage- I guess an article on Townhall plus comments on The Rubin Report were insufficient for Shapiro to make his case? Racism- I guess he has a whole cache of studies that he refused to tap for a lecture on black whining? What about his economic outlook- was I unfair there, too, when I cite all the mainstream data I could find on the topic, which amounts to hundreds of studies altogether spread across several pages of argument which contradict his own?

      You need to make up your mind, Paul:

      Either this article is “too long” in tackling the meat of Shapiro’s worldview (as you claim), or it cherry-picks and does not deal with Shapiro’s worldview comprehensively enough (which you also claim).

      Either this article draws its conclusions “only” based on “a single Reddit appearance” (as you claim), or it also draws on several key articles and media appearances beyond Reddit to prove a point (which you also claim).

      Do you understand the logic of ‘either/or’, or are you simply looking to whine? I mean, just look at your own cowardly tactics- you bitch about this or that strategy of mine yet ignore every single argument I’ve in fact made in favor of generalized bitching. You are either lazy and don’t give a damn, or you realize that my comments are not so easily answered.

      Stop wasting everyone’s time.

    3. Paul

      “rights are nothing but what the social contract confers” writes this author. And then proceeds to attempt to prove his claim that Shapiro is a total fraud, lazy intellectual, etc (we all cant graduate from Univ of Florida. Nope. I take that back, we all can.)

      So understand this: this author gives us the end result of deliberation, arbitration (and compromise) that produces the social and legal current contract of “rights” and points his finger back at Shapiro to find cracks in his logic using this as a basis.

      The problem here is you are not being genuine, author. Where the FUCK does Ben Shapiro agree to the terms of YOUR one sided (he is not here to confront his accuser) approach to discussing hot topic rights vs commodities?

      Because he would certainly reject and rightfully so the rules YOU SET in this unnecessarily long article. (I love how you wrote somewhere within “snipping some of the BS” of a Shapiro article. hello? Mirror?? If I snipped the BS in YOUR article, MY responses here wouldn’t need to be so long)

      He would reject your premise of social contract because you are framing the discussion to suit your needs. You mention this around the issue of ‘healthcare as a right’. When Ben is articulating his position on the matter, it is from his position of natural rights….*not what actors in the government have currently agreed to”. This allows you to play the game.

      I would love to go point for point in your article (because it is BEGGING to be torn to pieces) but to do so I’d have to do it in small chunks here because you get paid by the word, apparently which makes it impossible to do the whole thing in one shot.

      So the summary is, you alter the details of the subject matter covered in his reddit AMA (example: his position on what are NATURAL INALIENABLE rights vs your post-reddit review to ‘rights stemming from the social contract’) which then enables you to make asinine comments like(paraphrased) “it was just as correct to say blacks in 1850s had no rights as it is to say you have a a right to abort fetuses in 2017”.

      No shit, sherlock. Shapiro is not arguing what was and wasnt LAW. In any video I’ve seen from him – he understands what are natural rights and what are laws and how these are not guaranteed to be the same -especially when idiot liberal leftists conflate the two. Go Gators.

      ps I dont care if this is too long or it “wastes everyone times” get over yourself. no one is reading this but me and you. Dont write a dissertation and expect a twittereque response then.

    4. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      “rights are nothing but what the social contract confers” writes this author. And then proceeds to attempt to prove his claim that Shapiro is a total fraud, lazy intellectual, etc (we all cant graduate from Univ of Florida. Nope. I take that back, we all can.)

      Uh, so what’s the contradiction between “rights are nothing but what the social contract offers” and then pointing out Shapiro’s errors?

      And I didn’t graduate from Florida U, nor have I ever been in Florida, you dunce.

      So understand this: this author gives us the end result of deliberation, arbitration (and compromise) that produces the social and legal current contract of “rights” and points his finger back at Shapiro to find cracks in his logic using this as a basis.

      I didn’t argue for the superiority of my own position re: abortion, which was beyond the scope of this essay. I merely argued for the logical shortcomings of Shapiro’s. That you fail to distinguish the two is unsurprising.

      The problem here is you are not being genuine, author. Where the FUCK does Ben Shapiro agree to the terms of YOUR one sided (he is not here to confront his accuser) approach to discussing hot topic rights vs commodities?

      Except I argue first on Shapiro’s terms, then, when they fail, on mine. Is there an issue with my argument? If not, why are you here?

      Notice how, 3 quotes in, and you fail to provide a single counter-argument, merely bitch.

      Because he would certainly reject and rightfully so the rules YOU SET in this unnecessarily long article. (I love how you wrote somewhere within “snipping some of the BS” of a Shapiro article. hello? Mirror?? If I snipped the BS in YOUR article, MY responses here wouldn’t need to be so long)

      4 quotes in- not one counter-argument, just more accusations of “bullshit” by fiat, and whining.

      He would reject your premise of social contract because you are framing the discussion to suit your needs. You mention this around the issue of ‘healthcare as a right’. When Ben is articulating his position on the matter, it is from his position of natural rights….*not what actors in the government have currently agreed to”. This allows you to play the game.

      Except that natural rights are a fiction, a fiction which conveniently gets all sort of shit thrown into it (abortion, etc.) which suits the debater’s needs, but axiomatically leaves everything else out which doesn’t. My point is that BOTH categories are essentially a form of question-begging, yet that Shapiro’s peculiar question-begging is not even consistent in the global scope. This is not a “game”. It is ordinary logic. Sorry.

      I would love to go point for point in your article (because it is BEGGING to be torn to pieces) but to do so I’d have to do it in small chunks here because you get paid by the word, apparently which makes it impossible to do the whole thing in one shot.

      You will not rip it up. You will not even attempt it. You might try in your dreams, still commenting, as you are, weeks after your first comment, but in reality will just end up precisely as you’re doing now: farting in my arena, in the hope that I’d smell it.

      6 quotes in- not a single counter-argument.

      So the summary is, you alter the details of the subject matter covered in his reddit AMA (example: his position on what are NATURAL INALIENABLE rights vs your post-reddit review to ‘rights stemming from the social contract’) which then enables you to make asinine comments like(paraphrased) “it was just as correct to say blacks in 1850s had no rights as it is to say you have a a right to abort fetuses in 2017”.

      I’ve altered nothing. There are no natural, inalienable rights. That would be a theological argument, not a logical one.

      7 quotes in, and…

      No shit, sherlock. Shapiro is not arguing what was and wasnt LAW. In any video I’ve seen from him – he understands what are natural rights and what are laws and how these are not guaranteed to be the same -especially when idiot liberal leftists conflate the two. Go Gators.

      8.

      That’s how many times you were just smacked in the mouth. Go get some ice, and call me in the morning.

  12. Paul

    ???
    You have the credentials to make such a strong assertion?

    reply:
    No. And either does the author of this article who a couple of weeks ago was unaware of Shapiro. But 5 minutes later, he assures us all the guy is a total fraud because of the answers he typed out on a computer to a couple of questions.

    The difference between me and him is I’m not in the business of click-baity enterprises (see: title of this article)

    The lack of cooperation and willingness to respond to the quite leftist AMA is telling, on Shapiro’s part.

    reply:
    No it’s not. And the reason it isn’t is because unlike a debate stage, an audio interview, or best yet an in-person conversation, you do not know the mechanics of the Q&A process online. Maybe he didnt see a question. Maybe his time is short and he can only pick and choose a couple of quick questions.

    I wrote a comment here challenging the author’s analysis of the conservative commentator. The author didn’t respond as of this note. HIs lack of cooperation is really telling.

    The article is long, sure, but to dismiss it completely is wrong – he provides a good amount of evidence for his claims and linked videos in which Shapiro appears, and so critiques his spoken opinion.

    reply:
    the majority of his analysis comes from either 3-sentence answers he stripped from an article here or there or less than a couple minute long. How does one then determine someone else, and I quote “a total fraud” from a sum of <20 minutes total on all thoughts. Why doesn't this author extend an Shapiro an opportunity to interview him or ask him questions? You know, the same way Shapiro begins every single one of the Q&A lectures he has by inviting all opposing views to step first in line to discuss their thoughts with him?

    Reply
    1. Ezekiel

      Sorry for the long post, but I disagree with many of your points. First of all, the author of this article culls (and paraphrases, to be clear) several central, fundamental arguments of Shapiro’s from written and video sources. He even explicitly quotes him, at times, and not just from the AMA. To suggest he’s simply responded to a few responses from the AMA is wrong-minded. To do anymore would be to lengthen the essay, and the current length you have already deemed a demerit.

      Nowhere in the essay did Sheremet say he was unaware of Shapiro. He said he was unfamiliar with much of Shapiro’s work, i.e. a considerable portion of it. His admission of points of agreement at essay’s start signifies that he had some knowledge of the conservative pundit’s views – enough, at least, to share a few.

      Shapiro did not see the 444-point top-rated question? The point of an AMA is to engage with your questioners. I’ve seen a good number of successful AMAs (granted, most were not as charged as politically-leaning ones) with substantial answers. If, then, Shapiro’s time was short and could only shoot off a few, quick answers, why agree to participate, knowing one’s limits? At best, Shapiro fumbles the AMA for whatever exterior reason, and damns himself to a bad look.

      “I wrote a comment here challenging the author’s analysis of the conservative commentator. The author didn’t respond as of this note. HIs lack of cooperation is really telling”

      Is this an Ask Me Anything? He’s responded to most – all I can say is, be patient. For Shapiro, however, the AMA is over.

      “the majority of his analysis comes from either 3-sentence answers he stripped from an article here or there or less than a couple minute long”

      I totally disagree. Sheremet’s analysis consists of balanced responses to Shapiro’s own AMA answers (which, evidently, Shapiro deemed substantial enough to toss into the public sphere, or else he would not have responded at all – like with many of the earnest questions), critiques of his ideas in three videos (the shortest being 8 minutes, and suffering the same flaws Shapiro rightly critiques leftists for engaging in), and spreading out into considerations of more general conservative viewpoints. This is the level of analysis that allows Sheremet to think his target a fraud. Now, whether you agree with his conclusion or not is another thing. But he CLEARLY went over enough of Shapiro’s fundamental ideas to come to SOME kind of conclusion.

      “You know, the same way Shapiro begins every single one of the Q&A lectures he has by inviting all opposing views to step first in line to discuss their thoughts with him”

      On the point of sharing the article with Shapiro, you’re gonna have to take that up with Sheremet. But on the above quote: an admirable move from Shapiro, which is why I’m disappointed – an AMA allows you to more clearly elucidate your views through the written word, outside of the pressure of speaking in person, and time limits – limits, in fact, more stringent than those prescribed in an AMA. Plus, in Shapiro’s Q&A lectures, it’s pretty much a room full of conservatives and a tiny, mixed bag of leftists, some genuinely curious, some very dumb. Not much disagreement there – just another opportunity for Shapiro to lay a verbal smackdown on hotheaded millenials, and, of course, the general fawning. On the other hand, the AMA was hosted in a left-leaning subreddit, offering the OPPOSITE atmosphere – a BETTER opportunity for Shapiro to put his money where his mouth is and trade ideas wholeheartedly. Think about it: was that achieved, in any way?

    2. vincent cuttolo

      This website is substandard. I posted to salute Paul for a well- reasoned and crafted response, but the site misplaces my response as if I’m congratulating Alex Sheremet’s defender. This original article is endless but contains little of substance. The author, though, sure is impressed with himself. Yawn.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Ah, another highly specific response going through all of my errors and lapses in judgment for which I have no rejoinder. Damn, I just can’t deal with all of these sophisticated arguments.

      Pussy.

  13. Aaron Shelton

    Nothing morally wrong with killing unborn children while they are inside their mother’s womb? Nothing at all? It doesn’t do any damage to society and culture? How about the women who have abortions and the emotional problems they suffer from afterwards?

    And why is god a mere fiction? To make such a bold claim, I would hope you have meditated extensively, studied theology, taken some sort of pilgrimage or the like. Unfortunately, smart people can justify really anything which is why we might not be able to abandon the existence of god just yet as our moral compass. Because if one can justify killing an unborn baby, which by statistics (I believe) states is around 80% a matter of convenience, perhaps we should feed the poor with these aborted children while we are at it. I mean its not a life in there, just a bundle of cells. Bringing it back to the existence of god one should ask this question: Being that the universe is infinite, and that there is possibly multiverses as well, wouldn’t anything be possible? Is it more scientific to say there is absolutely no god in the universe, or that being open to the possibility of a god is more scientifically accurate?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Nothing morally wrong with killing unborn children while they are inside their mother’s womb? Nothing at all? It doesn’t do any damage to society and culture? How about the women who have abortions and the emotional problems they suffer from afterwards?

      I neither accept your premises nor your conclusions.

      I am not trying to be nasty, but- did you understand my objections to the typical anti-abortion arguments? You are asking questions that have been answered.

      And why is god a mere fiction?

      Lack of evidence, for one.

      Being that the universe is infinite, and that there is possibly multiverses as well, wouldn’t anything be possible?

      Certainly anything MIGHT be possible, but it does not follow that you therefore should believe absolutely anything just because. Just consider the implications of such. How will you organize your life- and, more, how would one organize a society based around such principles?

      Is it more scientific to say there is absolutely no god in the universe, or that being open to the possibility of a god is more scientifically accurate?

      Actually, I am technically open to the possibility of god’s existence. I cannot, for example, prove a negative. So, I guess I’m actually an ‘agnostic’. I use the term atheist since it does not privilege the question of god over any other probable fiction we never think about. For example, people don’t generally believe in pink elephants, the Easter bunny, and so on, because these things have never been given cultural importance and so a lack of belief in them is merely expected. Yet these things have about as much evidence for their existence as god does, but because god is in a culturally privileged position, we have a technical term for a lack of belief in god- atheism. To me, this places an unnecessary philosophical default back to god’s existence which should be argued against as opposed to in fact proven, like any other phenomenon. So, I call myself an atheist although I wouldn’t begrudge others using the more correct (but maybe worse) term.

      Hey, see- you engaged me with a little bit of respect, and I’ve returned it and even took your objections seriously. Perhaps some other commentators in this thread should learn from your example.

      Thanks for reading.

  14. Dan Schneider

    Astro is one of these trolls that has no answers but the pat arguments, gets handed his ass, then can only try the ad hominem approach because he has no reply. Then he tops it off with the if I’m such a troll why did you debunk me gambit; which if Alex HAD followed his advice, he’s have his hands down his pants saying, ‘See, he couldn’t touch me.’

    Game, set and match for Sheremet.

    Reply
    1. vincent cuttolo

      Astro destroyed this self-aggrandizing embarassment. And you libs can’t handle it.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      In fact, Astro let himself out thru the doggy-flap. I suppose you wanna chase his scorched asshole, now? Breathe deep, Vince.

  15. Dan Schneider

    Yet another troll infested article by people wielding biases and not minds.

    And, next, they trot off to argue about video games.

    Reply
  16. Dave

    Personally, I interpreted his slippery slope arguement as his arguement against people who contend that abortion is okay up until a certain point in the womb, not for those who contend for the right to abortion at any time during a pregnancy.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      The slippery-slope argument depends upon a single premise: that an inviolable human life with full rights begins at conception. So, technically, under this assumption, one never truly has the right to abort, whether it’s a zygote, a fully viable being, or something in between.

  17. Raihan Alam

    Great essay. I was trying to pop my liberal bubble living in SF. I was very left in my freshman year of high school. I realized that I didn’t feel “strong” about all the social justice stuff I’ve been spewing. This summer, before my junior year, I’ve been researching the other side. I’ve been listening to conservative podcasts, arguments, “intellectuals.” I wanted to be on the right side of everything. I feel like the conservatives aren’t wrong when they’re against BLM, 3rd Wave Feminism, and when they defend free speech. I stumbled onto Ben Shapiro and thought he was a genius. I saw his videos and thought he must be right. His abortion video made sense to me. In popping my bubble I was stuck on the right. I started being very mean to my liberal friends. I forgot to research my own side. This article has reminded me that maybe I was on the “right” side all along, and that I have to research my own side as well. Hopefully, from now on, I won’t succumb to rhetoric like Ben’s. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Raihan,

      I wrote this essay precisely for people like you- intelligent folks who might be on the fence on this or that, but are willing to look past their own biases and listen to argument. Shapiro has a troubling demagogic streak; just look at that white privilege video again, and consider how ‘equipped’ he seems with this or that study, merely by cherry-picking information which others cannot call him out in in real-time. I call it ‘demagogic’ because in an actual debate where things can be cross-checked, like via essay form, he’d simply get wrecked. Just imagine him using those tired economic arguments against a Stiglitz, or hell, even a Dean Baker? He can’t help but stumble into his own shit face-first.

      What are your issues with BLM? I support BLM’s core message- that black people feel the disproportionate brunt of bad policing, economic discrimination, structural injustice, etc., but many of its peripheral messages are just idiotic. This year, for instance, they said they wanted to dismantle the nuclear family- uh, what? Stick to what you know and don’t make a fool of yourself. Even basic things, like science, have been co-opted by both the Right AND the Left to further an agenda which has nothing to do with it. Now everyone, even BLM, thinks they are an evolutionary biologist.

      It’s inevitable that we will look upon ourselves as either liberal/conservative, etc., and that’s fine, but it’s important to not get caught up in every little position. This is why so many liberals went full-hog for a fake like Hillary Clinton, or conservatives for another fake in Donald Trump. They assume the ‘side’ matters when a side is merely a bunch of individual positions that need to be evaluated piece by piece. Note how, in this essay, I offer lots of qualifiers to everything from my pro-minimum wage stance, to white privilege, and more. About the only thing I do NOT qualify is abortion, since that is necessarily a black/white issue, and in fact needs to be in order to remain philosophically consistent. Yet there is only one position (pro-abortion) that is impervious to a reductio ad absurdum.

      Thanks for reading.

    2. Resigned Sidekick

      @Alex

      Sorry, but I was with you up until you went on a diatribe about “fake Hillary”. Sanders has more in common with Trump than Hillary and I don’t mean that in a good way.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      diatribe
      noun
      1.
      a bitter, sharply abusive denunciation, attack, or criticism

      I literally spend half a sentence on Clinton to make a deeper point about tribalism, and now you feel free to misuse words to satisfy your own emotional needs, thus proving my original claim. Seriously- why write if you have nothing to say, and no further explanation of your position?

  18. Raihan Alam

    Exactly. I think the BLM movement is becoming extremely radical. Your example of their call to dismantle the nuclear family hits the nail. There have also been cases of the movement excluding white people from events and making white professors leave campus. It’s becoming a bit absurd.

    I also think that the words “Black Lives Matter” aren’t pleasant. It implies that the majority of people don’t know that. I’m pretty sure almost all of us think that everyone’s life, no matter their race, is sacred.

    I think that blowing up cases of bad policing and using that to claim America is racist just isn’t right. The same people on the left who defend my religion, Islam, saying that the acts of a few Muslims don’t represent Islam or the vast majority of Muslims, are the same people who use incidents of bad policing to suggest that America is racist.

    I also, I’d appreciate it if you would be able to explain to me, don’t understand how protesting against racism works. If racism is in people’s heads, how does protesting, or even the government fix that? I think as long as their are minorites, even in small numbers, who commit crimes, racism will exist. Racism is in our nature. We, as humans, like to defend ourselves from potential harm.

    Lastly, I’d like to see ways the BLM movement could adress the problem of black kids growing up with a single parent. There’s a large percentage, 70%(it’s probably lower because that’s just the number out of wedlock), of them living in a single parent home. I think that fact critically hinders their path to success. Childhood is everything. You’re a smart guy, you’ve probably been encouraged to read and write when you were younger. Your parents probably also pushed you to do well in school. There’s a strong correlation with having a bad childhood and becoming a criminal, as well as having a good childhood and succeeding.
    You’re more prone to having a “bad”childhood when you have only one parent looking after you. Especially when that one parents has to do everything else, like working, cooking, etc.

    Reply
    1. Raihan Alam

      Woops, it looks like you can ignore my last paragraph. I just remembered the ending of your piece. I still have those demagogic Shapiro stats in my head!

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I’d agree with your critique of BLM, save for the name. I mean, yes, it is true that most white people might in fact ‘care’ for black lives in the intellectual sense, but don’t you think that’s a self-absorbed way to look at things? If even half of BLM’s accusations are true, it means that black people are under a state of siege- from police, from the courts, from structural poverty, and so on. But not only are many (if not all) of these phenomena denied by a majority of Americans, little, in fact, has been done to address some of these issues. I’ll take structural poverty as an example. If it is true, in fact, that blacks where ghettoized and stripped of their wealth from the 1920s-1960s, both by racist politicians as well as some otherwise well-meaning programs, it ALSO means that changing this is tough without resorting to rightfully unpopular strong-arm tactics, such as forcefully re-districting neighborhoods by race and such. I, myself, have very few solutions to any of this, except very slow ones. So, I am merely pointing out the problems. “BLM” is a way of saying- thanks, I guess, for your concern, but do you truly believe what you say, and are you willing to accept the fact that you and I live very different realities? Yet if 50% of America is Republican-esque in its politics, that’s already half of America answering ‘no’ to that question. Thus, BLM is justified both in its name as well as its core message.

      Also- let us assume, for a second, that the ‘real problem’ in the black community is being born out of wedlock to a single-parent home. Let’s not dispute Shapiro’s stats, but embrace them. Ok, what now? Well, Shapiro’s solution is mind-numbingly stupid. He says- ‘that’s ok, just don’t have kids out of wedlock, graduate high school, find good work.’ But do you see the issue with this? As much as conservatives wish to deny it (or liberals exaggerate it, for that matter), human behavior is a mere probability space. This means that if you throw in parameters X, Y, and Z into a pot, it will get you a rather predictable set of results. Yes, one can, technically, transcend almost any behavior, but transcendence is simply not a group reality. It is an INDIVIDUAL one. Again, Shapiro might deny it, but how can anyone with even a basic understanding of history suggest otherwise? 10,000 years ago, the murder rate in most societies was anywhere between 100 to 1000X higher than ours. What caused this change? A few sermons and moralizing? A spontaneous decision to ‘be better’? Or the substitution of Parameter X for Parameter Y?

      Nor is it that a majority of blacks refuse to work or graduate high school. This is clearly untrue. It is that, on average, they are less likely to tap one portion of the probability space over another- and, if you look at this as a few thousand meaningful decisions over a lifetime, such things really do add up. It doesn’t take ‘many’ criminals, etc., in a given neighborhood to turn it to shit. A white neighborhood might have 1% of its inhabitants being out-and-out criminals. A housing project might bump that number up to 2-3%. Yet the difference between 1 and 2%, as a sociological reality, is much greater than the numbers imply, and completely changes the entire nature of the probability space. Crime does not go up by a factor of 2, but a factor of 5-10 in this scenario. To say that this won’t have an appreciable effect on whatever aggregate lives, within, is just absurd, as the deck is already stacked against even an unborn child who had (to use conservative parlance) a crack-whore of a mother whose decisions are thus inherited by the child. What do you do in that case? Do you tell the child: don’t repeat your mother’s poor choices, and here’s some help and a strategy to keep you on the right path? Or do you go against the grain of history, and deny the nature of inheritance as a whole?

      In sum, we ought to ALWAYS hold individuals accountable for their actions. There is no way around that. At the same time, we ought not to be surprised at the predictability of groups. This is a subtle difference for which the human brain — used to the blame-game as an adaptation for small-group tribal identity — is ill-equipped to handle, much less with sub-mediocre thinkers like Ben. Perhaps this is why political thinking is such shit to begin with. You give a bunch of apes with congenital biases a room to just go wild and come up with a theory of justice, and what do you get? Self-absorption, myopia, and just all-around stupidity.

  19. Shaun

    Wow, this was brilliant. This is more than just a specific response to Shapiro; this is a deconstruction of essentially the most common “intelligent” conservative talking points. One of the best articles I’ve read.

    Please keep posting more well-sourced things like this where you deconstruct popular political stances or “myths”.

    Reply
  20. Shaun

    Yeah, I’ll definitely be showing this to some of my more conservative friends. I also frequently debate politics on reddit (actually asked Shapiro a question during the AMA on r/politics – he didn’t answer haha) so I’ll likely keep this article in store and cite it when people try to use same kinds of arguments that Shapiro uses.

    Personally I’ve always found them pretty hard to address, so it’s nice to see them logically countered piece by piece. It seems that one of the hardest parts about arguing against Shapiro is fending off his disingenuous gish gallops; I’m genuinely glad that there is someone like you out there who is willing to take the time to deconstruct them, especially considering how popular he is amongst conservative college students.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Ben Shapiro ain’t bad with typical lawyers’ tricks, hammering folks with a barrage of facts (no matter how incomplete, as I’ve shown), etc., but is awful at writing and formal argumentation on paper. If you force him to sit down and engage in a textual debate with someone who can cross-check citations and the like, there’d just be nothing left.

  21. Nick Miller

    Can this piece be updated to include and address Shapiro’s recent statement that the original Ghostbusters is a bad movie?

    Reply
  22. Joey Cormier

    What do you think of the Ben Shapiro, Cenk Uygur debate? I bet you think Cenk beat Ben simply because Ben goes against your personal beliefs. Somehow, because I do not want to riot to get my point across, is white privilege.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Actually, I think Cenk did badly, as expected. I don’t consider The Young Turks to be a good show despite agreeing with most of their positions. Of course, Ben lied his way through the debate, as usual, but that’s a separate issue from winning/losing.

      The rest of your comment is just as idiotic.

      Thanks for reading.

  23. Alan Borda

    You made a great point in your conversation with Raihan and in your piece about the predictability of groups. Do you have any, or know of any solution that will help Black people to tap those parameters?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Tapping those outcomes means black wealth needs to be re-built, neighborhoods re-vitalized, and so on. I’d break up housing projects, as well, in favor of subsidized housing littered in bits and pieces across cities. If a true corporate tax of 50% is imposed (meaning, they actually PAY 50%, minimum), tax breaks can be used to encourage investment in a more balanced way.

  24. Alan Borda

    I also believe a lot of conservatives make the case that out of wedlock births have increased after the 1960s welfare programs, women started to marry the government. Which is why there are a lot of conservative propositions aiming to cut welfare.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      The effect of welfare benefits on out-of-wedlock births is roughly equal to the effect of male marital ineligibility. In other words, both liberals and conservatives are technically right on this point. Yet both of those are dwarfed by the effects of the decline of shotgun marriages from the 1960s onward, which is neither a liberal nor conservative position- merely an empirical one. And all 3 are dwarfed by the fact that married black women are having very few children, thus changing the proportions of black/white mothers across various subcategories. Of course, this is even less political, as it’s simple math. Yet conservatives only pretend to understand numbers, whereas liberals understand numbers only when it suits them.

  25. Trey Gowdy

    Great piece Alex. I was wondering what are your tips on being objective and processing arguments. I also think the internet is such a great tool. Anyone, with discipline of course, can be well versed in many things. What tip would you give an aspiring politician, or a tip to anyone in general on gathering information. I’ve kind of made a bunch of google docs about important issues of today. I’ve tried to have a least 5 reasons opposing and 5 reasons for let’s say an increase in minimum wage. Then I’d ask myself which 5 make more sense, or do the pros outweigh the cons. Idk if you find that efficient.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Thanks. Probably the best way to be objective is to develop as few emotional attachments to ideas as possible. More specifically, do not assume that some viewpoint is necessarily ‘you’ in a fundamental sense. The view isn’t, but the way one gets to that view is. Your strategy can be a useful one for controversial things that don’t have much consensus (the minimum wage, though, is not one of them). But what can be even more useful is to seek out those controversies, and try to get to the bottom of why they are discussed in the way they are- particularly if they are needlessly controversial, such as minimum wage in punditry.

  26. Barack Obama

    Great advice up there. I noticed you said you don’t believe in God because of lack of evidence. I’m on the fence too, and was wondering if you’re familiar with Dr.William Lane Craig

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I’m not really on the fence, though. I am saying that there is no logical reason to accept God’s existence. This is a technically weaker position than saying “God does not exist,” but it is not meaningfully weaker, since we can replace “God” with any other sort of fiction (Zeus, elves, unicorns, etc.) and have the same exact logical outcome.

      William Lane Craig is a great debater but terrible in his actual arguments. This is why he has won every debate, yet lost every argument. This is a subtle difference most people don’t really get. He’s typically up against folks who are not philosophically rigorous and therefore can’t deal with Craig’s style. However, there were at least 2 other instances whee he was up against true philosophers, and got his ass kicked left and right.

      Here is one, on the necessity of God for morality-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm2wShHJ2iA

      Here’s another, with a physicist on the evidence for God’s existence-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0qKZqPy9T8

  27. Barack Obama

    I, like Raihan, have also been trying to give conservatism a shot. I had the same exact problem. My brain wants to pick a side and stop researching data on and on. It got the point where I stopped calling bullshit when things were actually bullshit. I was overgenerous with their arguments. I haven’t really gone too deep into Healthcare, the literature seems complicated, but a lot of people have told me the simple solution for Universal Healthcare is more, or smarter, taxes for the wealthy to fund the poor, and that the wealthy don’t want to pay them. Is that a fair assessment? Also how do you not get to a point to overgenerosity and start calling out bs when you’re pretty sure it’s bs? And I think conservative economics have gained some popularity because all the major leaders on the right like to oversimplify economics and give everyone an economics 101 lesson. “Taxes are bad, they hurt growth. Minimum wage increase will logically increase unemployment.” They make intuitive sense, especially to those college students outside of school. But when it comes to reality and concrete evidence it just doesn’t match. Would you agree?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      As you can see, the human mind is ill-adapted for political thought. People might wish to see the truth in this or that little arena, or their day-to-day experiences, but once you introduce 1) a tribe (Dem/Repub), 2) personal identities fixed to viewpoints (abortion), you will not only tire yourself out, but box yourself into thoughts you might otherwise know better than to entertain. This is why, in fact, I spend very little time on politics, choosing instead to focus on things like art and other, deeper concerns. I’d recommend everyone reading this (even the political junkies) look for something in their lives outside of political debate.

      Re: your specifics, yes, I’d say that’s a fair assessment of healthcare. If you saw Ben’s recent debate with Cenk, Ben disingenuously ‘wondered’ why a 100% tax wouldn’t work if a 91% progressive tax rate did. Well, no one actually paid 91% on their final millions; the true rate was somewhere around 50%, which is, incidentally, what we see as perfectly workable both in empirical evidence as well as more theoretical studies. Around 50% of ‘true’ taxation does not appear to hinder economic growth, and it’s possible the rate is even higher. To say otherwise is to simply lie about the literature on this topic.

      Conservative economics is popular in some circles, but even that phrase is misunderstood. There is both legitimate and illegitimate ‘conservative economics’. One pillar that is not legitimate is supply-side econ, which is NOT subscribed to by any economic mainstream. There’s simply a lot less wiggle room for mutual difference in the field than is thought, because the bulk of these differences tend to crop up in more scholarly arguments- for example, from the 1990s: should the Fed adjust its policies when unemployment hits below 6%, in order to bring unemployment past the 6% threshold again? Alan Greenspan said no, and was ultimately proven correct, indicating that at least one economic model (NAIRU) does not necessarily play out in reality. Notice how the argument is not “people should get a job” or “people should get skills” or some other silly value judgments- that’s something for the pundits to yell about, and is not an area of scholarly debate.

      So, yes, there’s obviously a disconnect between economic models and the reality. The whole REASON why we conduct these studies to begin with is because our intuitive sense of reality is NOT the same as reality. You would expect that ANY rise in min wage will lead to economic problems, but it doesn’t. You would expect that ANY person winning millions of dollars on a lottery ticket will be rich for life, but are often bankrupt after just a few short years. And so on.

      If you think something is bullshit, just say it’s bullshit.

    2. John

      “There is both legitimate and illegitimate ‘conservative economics.”

      Can I question by what standards you consider them legitimate and illegitimate?

      “One pillar that is not legitimate is supply-side econ, which is NOT subscribed to by any economic mainstream.”

      Backed upon which standards you judge the legitimacy of a heavily subcribed field in economics, I would like to request some citations on this.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi John,

      Can I question by what standards you consider them legitimate and illegitimate?

      That which has clear empirical basis is legitimate, and that which hasn’t, isn’t. Genuine debate is within those parameters only. Let’s leave the theoretical discussions to Marxists and theologians- and I don’t necessarily mean this as an insult, either. It has its place, but not in serious policy discussions.

      Backed upon which standards you judge the legitimacy of a heavily subcribed field in economics, I would like to request some citations on this.

      Did you read the essay though? There is little empirical basis for this “heavily subscribed field in economics” (and ‘heavily’, in this case, means a minority of economists). The VAST majority of economic papers deal with stuff like the nuances of regulation, Keynesian arcana, the speed at which the minimum wage can be increased, federal vs. local interplay, rather than theoretical discussions of tax policy. Yeah, I get it, Cato and the Von Mises Institute disagree, but the literature is way more boring than pundits want you to believe. I don’t know of any definitive surveys of economists themselves; I’m simply looking at the abstracts and popular literature.

      As an example, Joseph Stiglitz is a centrist economist (Euroskeptic, anti-laissez faire, Georgist, min wage gradualist) whereas Paul Krugman is more conservative by the standards of published literature. Yet both are considered very left-wing by TV and Internet pundits simply because they insist on empiricism.

    4. John

      Hi Alex,

      Are you implying that supply side economics does not have an empirical basis? That appears to be contrary to the evidence when you look at the success of some of the most economically free countries as listed by The Index of Economic Freedom, such as Hong Kong and Singapore and plenty more.
      https://econlife.com/2014/05/laissez-faire-countries/

      Not to mention that the relatively free markets of classical times is what drove the industrial revolution and essentially what made the west so wealthy. I do not see what the theologians have to do with the discussion.

      Compared to that: where exactly has Keynsian economics and the policies derived from it ever worked to grow and sustain an economy for the long term, with so much evidence that proves exactly the opposite? After observing the economic failures occurring in Spain, Ireland, England, Italy, Greece, and even here in the U.S. with the failure to increase growth, despite an extra $800B being pumped into the economy. It’s empirically verifiable how the Keynesian philosophy of spending your way out of debt gets you. Retrospectively, the examples that Keynesian economists have cited as the success of government intervention is being challenged in recent years. It is in fact laissez faire policies that got it out of the 1990’s economic crisis.

      https://mises.org/library/stagnating-socialist-sweden

    5. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hello John,

      Are you implying that supply side economics does not have an empirical basis? That appears to be contrary to the evidence when you look at the success of some of the most economically free countries as listed by The Index of Economic Freedom, such as Hong Kong and Singapore and plenty more.

      As I’ve pointed out in the article as well as in the comments, we have plenty of evidence for both great and terrible economic growth under a variety of tax and economic climates. One reason why laissez faire policies are so controversial is because they make a lot of sense on purely theoretical grounds but still do not have good empirical backing. Nor can you simply point to a state or a country that adopts (or does not adopt) these policies as proof of concept, since there are usually a thousand other variables at play which cannot easily be controlled for. And I am not denying a relationship between tax policy and growth. I am denying that it is well-understood, and suggesting that the room for error (taxes too high/too low) is much larger than BOTH the Left and the Right typically believe- with 71% (rather than our former 91%) recently being called an ‘ideal’ progressive rate. I am also suggesting that unless we have strong evidence to the contrary, tax policy logically defaults to being an issue of fairness/soft redistribution rather than anything else.

      Yeah, lots of free market states have done well for themselves. But do you know who else has done well under the rather narrow terms we are discussing? China and the USSR. These 2 are the most impressive examples of social engineering and command-growth, ever, as well as good examples of a common misperception- that it’s individual economic choices (capitalist, socialist, etc.) which are primarily responsible for a nation’s most dramatic growth as opposed to the simple shift from feudalism to industrialism. Russia literally went from a potential vassal state with a near-feudal economy in 1900 to a superpower in 1945, to a somewhat cosmopolitan, decaying welfare state by the 1970s/80s. China was almost prehistoric in 1949. Today it is the world’s largest economy and has managed double-digit growth for years. Much of this is obviously the result of ‘opening up.’ Yet it is not an ‘opening up’ done in a way that Mises would approve of.

      The deeper point, of course, is “so what?” There are obvious flaws in the USSR that should never be replicated. I mean, the USSR is dead. But we’re not talking about how to build the best and happiest and most productive society here- we’re simply doing the supply-side tactic of discussing growth at the exclusion of all else. Were I to even concede that cutting taxes down to 5% would double our GDP, it does not logically follow that this is AT ALL desirable, nor that anyone except the very rich would see a benefit from this. Growth is not some magical good in and of itself. If you contextualize growth against human suffering, a loss of freedom, rampant inequality, etc., you are now pursuing a purely abstract good by way of tangible costs. And, yes, a ‘good’ that almost exclusively benefits a tiny portion of society is in fact an abstraction- i.e., it is simply not real for anyone else.

      To turn to one of your own specifics- let us take Hong Kong. Does it have low taxes? Yep- but it *also* has significant govn’t intervention in virtually every part of society, especially in public works and the economy. It has a sophisticated welfare system paid not by corporate nor income taxes, but by huge land taxes. There is no such thing as ‘private’ land. It is ALL govn’t owned and leased. It is an open question, then, what would happen if they were to go full lib, shutter their massive and unconventional forms of interventionism, and see how the economy would react. So, are they a success story due to supply-side practices, a success story *despite* supply-side practices, a mix of both, or neither? John- I do not mean to be condescending, but you MUST do better than link to Cato or von Mises or use typical libertarian talking-point examples without looking at all the other information they willfully ignore. They are ideologues, not empiricists. If you are not aware of this, you will be hoodwinked by every fast-talking charlatan you ever come across.

      Same with Singapore. Yes, it has one of the freest markets in the world, but what else is Singapore? Oh, that’s right- a weird hybrid authoritarian state that raises revenues with a huge govn’t stake in the corporate world, most of whose citizens live in heavily subsidized housing, and are required by law to invest into their own retirement accounts, enjoy a quasi-socialist healthcare system, enjoy MASSIVE govn’t interventions by way of job training, and many more things von Mises would indubitably frown at. Let’s not get into the educational model, the fact that some of the most expensive goods are cheaper for Singaporeans due to de facto govn’t monopolies, and an almost eugenicized social demographic where things like crime, travel (due to govn’t laws intentionally making car use prohibitively expensive), health care, etc., are more or less non-issues that have been engineered out of consciousness decades ago. Moreover, Singapore- a rather small state- is able to lopside its own labor pool by synthetically attracting very rich, highly educated people for work visas, where even just a handful of such folks can carve out a niche and reverberate through all of Asia in ways that are practically impossible elsewhere. There is a cliched admonition that economists like to use with new students- “do not invoke Singapore as an example of any economic principle.” Why? Because there is literally no place like it in the world, and by the time you sort through a hundred salient variables, you now have to control for another hundred.

      More recently, Kansas tried supply-side for a few years without adopting Hong Kong’s and Singapore’s compensatory tactics. What happened? And I know that Cato, et alii always have an answer as to why so many clear supply-side examples (like Kansas) burn and fail. Yet the Marxists always have an answer as to why the USSR failed. I find neither discussion very interesting- just a No True Scotsman fallacy writ large for the sake of some emotional self-satisfaction from two groups of theologians arguing about the merits of their Holy Book and the demerits of another.

      Not to mention that the relatively free markets of classical times is what drove the industrial revolution and essentially what made the west so wealthy. I do not see what the theologians have to do with the discussion.

      Yet this is true only by accident. Relatively free markets did not drive the USSR. Relatively free markets did drive America. Capitalism has helped Africa tremendously. Yet if Africa had been consolidated in 1945 by some Stalin-like figure into a weird command economy, it would have developed, too- dare I say it, even better than it has in the past 7 decades. The point is that when we really want to go from an agrarian state to modernity, almost anything (including gulags, genocide, and starvation) can get us there. Again- we’re not talking about building the good life. I am arguing specifically from your turf- the fetish of ‘growth’. These questions are only tangentially related.

      Compared to that: where exactly has Keynesian economics and the policies derived from it ever worked to grow and sustain an economy for the long term, with so much evidence that proves exactly the opposite?

      Virtually every modern, mature economy in the world is a modified Keynesian economy. Has the past century not ‘worked’ spectacularly for the vast majority of people? Has not the decline of real wages, etc. etc. etc. correlated with the introduction of supply-side myths? Both are true. You write ‘compared to that’, but the two examples you explicitly name- Hong Kong- is not even laissez faire in the traditional sense.

      There’s a quip among economists- ‘We are all Keynesians in the foxhole.’ What do you think it means, and why do you think they say it?

      After observing the economic failures occurring in Spain, Ireland, England, Italy, Greece, and even here in the U.S. with the failure to increase growth, despite an extra $800B being pumped into the economy.

      More talking points. If you wish to discuss these states, specifically, this is what I need from you:

      1) Choose a country

      2) Describe, in your own narrative, why they entered into stagnation

      3) Present and respond to at least one objection from a known economist to that narrative so that we can at least be on the same page

      I think I’ve been very fair in the article and in the comments section, in responding to specific arguments and numbers from ‘the other side’. I *understand* that other side and know how it is typically presented. This is not meant as an insult, but I do not think that you, yourself, understand the other side at all, nor the objections they typically present to your own side’s objections. Do you know what centrist and left-wing economists say of Greece, Spain, etc.? Do you know how they interpret the Euro? Do you know why economists like Piketty and Sitglitz might appear to be on the same side, yet use very different tactics to reach similar conclusions? My point is, this is almost like discussing abortion with an anti-abortionist who is still at the slippery-slope argument, when the conversation has long shifted to more nuanced rejoinders from BOTH sides.

      It’s empirically verifiable how the Keynesian philosophy of spending your way out of debt gets you.

      Where? Because we’ve done it, too, and came out as the world’s only credible superpower even after squandering our original gains. Look at our debt to GDP ratio (the true relevant number, in fact, rather than *just* debt itself) in the 1940s vs. today. Then look at the tax rates then vs. today. Then consider that virtually all of our debt, today, is due to a change in tax policy. Now consider that Trump’s proposed tax cuts would absolutely send us over the edge of a healthy debt/GDP ratio- and then, of course, Cato can just blame it all on welfare, and propose even more spending cuts that will make even more people miserable. Then, when taxes must inevitably rise (and they will) while we’re in a decades-long slump their own ideological framework has single-handedly created, Cato can blame the slump on the new tax policy, as they’ve always done. Then people will read it, nod, crown Reagan with a second godhead, and jerk off on the interwebs. It’s almost funny, really.

      Retrospectively, the examples that Keynesian economists have cited as the success of government intervention is being challenged in recent years. It is in fact laissez faire policies that got it out of the 1990’s economic crisis.

      It’s being challenged, but not successfully. There’s too much data that these ‘new’ arguments (really, same old stuff, but repackaged) are ignoring. Again, if you’d like to present specific arguments and examples, crafted in your own words, I’m game.

    6. John

      Hi Alex,

      I’ll be honest that I really have not attempted to understand what the demand side economists had to say about some of these talking points, so I cannot deny your critique of my lack of knowledge on them. I speak from the layman’s perspective of economics who finds reason in what those on the supply side, free market side, non-government interventionists have to say. It’s not just the pundits either. Almost everyone I see on the internet like on forums and other sites seem less fond of Keynesians and the idea of government intervention in general, and so I just irrationally assumed some of these positions were right by default. It’s also the reason I find it difficult to accept your claim that this is only popular within certain circles. But I will rest this conversation for now because I lack the knowledge to make it worthwhile for you. Would you recommend any books, blogs, or writers that I could read from and familiarize myself with the other side?

    7. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi John,

      I agree there’s a lot of theoretical basis for supply-side econ, but my point is that’s not enough. The entire reason why we have studies and point/counterpoint is because reality can be counter-intuitive.

      I’m not ‘telling’ you to abandon supply-side, or anything else for that matter. However, if you return to these forums or wherever else, it might be useful to evaluate the claims you read with the following thoughts in mind:

      1. If we see strong examples of positive supply-side economies (Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.), are they strong economies because of or in spite of these policies? Are there any other variables we can point to that could have led to similar outcomes even if many of the policies were changed? How can we control for these other variables, and disentangle them from tax policy? If we can’t disentangle these variables, can we even definitively ascribe growth to supply-side and not to something else?

      2. Even if we were to concede that tax policy has a highly specific and predictable effect on growth, is economic debate merely about growth, or should it involve other questions, as well?

      As for recommendations, I’d always recommend Joseph Stiglitz. He has pioneered lots of work on information asymmetry, rational actors, and lots of other libertarian myths. Here is a piece that he did which puts it all into context, and likely introduces some new terms you might not have heard before:

      http://evonomics.com/joseph-stiglitz-inequality-unearned-income/

      Dean Baker is good on specific policy issues (Social Security, etc.). Krugman has good, accessible material, and Thomas Piketty is very in vogue right now.

      Also, this is a great takedown of other economic myths:

      http://www.cosmoetica.com/B650-DES554.htm

  28. Barack Obama

    Also, what is your counter to the Kalam Cosmological argument that there has to be a prime mover, and that prime mover must be something very powerful if it created this world? A lot of questions, just very interested in your opinions.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      The short answer is that there is no reason to assume that we need a First Cause for universal origins. That is simply a human bias due to the fairly rote logic of living our day to day existences where things have clear antecedents, which is now (wrongly) applied to Day 0.

      Notice, too, that the Prime Mover argument invokes a PRIME mover- meaning, it is a way to get out of the counter-intuitive notion that the universe does not have a conventional ‘start’, yet it gets there by positing a being who, by definition, does not need to himself have a cause. Yet the only reason why this definition is used is to be able to get out of the logical follow-up: well, what caused the prime mover? The theological answer could be: nothing! My definition does not require a cause!

      That’s just a semantic game, obviously.

  29. Raihan Alam

    Hi Alex, I was wondering what question you’d ask Ben if you were at one of his Q&A’s? Or a topic you think someone could easily hammer him on.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I wouldn’t ask a thing. Shapiro is dishonest, yet knows he is a good bullshitter and that his audience is dumb enough to lap up what he’s saying. This is not someone I’d engage. It’s like going to Hannity for genuine dialectic. I see no good faith here, merely oneupmanship, from a guy who spends most of his time on TV and Internet dummies, but would never engage in a debate circuit with genuine experts because he knows he’d get slaughtered. Yet experts win and lose debates all the time, and it’s rarely a big deal. It’s a huge deal for Shapiro, however, because his entire reputation is skin-deep and utterly dependent on image. In other words, I wrote what I wrote, and am no longer interested. I literally have no idea what the guy is up to and do not care to find out.

      I’m glad you guys are getting some utility from this essay, but my point in writing it was to rile up the more intelligent types, then get them to move on. I understand why someone might ask me how I’d ‘catch’ Shapiro on this point or another, but what I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter. Look at some of the names I’ve mentioned in the article. Folks like John Rawls and Robert Nozick (as different as they are) will still be read decades from now, while the Shapiros of the world have an expiration date no matter their current celebrity. You will ultimately get a lot more out of genuine ideas and philosophical inquiry than you ever can watching TV-level hacks dish it out to other hacks, while the monkeys jeer in the background and organize themselves into sides.

  30. Brad

    Well, I wanted to respond to a number of things as I was reading, but then I realized the article just… keeps going and going… and then I realized that it’s basically an essay. I’ll need more time to read, when I’m not at work looking at this in passing. I may not come back, but if you’re serious about this stuff, here is my quick feedback:

    I enjoy reading alternative view points, and you get some credit for at least taking a somewhat in-depth approach to addressing the topics, citing studies etc.. However, each time you “debunk” Shapiro, I could think of numerous rebuttals, criticisms, logical fallacies in your approach etc. just off the top of my head. This makes your article seem either lazy or biased, and neither is good. For me, then it becomes, “okay, do I really want to spend time writing a counter-article to something this long…” Probably not. It would devolve into some back and forth with two people who disagree..

    I’d just encourage you to do the opposite of what you’re doing. You’ve already written an article “debunking” Shapiro (in your mind). I think if you were intellectually honest, you would now write an article debunking your own debunking of Shapiro, if you will. Trust me, it’s very easy.

    Turns out, there are two sides to these things for a reason.. You can’t boil an entire topic down to 5, or so, paragraphs when a book would be necessary to truly describe the entirety of the issue – opposing viewpoints, exceptions, studies, points, counter-points etc. etc.

    Also, never present your own point of view without simultaneously presenting the opposing point of view just as aggressively as your own. It leaves room for people to think you’re purposefully being biased.. Unless your goal is simply to pander to people who already want to agree with you. I did not get that vibe; it seems like you’re genuinely interested in being logical, but maybe let your bias get the best of you here. I see in the comments you have an affinity for Rawls and Nozick… I could have guessed this off the bat… Try to debunk yourself, not others… It makes for a more logical world.. my 2 cents..

    Reply
    1. Czach

      Brad

      It is not a particularly good technique to place yourself on a ‘higher position’ and look down condescendingly on an article – giving ‘tips’ while refusing to engage with the material & creating an aura that you are more knowledgeable than you really are.

      Even if you do have the necessary information required to go against Alex, as you claim, and even if you do plan on dealing with the points later – using this tactic makes it seem like you are not only too lazy to even deal with a few points currently, but that you also have some kind of egoistic stake in the conversation by claiming a ‘victory’ early on, before even engaging in the conversation. For all your talk regarding intellectual honesty, you have the trappings of a sophist yourself.

      If you look at some of Alex’s comments, though, his point is indeed that “you can’t boil an entire topic down etc…” – at least regarding Shapiro. If you claim that Alex is not a part of this ‘conversation’ – then Shapiro himself is, much like many Lowest Common Denominator pundits – eons away from the conversation. This piece succinctly attacks the over-simplicity of Shapiro’s arguments, characterizes & summarizes much of the positions of the conservative punditry, and even goes into the psychological reasons for why humans might fall into such dualistic positions in the first place. It has served the purpose that it outlined. Your comment, on the other hand, is neither convincing (to Alex or any other reader) nor does it seem to have any purpose other than to stroke your own ego.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Brad,

      Well, I wanted to respond to a number of things as I was reading, but then I realized the article just… keeps going and going… and then I realized that it’s basically an essay.

      It’s not basically an essay; it is an essay, being 15,000 words with a clear beginning, middle, and end, with dozens of citations in between. I get not everyone wishes to engage with such, but then again, this is why I’m writing these sorts of long-form pieces while others talk fast on TV.

      I enjoy reading alternative view points, and you get some credit for at least taking a somewhat in-depth approach to addressing the topics, citing studies etc.. However, each time you “debunk” Shapiro, I could think of numerous rebuttals, criticisms, logical fallacies in your approach etc. just off the top of my head. This makes your article seem either lazy or biased, and neither is good. For me, then it becomes, “okay, do I really want to spend time writing a counter-article to something this long…” Probably not. It would devolve into some back and forth with two people who disagree..

      Of course, this may be 100% true, but you give exactly zero specific objections, and offer no actual “rebuttals, criticisms, logical fallacies in (my) approach etc.”. Look at the comments above yours. Only one person seriously tried to address these ‘fallacies’, and failed. The rest did what you are doing- namely, broad-brush generalizations, as if they are a reasonable substitute for argument. Interestingly, you yourself admit this. Yet if you feel that I am not worth countering, why are you even writing to me? Do you know how many idiotic articles I come across each day? I don’t reach out. I simply forget them, and move on.

      I’d just encourage you to do the opposite of what you’re doing. You’ve already written an article “debunking” Shapiro (in your mind). I think if you were intellectually honest, you would now write an article debunking your own debunking of Shapiro, if you will. Trust me, it’s very easy.

      If it’s so easy, why don’t you just do it yourself?

      Turns out, there are two sides to these things for a reason.. You can’t boil an entire topic down to 5, or so, paragraphs when a book would be necessary to truly describe the entirety of the issue – opposing viewpoints, exceptions, studies, points, counter-points etc. etc.

      By your logic, you can’t dismiss healing crystals, flat-earth theories, and various other forms of myopia in 5 paragraphs either, but need a book in order to be taken seriously for such counter-views. I answered Shapiro’s 4-5 key ideological claims easily, fairly, and comprehensively. Hell, I even anticipated various objections, and answered those, as well, while trying to find as much middle ground between us as I could. Nor do I even make too many black and white claims- my take on minimum wage, racial privilege, abortion, taxation, etc., are ALL outside of the liberal mainstream when you get down to details, whereas Shapiro is a mere stereotype of conservative thinking from rhetoric, to misuse of sources (which I’ve carefully documented, of course), to argumentation.

      Also, never present your own point of view without simultaneously presenting the opposing point of view just as aggressively as your own. It leaves room for people to think you’re purposefully being biased.. Unless your goal is simply to pander to people who already want to agree with you. I did not get that vibe; it seems like you’re genuinely interested in being logical, but maybe let your bias get the best of you here. I see in the comments you have an affinity for Rawls and Nozick… I could have guessed this off the bat… Try to debunk yourself, not others… It makes for a more logical world.. my 2 cents..

      I’d love to hear these biases picked apart in a way that is specific, detailed, and in keeping with the points I’ve made. Until that happens, what more can I really say?

  31. John B

    I think your title implying Ben Shapiro is a fraud is incorrect. A Fraud is defined as “a person or thing intended to deceive others” Like a TV minister who preaches the gospel, while privately breaking most of the commandments would be a good example. He cannot be a fraud if he believes in what he is saying and acts accordingly. I would argue Shapiro seems committed to being a conservative, and lives by the principles he preaches.

    I also would also disagree with you about some of your references to people you see as intellectuals/experts while claiming Shapiro little more than a pundit. He has openly written or debunked many of your circuit guys positions and I would suggest will do fine debating any of them. I have never seen him shy away from an open forum argument either. In fact, I cannot find anything out there to prove he is anything but genuine and seems rarely stumped on subjects he is knowledgeable in. You may not like him for his ideology, but that does not make him a fraud. Thanks again for the article

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi John,

      I get what you’re saying, but did you read the whole essay? No doubt Shapiro believes much (if not all) of what he argues. The real issue is how he gets there. Just look at how I dissect his position on racial privilege. There is no way that Shapiro could have researched, say, bank lending discrimination, and reached the conclusions that he did. Why? Because if you Google those keywords, you get, literally, dozens of studies proving my claim and disproving his, plenty of federal investigations into such, and over a $100 million paid out in settlements from the last decade by financial institutions who practice the very thing Shapiro denies. And Shapiro denies it because he coughs up a single study that, by ignoring all of this other data on the subject, he can safely pretend is mainstream when it is in fact an outlier. Thus, you HAVE TO shut down your brain in the course of such research in order to reach these conclusions, which is not at all the behavior of an honest person. Hell, I believe in increasing the minimum wage, but look at how carefully I qualify those statements, since I know the data cannot support liberal daydreams on this front, even though it contradicts typical conservative exaggerations, too.

      And that’s just one example. In a more general sense, however, it would be one thing if Shapiro merely presented himself as a Sean Hannity type. Instead, he basks in being some intellectual icon of the Right, yet refuses to do the hard work such a thing entails. Just look at his take on abortion. Sure, there are a good number of anti-abortion philosophers out there, but they would never, ever make the sort of arguments Shapiro is making- and even fewer would dare call abortion murder in all (non-fatal) cases since Judith Thomson’s thought experiment from the 1970s. Put another way, Shapiro is to the abortion debate what Sam Harris is to the free will debate- and even that is being really charitable to Shapiro.

      As for Shapiro not shying away from debate- you are wrong. Yeah, he’ll debate the Cenks of the world, but he (along with Dave Rubin) refuses to debate Michael Brooks from Sam Seder’s show. He went on David Pakman, once, but that wasn’t really a debate to begin with, and David Pakman is the ‘nice but firm liberal’ to the Michael Brooks’s left-wing savage. I disagree a lot with Brooks on stuff like sexism and the regressive left, but he’s a guy who has lots of experience with policy on the ground (Middle East and elsewhere), is funny as hell, and sharp-witted enough to slaughter Shapiro in a debate even if Brooks had zero knowledge of the topics he in fact knows quite a bit about. Ben realizes this. Now that Brooks has his own show, I expect him to call Shapiro out more explicitly until we get a similar meltdown like we had with Sargon of Akkad.

  32. Kevin

    An excellent summary of who Shapiro is, with sources to boot. A great read.

    I’ve spent a lot of time listening to this guy speak to understand the mindset of the modern day conservative. It seems to me that the conservative position is talk backed by selective facts. Shapiro is a perfect spokesperson for this position because he is an admittedly good debater (at least in the modern sense of what a debate is), knows his talking points, and a selection of facts that support them. If you make a passing glance at Shapiro, he actually seems like he knows what he’s talking about to the lay-person, with his fast talk, occasional source of information, delivered with some wit. I can see why he’s popular.

    If you spend some time looking into what he does not say, however, you’ll learn quickly he is a fraud. His sources lacks context or ignore the bigger picture.

    I wanted to know your opinion on the seeming rise of the right in America since the beginning of Obama’s term. Republicans have won 1,000 legislative seats in the last eight years, won the presidency and the majority of state governorships. I don’t consider myself a Democrat, but an independent, aligning with Bernie Sanders’ 2016 platform.

    I feel that the left’s (or at least, the Democrat’s) insistence on identity politics and political correctness are the primary reason for their losses. I’ve spent some time watching some of the increasingly popular internet political commentators (Shapiro, Crowder, Carl Benjamin, Milo, Dave Rubin) and they are all vehemently against identity politics and political correctness, however their opinions on other subjects range from left (Benjamin, Rubin) to center (Milo) to right (Crowder, Shapiro, Milo). The most outspoken of those batch on their political stances are from the right, while Rubin and Benjamin only occasionally talk about public policy.

    Based on comments I’ve read from their supporters and the selection of videos they seem to raid on liberal commentators (mostly SJW topics) like TYT, Pakman, Kulinsky, it seems to be the same for them – a divide on political opinion while agreeing on the central tenet that political correctness and identity politics are wrong. It seems to me that these two topics are the main driving force for politics in general right now – even if they are not necessarily political topics, more cultural ones. I tend to agree with them on that single issue alone.

    Would you say that’s accurate and do you feel the left needs to let go of identity politics, political correctness and the SJW mantra if they are to be successful?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Kevin,

      Yes, Shapiro would NEVER agree to a textual debate with a persistent opponent for that very reason- he knows he will be cross-checked, and quickly done for. It’s hard to believe how people live their entire lives as self-conscious frauds, yet are OK with it.

      Some of the Right’s rise is due to an intensification of gerrymandering since Obama, meaning, Democrats have to win perhaps 60% of the vote for 50% of the seats. Take that away, however, and you’d still have the Right in ascent, which I’d split into a few parts: 1) the Dems/Repubs refusing to address some key economic issues; 2) the Dems’ inability to beat back the Republican economic narrative, as championed by folks like Ben Shapiro; 3) racism; 4) general liberal stupidity and political correctness.

      Of course, as I’ve pointed out in the essay, you can’t picnic on lies forever. Bit by bit, the Keynesian argument is winning out economically and the Rawlsian ethic is beating back the Nozick ethic. This hasn’t penetrated policy, however, because libs in America have given up the argument. This is untenable, though, because economics will follow ethics, and certain things, like healthcare, social security, etc., are now so far to the Left that they are logically inconsistent with any other economic model. Nor can you sustain it merely on GDP growth (as we have done) forever. You WILL eventually need to raise taxes, a political no-no but much less of a no-no than cutting social security or keeping healthcare under any model but the universal one. Look back, historically, on the sorts of political debates of the 1800s (monetary standards, abolition), 1500-1700s (the function of the state), or Seneca (not abolition, but the treatment of slaves). Those ideas, as passionate as they once were, are too quaint to ever truly be revisited any longer. Keep in mind that in a century or two, people will be saying the same thing about us.

      As for racism, it is obvious that the election of someone like Obama will galvanize some of the worst parts of American society, as we saw. Repubs hated Bill Clinton in the 1990s, but not as much as they hated Obama, and the media showed it. I’ve been critical of how the media has been handling Trump, but overall they are way fairer to Trump than they were to either of those two. Same with Hillary Clinton, as much as I dislike her. Yet racism, too, is clearly on the outs. I mean- Obama was president by a comfortable margin, twice, and enjoyed good favorability as president and is thought even more fondly of today. I consider much of the nationalistic shit you’re seeing now to be a dying gasp, at most, or a high point before the inevitable tapering. People forget how cyclical the world is, because as bad as the culture wars are, today, there is NO comparison to the culture wars of the 1950s-70s…nor THE culture war of the 1800s, which led to outright war. This is why I tire of the idiots who compare Trump’s rise to the rise of Hitler or Mussolini. There is a much larger chance of nuclear destruction than there is of a Weimar-like regime in America, so pick your practical and intellectual battles wisely.

      And liberal stupidity- of course, it’s a part of the Right’s rise. Lots of people hate political correctness, even if they have no real political thoughts to begin with. Lots of people hate what liberals do, even if they have no name for it. Third Wave feminists casually denounce men, activists insist on dumb arguments about whether or not homosexuality is genetic (thus giving up their own ethical high ground), liberals go out of their way to suppress free speech, there is a toxic and disgusting campus culture out there that leads to, for example, the kind of shit you saw at Evergreen College earlier this year. Then there is the Google memo, where a guy who basically writes a precis of fairly uncontroversial academic findings in sexual dimorphism fired not merely for violating HR protocol (which might have been a justified firing), but lampooned, as well, by folks in tech who should know better for being “wrong” about his documentation. He wasn’t wrong, even if one might disagree with his policy suggestions, as I do. It’s just shocking, to me, as a fan of biology (both popular and technical), that liberals can ignore the sorts of things that Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, James Toobin, Leda Cosmides, Steven Pinker, Matt Ridley, and E.O Wilson have been writing for *decades* all the while denouncing conservatives (rightly, by the way!) for being anti-science. It’s like, pick a side, and stick to it.

      That said, if liberals wish to be assholes and idiots yet still managed to bring us mass unionization, tax hikes for the rich, universal healthcare, an end to poverty and homelessness, etc., they could be as identity-obsessed as they’d like, and would still win every single election. So, I don’t wish to understate the role of PC and identity politics in all this, but I don’t wish to overstate it either. A big reason why identity politics seems to be such a critical flaw is because if Dems have little else to offer, it becomes a liability. Again- the nation voted quite comfortably for Obama. People need to remember this.

      Thanks for reading.

  33. theforsook

    I have no idea how I landed here. I have been habitually listening to Shapiro as a means to get the other side but found his logic to be shaky but couldn’t quite put my mind in it.

    But I will say this and I don’t say this lightly. You sir are a hero. We need an outspoken liberal who can articulately defend the ideals of liberalism.

    Any thoughts on youtube channel or a podcast?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Thanks, glad you got something out of it.

      I am thinking of a YT channel or podcast down the line, but have little interest or time for such now. Also, it may not be obvious from this essay, but I only have a passing interest in politics at best. I am more interested in the arts, history, and philosophy, and the fact that a layperson such as myself can so easily deal with the Ben Shapiros of the world is a sign of how poor political thought has been the last few decades. At least when it comes to these lame-ass ‘pop’ figures, who are pretty much dead to the cosmos as soon as they are birthed.

  34. Adam Pimentel

    Hi Alex, I came across this essay while conducting a random Google search of Ben Shapiro. I admire and respect the manner in which it was written, even if I could only fully grasp parts of it, due to my own understanding.
    I primarily wanted to leave a comment just because I am a 20 year old who has never really excelled in school or took an interest in politics, but has always strived to be a generally good person. I find myself now desiring slightly more than that, and would like to really educate myself about different positions on specific topics, and simply finds what makes the most logical sense. I was wondering if you would have any suggestions on how to conduct this search for truth, As well as your personal opinion on what pursuits are truly worthwhile in life. Being a young man who admittedly has never had much friends, I am practically a blank slate opinion wise, without much bias in any direction.
    This entire comment is likely a jumbled mess of sorts, especially compared to your writing, but I would definitely appreciate a response. I think it’s great that you take time to answer your commenters.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Adam,

      Excelling in school is just a means to a practical end, and nothing more. I did badly in school for most of my life, and was even (initially) rejected from a really competitive program at my old university when I applied in high school. Yet I ultimately graduated Valedictorian from a program that didn’t even want me. Nothing of substance changed- only an exterior. The point is, don’t let ‘school’ ever be a part of your identity, especially if you are trying to read and to better yourself and to understand more.

      I can’t really answer how to conduct a search for truth. Who knows? But reading widely, fact-checking what you come across, learning how to both use your intuition as well as how to keep in check from overpowering things, can help. I was a Marxist when I was 16, but I only got that way by trying to read Lenin- and almost crying in public over “The State And Revolution” because it took me 45 minutes to get through a single paragraph. My response was to stay home from school and lock myself in my room for a few weeks, and read that and other books while summarizing each paragraph with my own paragraphs. It was much easier to follow arguments just after a month or two of that sort of thing, though, and my own writing got much better. If I didn’t know a reference or a name while reading, I would write it down and look it up later since I knew that if I wanted to compete on ‘that’ stage, I would have to know as much as I could. I also spent A LOT of time on Internet debate forums, mostly politics and philosophy. I did not engage in public point-counterpoint bullshit, like Shapiro, but tried my best to construct bulletproof arguments with references and allusions to others’ arguments. It was a matter of survival, really, since I was not very confident when young and became a lot more so only by working at it, and realizing that I had something to contribute.

      Also, do not say that you are desiring “slightly more than that”. Desire A LOT more, as much as you can, really, and even if you burn out and fail, at least you know where your limits are and what you can and cannot do in the future. As for friends, I have always been and still am a bit of a loner. But so what? Books can be your peer group, too, and eventually you do form friendships based on these deeper interests.

      Thanks for reading.

  35. SouthernBlue

    Thank you, sir, for this.

    Lately, I’ve been having Mr. Shapiro and other PragerU videos forwarded to me by my Father. His presentation style and body posture threw red flags from time spent long ago in high school debate.

    I’ve tried pointing out tactics such as the Gish Gallop in the past, but I’m too rusty to stay on point and stay articulate (especially when third or so bourbon really takes hold).

    My Father and I have an ongoing discussion as we try to hash out where we stand politically and ideologically. Coming from a small town Louisiana, staunch evangelical household, my marrying a first generation Asian American from Minnesota has provided a wealth of conversation and debate.

    Fortunately, our talks are coming from the position of finding common ground and digging deep into our family values, “how we were raised”, the shifting culture, and the opportunities (or lack there of) that are out there.

    I’ll be forwarding him this essay, and look forward to reading more of your work.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Glad to hear you can at least have some rational debate between family members.

      What do you mean by body posture? I haven’t watched too much of his stuff; just enough for this essay, in order to treat his work fairly.

    2. SouthernBlue

      He stands in a stiff, ‘presentation’ posture. Combine that with the way he tends to tilt his head and look through his brow, leans forward when speaking, and the machine gun like, flat intonation and he comes across as though he enters a response mode.
      Sometimes you’ll catch him shifting from a listening posture to a delivery posture, but they both feel robotic, and for me, disingenuous.
      When he’s listening, it comes across he’s waiting for keywords to which he can delivery one of his pat responses.
      They are all speech techniques I learned years ago, but they aren’t meant to be so easily read/discerned.

  36. Paul

    You’ve covered most of my objections to Shapiro’s stance on abortion=murder. including his unsubstantiated position that human life has any more intrinsic value than any other – after all, he argued that if we found a single-celled organism on Mars, we could identify it as life yet I am sure that he would take antibiotics to cure a bacterial infection.
    There is a glaring philosophical inconsistency in his position which you did not cover and I think should be highlighted over and over again to demonstrate his intellectual dishonesty.
    When asked about the situation where a woman is raped and he returns to his “it’s still a life” position, he then follows up with “kill the rapist”. This is almost within the same breath – Does he not listen to himself?
    He really cannot see just how toxic religion is to an otherwise functional intellect.
    Another thing which I think betrays his thinking is his statement, “I can understand the arguments for atheism”.
    No, Ben. YOU have the burden of proof. Let me fix that statement for you, “I can understand why we have failed to convince the atheists of our position.”

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Paul,

      When asked about the situation where a woman is raped and he returns to his “it’s still a life” position, he then follows up with “kill the rapist”. This is almost within the same breath – Does he not listen to himself?

      I can understand the objection, but I also don’t think it’s a very good objection. Shapiro (as well as anti-abortionists more generally) do not merely think “it’s still a life”, but that it is an *innocent* life with a viable claim to life that has nothing to do with prior actors. So, Shapiro’s “kill the rapist” shtick is still philosophically consistent with this position even if it brings up fresh problems. Yet it’s purely a shtick, regardless, since that is simply his way of appearing a bit less callous when he tells a raped woman that she MUST carry her rapist’s DNA to term and pay (whether capable or not) for any resultant medical treatment. He knows, of course, that this is both monstrous and idiotic, and needs to save some face. I wonder if his audience were any less stupid whether he’d still take such positions. As it stands, he knows he is a bit more intelligent than they are and simply condescends.

  37. Shaun

    Hey Alex,

    Just out of curiosity, who are some modern progressive/liberal thinkers that you think are beneficial to listen to? How about conservative thinkers?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      The only show I watch regularly is David Pakman. I think he’s the best of the pundit-type political commentators. He’s balanced, articulate, funny, and knows how to hammer his guests when they are being idiots. I still love this interview he was subjected to by one doofus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD-B44Uxjew

      I watch Michael Brooks (an offshoot of Sam Seder’s “Majority Report”) sometimes. Guy is funny and smart, although I disagree with a lot of what he says.

      As for conservative commentators, I listen to EconTalk with Russ Roberts. To be fair, however, I only listen with regularity because he doesn’t go out of his way to push a libertarian agenda with his guests, and tends to interview everyone across the spectrum. But, I guess, if there was an entertaining conservative out there that was both witty and fun, like Buckley, I might tune in. I see none of that, however, either on the Left or the Right.

  38. Max

    Hi Alex,

    It’s eerie to me, seeing a sort of cult of personality springing up around people like Ben Shapiro and Stefan Molyneux. When I’m on YouTube I constantly find videos titled “Ben Shapiro DESTROYS ” as if he were some kind of righteous conservative Incredible Hulk.

    They just repeat the same tired gimmick over and over again. Find some inexperienced hyperemotional student with liberal leanings and give a snappy witty retort. I can’t for the life of me recall an interview or debate where one of these conservative idols went up against a competent well-informed opponent.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Yeah, I know. Many of them are uploaded by Shapiro’s own channel. I recall one where Shapiro “destroys Don Lemon,” only to see a video where the two don’t even have a disagreement. Let’s see Shapiro go against Dean Baker on the economy, or a textual debate with a philosopher of abortion. Yet he won’t even go on Sam Seder/Michael Brooks, much less debate a true policy guy.

    2. A TRUMP VOTER

      Been there, Max.

      I think the proliferation of air horn-blaring “Ben the Jewmerican Hero/ Destroyer/ Truthsayer/ Thug” videos are all low-brow by design to appeal to the emotions over the intellect, and continue to get a lot of views despite ritually rehashing old content. I take it to be more of a meme/click-bait phenomenon, as opposed to an indictment of Youtube viewers. Shapiro tours the country, in his words “protecting” free speech by getting paid to court controversy wherever there are large assemblies of naive, impressionable young people.
      Plus, every engagement adds to the series of pro-Shapiro Youtube channels that get a lot of hits from those seeking the newest dose of, by Ben’s definition of teenage tantrums, ‘liberal outrage’. So glad teenagers are the genius Shapiro’s designated spokesmen for the Left. Stirring shit and selling the fumes through media id this trade, but obfuscating is Ben’s true talent, because he could not survive an intelligent debate.

  39. Shaun

    Wow, just watched that David Packman interview with Jesse Peterson. That had me almost crying from laughter.

    The ending quote of Peterson and his crew’s “post-game analysis” was pure gold too. This is their best attempt at insulting Packman:

    “He’s a facts kind of guy. He likes to gather…information.”

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Yeah, it’s pretty funny. A lot of his interviews are like that. Don’t know why Jesse even has a show.

  40. Dave

    Thank you for this article and everyone else’s comments. I don’t feel so alone.

    I’ve been saying for a year now that if Shapiro or Crowder had to debate (insert names previously mentioned) in an empty cabin with a moderator and access to the internet, they would both be destroyed. In theory, on the face of their arguments, they should be eviscerated during the Q&A segments of their speaking engagements because they are hypocrites who don’t even understand their own ideals.

    Shapiro (and Crowder and Coulter and Milo Ianapuloss (spelling incorrect) purposefully seek out audiences without fully formed frontal cortexes (no offense, mine took at least until age 27 to develop). My point being, you take away the audience and the applause breaks, and Shapiro will starve in the face of true debate.

    Reply
  41. Raihan Alam

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elqhp99Fz0I

    Hey Ben, I went to the Shapiro meet at UCB. I tried to bring up the points from your article about bank-loaning discrimination. I got pretty nervous. But thanks for this article again, it’s really helped with my political thinking. I’m at 1:44:30. I don’t think I did you justice but there it is.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Ah, so we go from “I have never found any evidence of bank lending discrimination whatsoever” to “oh look, an isolated incident”- despite the fact that it’s not isolated, at all, but part of a deep and broader problem that has affected multiple large institutions just within the last decade alone. And if you don’t want to look at the hundreds of millions paid out in lawsuits on this very thing, you can look at the smaller studies, too, which show a clear bias against blacks from a purely theoretical standpoint, as well. Yet this doesn’t fit Ben’s narrative, and so, it never happened. Poof!

      And redlining has not been debunked. It is, literally, the standard way economists (meaning, not Shapiro, but those studying the real world) tend to interpret the destruction of black wealth after Reconstruction. Everything else is just the cherry on top.

      Good of you to get out there and ask questions, Raihan, but here’s my point- Ben is not an honest person. He will have a nice, canned answer for you like the one he delivered, but this is exactly what the essay outlines and dissects.

  42. Joseph Stalin

    I’m really curious to how you’re so knowledgable and how you’re just oozing with information. After reading your comments, I can tell, you know your shit. I was also wondering, because I’m in high school, how do you really understand information. Not just memorize the facts, but really understand something, like when I’m reading my APUSH textbook. That last one’s a bit technical but I feel like you have an answer.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I think understanding information usually takes the form of *wanting* to take positions on it, first, before you can be dispassionate about it later. Like I said in some earlier comments, I used to spend a great deal of time debating politics and philosophy on various Internet fora as a kid, where I needed to be pithy and full of info against a wide range of personalities and tactics. By contrast, if you spend your time on debate teams and whatnot, you’ll be better at sophistry and off-the-cuff remarks than true debate.

      That said, if you don’t care about a topic (and it seems that you do care), it’s hard to get enough information to matter. I felt like those guys were my peers, and I needed to survive against them, which meant not only knowing more but also knowing how to frame an argument. I was an insecure kid growing up, in some ways, and this talent was a great defense mechanism to hurt others with.

  43. Christopher

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve listened to Ben Shapiro a couple of times, but I couldn’t bring myself to agree with some of his “arguments”. There was always something I felt was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. You’ve hit the nail right on with his debate tactics; he and Steven Crowder wouldn’t last 10 seconds in a real discussion.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      There are people out there who could make much better arguments for Shapiro’s own positions. I had to fill my essay with answers to potential objections not because I thought Shapiro would necessarily object in such a way, but because I know there are others who operate on a level higher than Shapiro’s, even if they fall into the same opinions by accident. If anything, I was kinda shocked at how goddamn elementary his arguments are- the stuff on gay marriage is child-like, his anti-climate change talks literally scrape just the surface of climate change objections, his more ‘philosophical’ stuff on free will, God, and ethics is laughable, his abortion crap would be shouted down by even the most staunch anti-abortion philosophers, while the rest is just pure deceit. Yet he knows his audience will never call him out on it, which means he loathes even his own fanbase.

  44. Joseph Stalin

    Thanks. Also, thanks for dropping names like David Pakman. In my quest to get information and becoming a strong and smart dude, his channel has some great analysis. I just watched a video of him debating with libertarian economist Steven Horwitz. It was beneficial.

    Reply
  45. Christopher

    Also, curious, from your perspective was there anything that Clinton could have done to win the election, or was she doomed from the beginning? Let me clarify that I am no fan of hers, just wanted to hear your take on it. Would Sanders have fared better? Can all of this really be traced back to Barack Obama’s policies? Thanks a bunch for replying.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I’d say she was doomed. From her shilling for Wal-Mart in the 1980s, to her support of Bill Clinton’s more disastrous policies, to the fact that she became both the face of ‘New Democrat’ corruption and had no real message and a toxic history with both racial politics and the Left, she was more or less a nobody from the beginning. Putting aside even all that, though, you should look at Jonathan Haidt’s analyses of political wins, and the role that charisma plays in it. Clinton had no charisma.

      This isn’t an Obama thing. Obama wanted to be a weak sort of corrective to the New Democrats of the 1980s onward, and barely squeaked through even that. This goes far deeper than Obama. I do think that Obama, in a different century or context, could have been a truly great politician. He had both the talent and the personality and probably even the heart to do so. And yes, Sanders would have done much better.

    2. Christopher

      Thanks so much for answering. You said that the media was more fair to Trump than Obama? Could you elaborate on that? Let me clarify that I am no fan of Donald Trump, but it seems that the media takes a lot of what he says out of context. Also, have you watched any videos from the youtuber styxhexenhammer666? He seems to know a lot about what he’s talking about, but I don’t know if he’s another one of those toxic rhetoric bullshitters.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Christopher,

      Did I say that the media is more fair to Trump than Obama? If I did, I must have meant something else, because it’s a complex topic. Obama, for example, was absolutely killed by the conservative media in ways that were merely race-baiting bullshit and outright lies. FOX News and similar outlets pushed everything from conspiracy theories to idiotic snipes- his choice of suit color, where he wore or did not wear a flag pin, his choice of mustard- while ignoring Trump’s actual deficits. Then again, I am loath to include FOX in ‘the media’ because they are not a news organization, but the propaganda arm of the GOP. So, yeah, you would expect them to be idiots.

      Obama was definitely given a free pass by the press on his various hypocrisies, such as, say, being pro-whistleblower on the campaign trail then hunting Snowden as bad as any reactionary. He had needless bombing campaigns and clear mistakes in foreign policy that would have been red flags pre-9/11, yet this sort of behavior is now more or less accepted as a new norm. Further, they’d NEVER go after him with gifs of the First Lady swiping his hand away while walking, or gossiping about his personal life, or crafting headlines about “forcing” Chris Christie to eat meatloaf (that was Talking Points Memo) or that Trump gets two scoops of ice cream, whereas everyone else is allowed only one (that was CNN). And, yeah, many of Trump’s states are indeed taken out of context, but then again, he’s said so many absolutely moronic things that at this point they’re just cashing in on clicks, since the public is waiting for the next dumb thing from Trump. It maybe unfair on a case by case basis, but they’ve still captured Trump’s spirit well. Note that this is not the same thing as saying that they are EFFECTIVELY combating him (assuming that’s a proper goal to begin with), since they’ve made quite a few mistakes at this point. The only reason they are winning against Trump is because Trump, himself, is such an idiot that they will never run out of legitimate criticisms. Had they adopted their same strategy against a smart and deft and cunning manipulator, they would get their asses handed to them.

      Finally, there’s that other double-standard- race, and to a lesser extent, liberalism, and what liberals may and may not get away with. Let’s be real- imagine if in ’08 a tape was released where Obama said “grab ’em by the pussy”. There is no way he would have won, and people would have went absolutely nuts. His own base would desert him, since liberals are not loyal to people, only ideas. Or imagine if Obama won by his comfortable margin against McCain, then made speeches about “3 million illegal votes cast by white felons in suburbs”, and set up a “voter fraud commission” in fact meant to disenfranchise whites. We literally would have had no functional government as the GOP would have gone on a mass strike and riled up every news outlet, voter, and donor to support them. Obama’s presidency would have been over on day 1. There is OBVIOUSLY a far greater standard of conduct for liberal pols, ESPECIALLY if they are black.

      Now add in charges of Obama’s collusion with Russia, hundreds of settled fraud lawsuits, stuff like Trump U, and countless other legitimate Trump scandals. Again, Obama would not have survived. The media is only a small part of this, really.

    4. Christopher

      Thanks so much Alex. Your insight has been most beneficial to someone who just recently started paying attention to politics. I assume you supported Senator Sanders during the election campaign, yes? Politicians that genuinely want to help the common citizens are incredibly rare these days. I’ve heard arguments from the other side that he “let” BLM women walk all over him during a speech, but I found that incredibly moronic. People are suffering and living paycheck to paycheck every day lamenting that no politician is listening to the people. Then comes someone like Sanders who’s willing to listen and suddenly they accuse him of being weak. Should he have just shut them up and force them off stage? They toss out these cheap insults like Socialist, Communist, or some combination of the two and I can’t believe anyone would take these seriously. That isn’t even the worst of it; they go after the fact that he has multiple homes , his wife being under FBI investigation and even an essay he wrote over 40 years ago. Then there’s that media blackout of Sanders during the election, which certainly played a part in having Trump elected. From your point of view, is there any valid criticism of Sanders that isn’t mired in childish banter? Thanks a bunch for responding to a random stranger’s questions.

    5. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Actually, I agree with the criticism of Sanders there. Fuck BLM for what they did- and this is coming from someone who is obviously 100% behind their core message. Sanders looked weak by letting these morons walk all over him, especially after struggling with the mic. These morons got on stage, literally threatened to “shut this rally down” unless he gave in to their demands, screamed, and ultimately guilted the white guys on stage. Again, fuck that. The rational response would have been to throw them out on their asses, THEN invite BLM on stage in another event for a civil discussion- where BLM and Sanders could BOTH headline. This would have let BLM get a worthwhile message across plus saved face and reduced resentments, since both BLM as well as his white base lost respect for him there…including me.

      That was probably his worst aspect. Bit of a one-trick pony in many ways, even though I’ve liked the little bit he said on foreign policy. He did not do a good Obama-like job of building a coalition and establishing proper boundaries, like with BLM. Yeah, the media was in the tank for Hillary, but I think this was a major part of his loss too.

    6. Christopher

      You know, I’ve never thought about it that way. Watching the video again, yes those people WERE acting like brats. I guess I’ve been too personally endeared to Senator Sanders to truly see what a huge mistake he made. Frankly, like many people, I’m sick and tired of both Democrats and Republicans. They’re both beholden to the same interest groups, and they’ll both bleed you for money. The only difference is the Republicans will outright stab you in the gut, whereas the Democrats would knife you in the back. Putting Bernie Sanders on a pedestal may not have been the right idea, as he still has his flaws. However, Clinton’s recent interviews made me regret ever voting for her; she never looked at what she did wrong during the campaign. She only blames others for her own failures, shifting blame to Comey, Sanders, and “deplorables”. In the end, the only silver lining I can see is that Trump is such an idiot that he’s tearing the Republican party apart and highlights the weakness of the Democratic Party. Anyways, thanks again for answering this Leftist’s questions, Alex.

    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Do you mean stuff like economic policy, or what? There’s also dry books on day-to-day political functions, Wikipedia, etc.

  46. Eric

    Hey Alex thanks for posting this, it’s an amazing piece of writing. I also really enjoyed your essay on feminism and the Red Pill, maybe one of the best articles on sexual politics I’ve encountered. I wondered what your take on Sam Harris is, I noticed you panned his approach to free will above, can you elaborate on that and possibly point to some good sources on the matter? I’ve always assumed free will is bullshit but I’ve never dug into it much. I’ve been a huge fan of Harris ever since The End of Faith but that certainly doesn’t mean I can’t be convinced he’s wrong on this.

    Also. even though you’ve said here that you aren’t as interested in politics as you are in art, I’d like to really encourage you to do more essays like this. I found this website by searching for criticism of Shapiro and I’m frankly amazed at the dearth of results I got from Google. YouTube was even worse, all that popped up were about a million “Ben Shapiro destroys” videos and one clip of Chapo Trap House hilariously shredding Shapiro’s God-awful novel. Charlatans like this need to be held accountable and as you’ve said the state of political punditry today is quite poor. I’d love to see someone like Milo or Ann Coulter get the same treatment here. Just a thought.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Thanks. Too bad my Red Pill essay hasn’t received as much attention as this piece, though.

      I don’t think much of Sam Harris, really. I find it shocking he takes surveys, polls, or even written statements of fanatics at face value, and representative of anything at all. Yeah, you can get 80% ‘approval’ for sharia law in Muslim nations, or the majority of Christians to agree that the Bible ought to be our standard of conduct. But this is akin to asking a post-modernist whether the world is underpinned by logical foundations. They will say no, of course not, when pressed right then and there for their philosophical point of view, yet go about 99.9%+ of the rest of the day implicitly believing the exact opposite. Same with Christians. Should abortion be illegal? Yeah, except for me. Must we go to church? Yep, but we’ll beat and curse at each other when we get home. This lazy, self-serving idiocy is EXACTLY how people are, and it’s absurd that a neuroscience Ph.D. does not seem to get that people’s more extreme affirmations of this or that ‘rule’ is primarily a way for them to feel good, moral, and better than others, rather than giving a shit about the content of such.

      Also, it is absolutely true that religious and/or ideological fervor (of any stripe) uniquely situates one into a position of being able to die for that worldview- this much I agree with it. Yet it is not true that we can change anything at all about a text or an ideology (except reducing it to a non-ideology) in order to attenuate what we presently observe. Modern suicide bombings are a tactic which originated with Sri Lankan Marxists, not Muslims, and it is mere historical accident that they were appropriated by Muslims. You do not need a TEXTUAL justification for suicide bombing. You simply need a successful EXAMPLE of it, and charismatic justifications for its spread no matter the form these justifications take. Once you have an ideology in place (secular or not), the rest is easy. If it were simply an issue of pointing to a text, you then have to deal with the logical problem of why an opposing message from the same text does not take root- *especially* if it’s publicly championed by pretty much every major Islamic cleric in the world. The point is, once that convention is in place, it is almost impossible to stop it. This is the obvious answer to Harris’s silly question as to why Palestinian Christians don’t get involved in bombings. It is simply not a part of the modern fabric.

      Can you point to something in the Bible which can justify the IRA’s death toll? I’d argue not- especially since the IRA’s aims were national, whereas the New Testament has an explicit condemnation of nationalism. The Pope (Catholicism’s chief interpreter of Divine Law) condemned them, too, and it did not matter. Ask them, though, the most important thing in life- God! Yet there’s an even stronger ideology at play here which has nothing to do with God. Same with ISIS. They can bullshit all they want about wanting an Islamic state, but the fact is, they want an ‘Islamic’ state because they could not get a Western one. You think ISIS would exist if Iraq and Syria were full of fast food, skimpily-dressed women, video games, and jobs? Of course not. And the second ISIS fighters gain power, they do what- oh, that’s right, develop a sophisticated sex-trafficking network where they get precisely what their religion forbids. “But the text says…!” No one gives a shit, apparently- not even ISIS- except Sam Harris.

      As for the free will stuff, I’d not recommend him as an intro to any question of free will. I am a compatibilist, myself, and fully reject the notion of libertarian free will that Harris likewise rejects. Yet the arguments he uses to get there are unsophisticated and he plays semantic games. If you’d like a good look at this, read Daniel Dennett’s response to the book: https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/reflections-on-free-will

    2. Max

      Thank you very much Eric.

      I might never have found that book review if I didn’t see this comment. Holy shit, that was a riot. And it provides some fascinating insight into Shapiro’s worldview.

      It turns out we’ve all been misled about the controversial police shootings in America. It’s all because of black adults bribing their kids to instigate fights with cops by calling them “Honkies”. I mean fuck me, where would we be without Ben’s incredible deductive reasoning?

      The man is seemingly incapable of imagining a scenario where his wonderful enlightened conservative establishment could be in the wrong. In his mind the Iraq War really was justified. Apparently the WMDs were real all along and in a stroke of diplomatic genius, Saddam convinced the very nation he launched a genocidal campaign against to hide them on his behalf.

  47. Shaun

    ” By contrast, if you spend your time on debate teams and whatnot, you’ll be better at sophistry and off-the-cuff remarks than true debate.”

    This is so true. I was in “forensics” (debate team) in high-school, and it was completely useless. At a high level, the debates sometimes literally devolve into who can talk faster and present more arguments, fallacious or not (i.e. a contest of who was the better ‘gish-galloper’).

    Internet debate fora are a fantastic way of truly learning debate and the positions you’re debating about (assuming you pick a good forum with intelligent members). Unlike formal debate, where the goal is to “win” by scoring more “points” in the eyes of the “judges”, Internet fora require you to present convincing arguments because the whole point is to convince/refute the opposing debater. And it’s text-based, which is always going to bring about more sophisticated arguments.

    Reply
  48. Eric Richo

    You say that his responses to problems are too short and easy to intellectually counteract the left’s argument of certain issues such as white privilege, in which he will simply state “it doesn’t exist “. I think its because nobody showing him hard evidence help him conclude it doesn’t. To some its simply a mechanism for the left to fight for their agenda. Of course , maybe we see mostly white people succeed, but is that because they are white…. or because they earned it. Show him instances where a black man was held back by the white man. Just a few won’t cut it. There will always be a little bit of something negative. We can’t general against the whites, blacks, or any one specific just because of a few. How much is too much to be considered a problem. That’s what I want to know.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Eric,

      Some of Shapiro’s positions might in fact be genuine, but I do make the point that Shapiro HAD TO go out of his way to suppress information in the course of research. Look, again, at my bank lending discrimination example- he cites a single, obscure, outlier study indicating there is no such discrimination. Yet to get there, he had to willfully ignore the literally hundreds of examples of the exact opposite- all mainstream info, of course, both academic and empirical, plus hundreds of millions paid out in the last decade alone to rectify the problem after courts found these institutions guilty. There are so many ongoing federal investigations, as well. In short, this is pure dishonesty on Shapiro’s part, and he knows it.

      As for the rest of your comment, I am genuinely confused. I go out of my way to cite literally dozens of studies, which themselves total to hundreds of thousands of people- millions, even- spread across the last 3 decades and multiple states. Hell, I even focused on some of the states (such as NJ) that Shapiro used to make his own argument, going back to his own preferred sources. So, the argument is lost even when it’s argued from his own turf. Do not imply I have cherry-picked anything. I am literally giving you the mainstream consensus.

  49. Patrick

    There was a period in my life, not too long ago, where I regularly read and listened to conservative “thinkers” and nearly became a full-blown conservative myself. The reason I ditched the left was because I felt that almost all representatives of the left were driven by emotion and only tangentially driven by facts (think CNN, MSNBC, the Young Turks, etc). It soon became obvious that the right was just as bad, if not worse. I realized that even the most serious of them (Shapiro, Prager, Levin—yeah, that lineup doesn’t say much about the right!) were also driven by emotion but tried to cover it with a pseudo-intellectual veneer. They often did this by talking to completely uninformed and emotionally driven leftist questioners (often college students) and making them look foolish. Getting sick of this ploy, I went out to try to find a time when they actually debated a serious and informed person from the left. I couldn’t. But I did find this essay that does an admirable job of exposing the brightest intellectual star of the right. It concerns me that people like Shapiro, Molyneux, Cenk, Sam Harris seem to have almost a cult following when every single one of them advocates a “think for yourself” approach. You should do a piece like this on Harris and Molyneux when you get time as well.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Yes, I see this too much. Lots of ‘normal’ people predictably get fed up with typical Leftist bullshit and go full moron into the other camp, as if it’s a rational response. Obviously, that doesn’t work. The Left’s problem is that it has, in aggregate, stumbled upon the correct positions by accident, and is therefore unable to articulate a good intellectual defense of them. The Right, by contrast, has stumbled upon all the wrong positions, often on purpose, and bends over backwards to justify what is logically indefensible. In short, the Left suffers from a lack of talent and insecurity (which itself leads to stuff like bad academic writing and hyperbole). The Right suffers from being a bunch of fucking morons.

  50. Guest

    As far as I know Ben Shapiro has not responded to this piece or accepted a debate. I wonder why that is when he usually responds to an attack immediately…

    Reply
    1. Christopher

      It could be because this essay outlines Shapiro’s whole character and spiel. This essay essentially cut through all of Ben’s BS and exposes him for who he really is; a pseudo-intellectual who, when you strip away the fancy talk, is no better than a Liberal caricature.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      As I pointed out in previous comments, Shapiro has not responded to nor accepted debates from quite a few others- Sam Seder, Michael Brooks, the guys at Chapo Trap House, etc. Nor has he sought out actual policy experts or philosophers for any long-form debate. He knows he just needs to continue scraping the bottom of the barrel, since his fans don’t give a shit, anyway, and loathes his own audience.

      That said, I’ve not sought out Shapiro and do not plan to. I literally have no interest in him after this essay and I’m still surprised this piece has gotten 100+ comments rather than just 1 or 2 dozen. My note’s up at the top of the article just in case, but, realistically, the whole essay’s argument is that he is a willfully dishonest hack who is not worth anyone’s time, and goes out of his way to outright lie in his public appearances where he cannot be fact-checked.

    3. Guest

      Really, Alex, is Sam Seder what you consider a serious commentator about politics? Better than the Shapiro’s of the world, sure, but his show is really not at all serious and very low-brow.

    4. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      “Low-brow” is not a synonym for “bad”, though, and he’s good at what he does. No, it’s not very serious, but it’s funny, and- to be fair- I’m mostly talking about pundits. The issue with the more serious commentators is that they speak directly to intelligent people who take a lot of what I wrote in this essay for granted, and don’t necessarily test themselves against non-believers. Many of Seder’s anti-libertarian ‘debates’ (if you can call them that) show how to frame an argument and deal with claims both on your own as well as others’ turf.

  51. Jack Larm

    Alex, this is a keeper. In fact, I’m so Old School that I’ll finish reading it when I print it out.

    I’ve been fascinated by people like Shapiro all my life. Most likely it’s got to do with my slightly obsessive need to try and understand the ‘mature’ mindset that still clings to fantasy and magical thinking. Sure, it might have a place in the way we ‘play’ with our children, i.e. tooth fairy, santa claus, the devil. As a father, although I seldom indulged in this sort of make believe, I never judged anyone that did.

    Unfortunately, Shapiro is on my current radar because of his apparent influence on one of my children (now an adult, but will always be my kid). Anyway, thanks for not only articulating what I’ve been feeling for a while now, but also backing up your claims with more than enough evidence.

    Cheers,
    Jack from Australia

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      One can still cling to fantasy and magical thinking, yet be mature about it. Thrown in the promise of money and fame, however, and there’s no hope for an intellectual mediocrity.

  52. Patrick

    This has to be tremendously time consuming but it is a terrific resource! I wonder if you plan on doing any more of these lengthy essays about other pseudo-intellectuals with a huge following? Molyneux would be a nice one. Sam Harris deserves to be exposed as the hack amateur philosopher and scientist he is. Someone like Crowder is probably not even worth as he can’t even be mistaken for a serious commentator for one minute.

    Reply
    1. Gisele

      Agreed. I think I’d read each and every one. Alex’s analysis is adroit, perceptive and brilliantly written. What a colossal exercise, yet it feels like it was potentially effortless on his part.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Someone asked me about this, but no, not really. I’m a slow writer and this essay took me 2 weeks to finish. These folks just aren’t worth it when I’m working on my novels or reading shit that actually matters. It’s perhaps worth covering 1 in a broad category, however, because you in effect cover them all. I don’t need to get at a Crowder or a Molyneux or a Rubin because, if you read between the lines, this essay is an attack on ALL of that kind of thinking while ostensibly focusing on just 1 person. Shapiro likes to say liberals employ this or that tactic, but what does it say of conservatives when a single article can knock all of them down at once?

  53. Billy

    Oh boy, people can’t seem to leave this article alone.

    I have a meta-question for you again, Alex (since the topic itself has been pretty much beaten to death already): you keep on stressing that the studies/data you picked to back up your claims represent mainstream consensus. Is this a pragmatic choice on your part as a layman? I mean, given that kind of logic, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift would be among the greatest artists of all time …

    What I’m trying to get at is, a lot of the softer sciences like sociology have been in pretty bad shape in recent years (in decades, probably) due to failure to replicate, bad methodology in general, and—for a lack of a better word, let’s call it—political “infiltration” (you know, when people try to pull bullshit like “feminist glaceology” or the entire topic of gender—which I know wasn’t part of the article, I just want to give an example—in general is really toxic nowadays). Given this, how can you be sure that the mainstream data is correct? I mean, as a layman it requires a tremendous amount of work to not only read but also completely understand all the studies, to find mistakes, and to check for good methodology and for replication studies, which then also have to be understood and checked, etc. (I’m not trying to insinuate whether you did or didn’t put in the work; I’m more interested in the conceptual/theoretical aspect here). How do you sort through all the bullshit?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      The two examples are not analogous because the “mainstream consensus” in the arts is completely antithetical to what art is. The two may sometimes overlap but only by accident. In time- say, over a century or two- this is no longer accident, but genuine ideas (and especially those ideas’ mode of expression) take time to break through the primate need for jeering and conformity. If you’d like a little break from the political stuff, here is a discussion I’ve had this morning over another article of mine dealing with the arts. Scroll down to the last comment: http://alexsheremet.com/pauline-kael-one-films-worst-ridiculous-critics/

      That said, I understand your objection and will address it. Yes, the sciences, both hard and not, are subject to the same biases as anything else is, and often settle on wrongheaded information or pet theories because of conformity. This is why Thomas Kuhn’s wonderful book, “The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions”, has been so controversial- scientists do not wish to accept that they are subject to the same monkey-like behavior as any other people in the world. Yet by that same token, lots of charlatans (like Ben, if he actually knew how to read books) tried to use Kuhn’s observations for a wholesale skepticism of science and consensus to further their own agenda. Yet it is important to separate a couple of issues here:

      First, a consensus in anything is not a guarantee of anything. This much is true. But since both policy and science are FAR more understandable to a layperson than is commonly believed, people CAN and SHOULD comb through studies to see what people are doing, how they are doing them, and if there are any reasonable deductions to be made here. This is what I did- I looked through as much of the available information as was reasonable, I looked at the methodologies, I looked at competing and contradictory information, and synthesized it into a broad consensus. I know, for example, that lots of people tried to deride Shapiro’s invocation of the early 2000s study on black Turnpike drivers purely for political reasons, but as I pointed out, I saw nothing wrong with the study’s methods. It was, in fact, quite rigorous, and I correctly state that the study is a good jump-off point for further study. What I do NOT do is throw up my hands in defeat, downplay the findings (as liberals do), nor exaggerate them (as Shapiro does), because one can find so much competing information that shows the opposite, as well as more recent, equally rigorous studies which go even further. Further, Shapiro uses the NJ study in order to make an unrelated argument by extrapolating Turnpike information from just once experiential slice into well-established discriminatory behavior (like, 100s of thousands of pages of internal documents from the NJPD itself) observed across the entire state by assuming what happens there likewise happens here, which is obviously not supported by the data.

      Note, however, what Shapiro does NOT do. He does NOT deride the use of studies- he DOES use them, but unlike the above methodology, he uses them selectively and wishes to focus on any corroborating information at the exclusion of anything else that’s thrown at his face with a mere Google search. This is almost exactly what you describe as bad practice. It is also easily avoidable. I also disagree that the layperson has to do a tremendous amount of work to sort through this stuff. Perhaps some of it, maybe, but to get back to bank lending discrimination- if you literally just Google the keywords (bank lending discrimination + black), you get NOTHING but study after study from legit, disinterested groups as well as academics of various political stripes coming to the same conclusions. Is it possible they have all entered a cabal to shame white people? Uh, maybe, but combine that with like 5 or 6 contemporaneous federal investigations into the same issue, you need to do just 5 mins of research to get at the most probable picture. Yeah, when it comes to climate change, etc., it gets hairier, but if you do have a genuine interest in the topic, you can become conversational with the typical objections and the objections to those objections with just a little research.

      I mean, look at Shapiro’s lecture on climate change- literally, he presents only the first-order objections to climate change science because that’s all his audience knows, anyway, and he doesn’t give a damn about educating them. These objections in fact go to 5 or 6 levels, with a lot of back and forth which ultimately ends up in the pro-climate change side’s favor. Yet if you know only the first or second level objections, you can be hoodwinked into thinking it’s all fraud. That’s what Ben is banking on. He doesn’t even need to go further, though, because it’s not like people give a shit about learning this stuff, anyway, and so he can coast on by. He would die against a well-informed layperson though, much less an actual climate scientist.

    2. kenny

      Hi Alex,

      It’s funny how Ben and the rest of the neocons wanted Assad’s head on a stick for the gassing of civilians, yet they never talk about the war crimes in Yemen by the U.S and Saudi Arabia. By their logic, shouldn’t other countries intervene and bomb Riyadh and Washington to stop the killing and starving of Yemenis? I was wondering what you think of that ? Why don’t neocon sites like the DailyWire ever cover the Yemen war ? Also, how do you think a debate between Ben Shapiro and Norman Finkelstein on Israel-Palestine would go? I’d love to see Norman put Ben in his place, like he did his Harvard professor Alan Dershowtiz.

      Thanks

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Kenny,

      What’s there to think, really? They’re idiots. Yeah, we’ve got Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, but maybe invading ‘one more’ Middle Eastern country will turn out differently. They brought us ISIS, Syria, and Afghani warlords, and now wish to be entrusted with correcting such screw-ups by repeating the same patterns that brought us there. No thanks.

      As for Shapiro/Finkelstein- there’s no way Ben Shapiro would ever debate Finkelstein. I have never seen Finkelstein lose a debate, to begin with, and if he could get a world-famous lawyer squirming and twitching over his own lies to the point that he refuses to ever appear in the same room with him again, what can a wannabe like Shapiro do to the most knowledgeable and articulate person on Israel/Palestine in the world today?

      If you’re curious about “American Radical”: http://alexsheremet.com/review-david-ridgens-norman-finkelsteins-american-radical/

  54. Stephen

    I really enjoyed this critique. I could see myself responding with a similar line of reasoning in some of the issues where Ben spoke and also gained additional insight on several other topics thanks to your articulate elaboration and included links. I never thought I’d get what did when I initially judged this for the clickbait title – proven wrong. Thank you for writing this piece.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Thanks. It’s clickbait only in the most literal sense- it gets you clicking. Yet it delivers on what the title promises.

    2. Stephen

      Indeed, I would say it delivers even better than what it promises and perhaps exceeds the viewer’s expectations. I’m also happy to see this reader-interactive comment section of yours where you have responded to most, if not all of the people who commented here, including the guys who just outright dismissed the article without actually addressing any of the arguments you made.

      While scrolling down, I saw some of the claims you made on universal healthcare and Senator Sanders. So I am curious to hear your thoughts on some of the alt-right and libertarian objections to single-payer and the numerous allegations attacking the lack of knowledge of Bernie Sanders on the subject of economics. Objections state that the country doesn’t have the budget required to support single payer system, they include that is partly due to America’s larger population and the culturally diverse population making it more difficult to work compared to other countries. Paul Krugman explained in his book “The Conscience of a Liberal” for example, that the unwillingness and refusal from the whites to pay for the public healthcare of blacks is one of the reason every attempt at providing universal healthcare has failed.

      Alternatively, the right proposes their own free market solution to the healthcare problem, arguing that selling health insurance across state lines would deliver quality care and cheapen the costs. I’m pretty sure you already knew that but I just wanted to spell it out to get your response. I know Ben Shapiro ascribes to this position himself and even declared a trichotomy of what is feasible in healthcare: 1) Universality. 2) Affordability. 3) Quality. He claims you can either have two of these things but not all three – which has raised small doubts in my mind. What are your thoughts?

      Also, mind if I may include another question on the current American welfare system, that whether or not it is affective and beneficial to us so far, cost-effective and utilitarian wise? I’m sorry if I am asking a lot of questions, but they usually play inside my head. From what I see conservatives appear to dominate most political discussions, especially on the topic of healthcare and economics, which I think you already responded to by saying something along the extent of them picking from the lower hanging fruit: purposefully choosing to bash college students/or shallow political pundits and not the real experts on the matter. In that case, who exactly do you have in mind who would level the field here? That will be my final question I leave, thank you for reading so far.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Well, what do YOU think? What do economists say about universal healthcare, both here and abroad? What do they say about America’s current healthcare system? What are the conclusions in the empirical research?

      American welfare is to some degree wasteful due to the reasons you’ve alluded to, plus things unique to the US, but the point is that a larger and more comprehensive welfare system is still possible that saves us even more money, gives us even more of a return, protects even more people, and is less wasteful. Overall, however, American welfare (even in its current iteration) has without a doubt improved the lives of millions and conferred a strong net benefit. This is not even a superficially ‘controversial’ point of economics like tax cuts/growth. This is simply what the literature IS.

  55. Billy

    Thanks for your reply, Alex. Yeah I saw the discussion on the Pauline Kael article. I was actually waiting for a reply from you over there. But yes, I agree with your objection. I didn’t think this one through.

    But overall, I see we’re pretty much on the same page here, actually. Although I still slightly disagree about the amount of work. Yes, people SHOULD put in the work (if one wants to be intellectualy fair and honest, which I do), but I don’t know whether many actually CAN. At this point I have to admit that I’ve neve actually read a sociology study, but instead, I’m extrapolating from my own background, which is computer “science”. There, you usually have to, in my experience, push through a lot of jargon and other crap just to find out at the end that the study/paper either was bullshit or didn’t say much at all. They way I was “taught” to read papers properly is that it takes at least an hour or so to read a paper superficially (i.e., without deeply understanding all the proofs and such, but still getting the gist of it, etc.). And trying to really understand it takes many hours more, and all of this even if you are an expert in that (sub-)field and do read papers on a regular basis. So yes, Googling might throw up study after study, but this isn’t where the work is, is it? You would have to spend hours and hours just to get to the bottom of a single point (and as you’ve mentioned, objections can go 5 or 6 levels deep). And when you’re not an expert in that field, it just gets harder and harder. But maybe, you’re right after all wrt to the softer science. Maybe it is easier/less work there. Or maybe I’m just being to much of a perfectionist. I don’t know.

    And yes, you are right, I certainly didn’t want to imply that there was some massive political conspiracy, but—as you’ve phrased it—that scientist are subject to monkey-like behaviour that very often creeps in, to varying degrees. But you know, personally, I’m always “afraid” that I might miss the obvious (which happend often enough before).

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Billy,

      I mean, some of it takes time, sure, but it’s not like I’m not an expert in anything here. I’ve just spent most of my free time reading up on various topics (not just politics) since I was a teenager. I assume other people can do the same if they feel like it. My talent is simply in the articulation of these ideas and my ability to make connections. I am actually a slow reader and forget things easily, but doing your personal best is usually better than the laziness 99%+ of people are guilty of, including Shapiro.

  56. Billy

    Hi Alex,

    I don’t know what you’re an expert in and what not (besides what I can piece toghether from your public persona on the web). It seems I didn’t distinguish clearly enough between the discussion of the general case and you specifically. That’s where probably most of the miscommunication stems from. (Articulating ideas is actually one of my weaknesses …) Just to be clear: I aknowledge the effort you put in (as you’ve described it) and I think it shows. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered coming back to your website again and again.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Billy,

      Thanks for the comment. I don’t actually think there’s a miscommunication, and realize you think highly of this piece. All I’m trying to say is, I’m just a guy with a bunch of different interests with a website (and books) to communicate these interests. My point is that my talent (that is, the articulation) is what’s special about me, but that it’s not necessary to get a good grasp of anything, really. You weren’t asking about how to write or even necessarily how to argue a point, but something I’ve always considered to be much simpler than both. I do think most people can learn to differentiate between true/false if they really felt like it. This is especially true of the Ben Shapiros of the world who do follow politics and do invest themselves quite a bit into all that, but willfully ignore anything that makes them uncomfortable.

  57. Christopher

    One final question, Alex, have you read Trump’s Tax plan? In it, he’s planning to get rid of the estate tax(he and many conservatives peg it the “death” tax), simplifying the tax code to 4 brackets instead of 7, and reducing corporate taxes to 20%. He claims that the middle class will also benefit from these breaks, but if you reduce taxes for everybody, doesn’t that just cause more problems for middle class Americans?. In the end, it’s just a benefit to those who don’t really need a tax break. I would imagine it just adds to the federal deficit and eventually cause another recession. Am I missing something here, because I can’t wrap my head around this logic, especially with what you’ve highlighted happen to Kansas. Thanks again for writing this essay and giving the reader a lot to think about.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      It’s a tax cut for the rich, which is bullshit in purely economic terms, and unethical in purely ethical terms. The justification Shapiro and others use is that a tax cut for the rich translates into more jobs and growth for everyone else, which is simply untrue for the reasons I’ve already gone over.

      Taxes need to go up on everyone except America’s poorest. This includes taxing the middle class, as well.

  58. A S Broad

    Your position of profiling is inherently inconsistent. You state that an individual who can be classified, based on particular individiual characteristics, as belonging to a group X, which in turn has been found, consistently, to correlate significantly with particular group level properties, should not be subject to inferrances, and actions, at the group level. I.e. an individual who is black should not be associated with the demonstrable higher propensity for certain criminality of blacks as a racial group. Yet, it is precisely making inferences at the individual level from observed probabilistic and statistical trends at the group level that we apply in any area of human existence. Medical treatments, and prevention in particular, are based on inferences about individuals that follow from trends determined over population samples. For the purposes of societal, and individual, security particularly taking a pragmatic profiling approach isn’t unfair. If Muslims are significantly likelier to perpetrate Isalmist terrotirst acts that statistically significantly relate to air travel (whether planned but prevented before execution or successfully executed) then how is it not only pragmatically justified as well as determinedly not ufair that Muslims are more frequently subject to more extensive searches at airports on the basis of profiling that in fact derives from the higher probability of Muslims preparing for and committing terrirst acts at airports and on plains? Why is profiling in relation to security unlawful and unfair but done in precisely the same way, functonally, it is not so in relation to healthcare, for example? Or indeed, in relation to education, where profiling associates positively – as in advantageously – rather than negatively – as in costly, in terms of e.g. time, social perception, etc. – with the subject(s) of profiling? Besides, discrimination based on the propensity for X, as in for committing a crime or e.g. carrying a knife (in London) is not equivalent to such discrimination based on ability. To clarify, your hypothetical of discriminating against a female candidate for a Physics lectureship in favour of a male candidate because females are statistically less likely to graduate in Physics is quite different from randomly stop-and-search-ing a black male because black males are statistically more likely to e.g. carry/sell drugs. In the former case, likelihood of females graduating in Physics tells nothing of how female graduates compare academically to male graduates in the same subject, so as to infer from probability for X a probability for Y, which is what you’ve done. Similarly inconsistent is your attempt to aggregate the propensity for X, with a scalable property of X so as to infer inadequacy of e.g. profiling of blacks on the basis that the crimes for which they’re profiled carry speculatively smaller social cost than say crimes committed by whites, or people in particular social categories that in fact cut across race, e.g. upper middle class and above executives in the financial sector. Given that you profer the comparison in the contenxt of racial profiling you commit, yet again, the error of not comparing like with like. None of the costlier, at societal level, crimes you compare to those on which basis racial profiling occurs are likelier to perpetrate by whites. A cursory consideration of such crimes internationally would suffice there. A more relevant comparison, and one I feel demonstrates much better existing racial bias, would be the level of profiling applied to white males in gun sale checks, considering the propensity of white males for mass shooting in the US. Finally, I must pont out the disingenuousness of your extrapolations from the question of average propensity for Xin relation to racial, etc. profiling to insinuating criminality, indeed ‘apartheid’, of a state. Bizzarelly, you appear to not have read the artcile you link to in your ‘apartheid state like Israel’; the article doesn’t in fact justify the conclusion you imply in your reference. Apart from the fact that arguably the majority if not all of the contributors to the UN report the article centres around would be by their own (and their report’s) definition apartheid states (with respect to minorities of all kinds, but yes, race, ethinicity and religion-based ones in particular), whether Israel itself meets those criteria is debatable. For one, the notion that non-citizens would enjoy the same rights for entry into a state or property right, etc. as that state’s own citizens is simply legally indefensible. Similarly, the notion that Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin are subject to legal discrimination – which would be a requirement in the classical sense for apartheid to exist – is simply factually erroneous.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hello,

      You state that an individual who can be classified, based on particular individiual characteristics, as belonging to a group X, which in turn has been found, consistently, to correlate significantly with particular group level properties, should not be subject to inferrances, and actions, at the group level. I.e. an individual who is black should not be associated with the demonstrable higher propensity for certain criminality of blacks as a racial group.

      Yes, this is, incidentally, how America’s legal system works- something that conservatives (I presume) ought to feel compelled to defend? You do not discriminate against individuals for that individual’s group-tendency, which is by definition apart from the individual, who cannot be the sum total of an aggregate. Otherwise, you are placing an undue burden on completely unrelated individuals who are connected to the group tendency merely by happenstance- that is, it does not logically apply to them except by way of cognitive bias.

      Keep in mind, also, what many of the studies I’ve linked to claim that when we control for variables such as increased crime in, say, black neighborhoods, the levels of police violence and discrimination are *still* out of proportion even with the modification. It’s pretty interesting, to me, that everyone who has decided to push back against this portion of the essay specifically ignores this uncomfortable point.

      Yet, it is precisely making inferences at the individual level from observed probabilistic and statistical trends at the group level that we apply in any area of human existence.

      Yes, we do- and often to our detriment. Inference-making at the individual level had a number of functions in the Ancestral Environment, most of which 1) had to do with groupings of less than 100 people, 2) wars of attrition against the out-group. Do I need to explain why this might not work so well when we extrapolate such biases into 300+ million people living under a Leviathan whose behaviors have in fact become remarkably SIMILAR even across out-groups, and where criminal pathology is now exactly that- a pathology, an aberration, rather than a norm we can’t quite shake?

      Look at any ‘safe’ white neighborhood vs. a violent black one. The difference in criminality can quite literally be accounted for by a jump from 1% to 2% of criminals residing in the general population- which is absolutely meaningless in absolute terms vis-a-vis virtually any black person you or I might meet, but creates a VASTLY different perception of danger that simply has nothing to do with reality. This is why controlling for these variables still leads to disproportionate police responses. You don’t seem to understand that the law recognizes such innate cognitive biases, and is partly there to short-circuit them whereas you- for whatever reason- think it’s preferable to exacerbate it.

      For the purposes of societal, and individual, security particularly taking a pragmatic profiling approach isn’t unfair.

      It is unfair for the reasons I’ve already stated, and especially if the ‘pragmatic profiling’ is in fact NOT pragmatic, but takes a very real discrepancy- differences between black and white ‘visible’ crime- and blows it up out of proportion even when that discrepancy is controlled for. We are not merely talking about a greater police presence in violent neighborhoods. We are talking about the difference between a kid getting stopped and hassled over 100 times in his high school years over nothing (most of my friends), vs. another kid getting stopped zero times (me) for the same behaviors. I presume there is not a 100X difference in crime? What of the study with black off-duty police officers getting guns pulled on them by other cops at a rate of 20%- really, this is justified by ‘pragmatism’? What about blacks being targeted even in rich neighborhoods- where their skin color is obviously stripped of most or all violence correlatives, since they are now stripped of the deeper, underlying context as well? Another example of cognitive biases not working in the sort of complex society they are simply ill-suited for.

      And speaking of visible crime- you DO realize you are about 1000X more likely to die due to corporate malfeasance (lies about tobacco, sugar, carcinogens, environmental pollution, opioids) than street crime, right? So why do I get the feeling that you have not spent 1000X of your psychic energy on said malfeasance, and much more on stuff like ‘pragmatic profiling’? This is another example of cognitive biases that the law ought to rectify- we fear (and try to control) everything we ought not to fear and cannot control while ignoring very real dangers that do affect us. I’d recommend you read Jared Diamond’s “The World Until Yesterday” which goes into these biases more deeply, since- and I don’t mean to be rude here- it is only those people, in my experience, who lack all historical context that make such tired, easily rebutted arguments.

      If Muslims are significantly likelier to perpetrate Isalmist terrotirst acts that statistically significantly relate to air travel (whether planned but prevented before execution or successfully executed) then how is it not only pragmatically justified as well as determinedly not ufair that Muslims are more frequently subject to more extensive searches at airports on the basis of profiling that in fact derives from the higher probability of Muslims preparing for and committing terrirst acts at airports and on plains? Why is profiling in relation to security unlawful and unfair but done in precisely the same way, functonally, it is not so in relation to healthcare, for example?

      Oh, I don’t know. Could it because specifically targeting Muslims in this fashion galvanizes anti-American feeling in the first place? Could it be that this is precisely the sort of hysteria that led us Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and ISIS? Could it be that this focus encourages hacks like Sam Harris to interpret religion, terrorism, etc., as true existential threats, rather than what they in fact are, and thus take attention away from everything else in the world that are credible threats both to the world more generally, and individuals more specifically?

      I suppose that if we cybernetically re-engineer human beings, and take away ‘fluff’ like human resentment, attention deficits, and other psychological drives, we MIGHT be able to get away with willfully ostracizing an overwhelmingly large number of innocents for the sake of capturing an overwhelmingly small number of criminals. Until that happens, however, how do you propose reducing terrorism by playing on the very things that terrorists point to as their inner reason? Further, what would be your argument against ever-harsher restrictions on human freedom for the sake of some objective good (reduced crime, etc.)? You have already decided- without doing any actual work arguing it- that terrorism is bad enough to justify such. Yet I can point to far greater dangers with proposed solutions you’d never in fact support, because it would not gel with your (or even my) ideological framework.

      It’s kinda shocking, to be quite honest, that you are comparing profiling the etiologies of amoral human diseases, etc., to the unconstitutional targeting of massive numbers of human beings, as if both have the same social consequences. Jesus. Yeah, you are right- we can probably stop ALL Muslim terrorism in America by wiping out all Muslims in America, but is that a solution? We can stop ALL crime by bloating the NSA to Minority Report status, but is that preferable to our current state of affairs? Your argument, of course, is that these two solutions are ‘too extreme’ compared to ‘merely’ increasing racial profiling, but have you GENUINELY looked into the overall social costs of profiling, and the positives it might confer (and there ARE positives, obviously) versus the net costs (because they ARE net costs)? The counterpoint is not as absurd as you are assuming it to be. The issue is that you have not even entertained the possibility.

      To clarify, your hypothetical of discriminating against a female candidate for a Physics lectureship in favour of a male candidate because females are statistically less likely to graduate in Physics is quite different from randomly stop-and-search-ing a black male because black males are statistically more likely to e.g. carry/sell drugs. In the former case, likelihood of females graduating in Physics tells nothing of how female graduates compare academically to male graduates in the same subject, so as to infer from probability for X a probability for Y, which is what you’ve done.

      Except the black male who is stopped for drugs IN CHELSEA is in the same exact logical position as the job-ready female graduate of Physics- i.e., their group-tendency has been superseded by a FAR more important context which human cognitive bias renders invisible at a time when it’s literally the ONLY salient data point. These are all rather elementary errors which you- strangely enough- are projecting on to me.

      Similarly inconsistent is your attempt to aggregate the propensity for X, with a scalable property of X so as to infer inadequacy of e.g. profiling of blacks on the basis that the crimes for which they’re profiled carry speculatively smaller social cost than say crimes committed by whites, or people in particular social categories that in fact cut across race, e.g. upper middle class and above executives in the financial sector. Given that you profer the comparison in the contenxt of racial profiling you commit, yet again, the error of not comparing like with like. None of the costlier, at societal level, crimes you compare to those on which basis racial profiling occurs are likelier to perpetrate by whites. A cursory consideration of such crimes internationally would suffice there.

      ‘Speculatively’? I really need to know what you mean here. Surely you are NOT asserting that the most important man-made ill which we need to watch out for is street crime? That would be quite absurd, so I am simply going to assume that you’ve inserted this word into your comment to subliminally attack a very fair and salient point without in fact addressing it directly.

      And, yes, I am aware I am not comparing like with like. That is the entire point of my veering off, at the end of the essay, from a discussion of street crime to other crimes. I am saying that there are a set of invisible and far more costlier crimes which CANNOT be perpetrated by black people, whereas human cognitive biases are geared towards seeing- and respond to- only more stereotypically ‘black’ crimes. In other words, we have an issue that is several orders of magnitude GREATER that we rarely (if ever) talk about, much less offer solutions for. I’d argue that’s a fair objection, really. So, what was the point of your response, except to throw in the word ‘speculatively’ to fulfill a transparent rhetorical purpose you hoped I would not notice?

      Finally, I must pont out the disingenuousness of your extrapolations from the question of average propensity for Xin relation to racial, etc. profiling to insinuating criminality, indeed ‘apartheid’, of a state. Bizzarelly, you appear to not have read the artcile you link to in your ‘apartheid state like Israel’; the article doesn’t in fact justify the conclusion you imply in your reference. Apart from the fact that arguably the majority if not all of the contributors to the UN report the article centres around would be by their own (and their report’s) definition apartheid states (with respect to minorities of all kinds, but yes, race, ethinicity and religion-based ones in particular), whether Israel itself meets those criteria is debatable. For one, the notion that non-citizens would enjoy the same rights for entry into a state or property right, etc. as that state’s own citizens is simply legally indefensible. Similarly, the notion that Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin are subject to legal discrimination – which would be a requirement in the classical sense for apartheid to exist – is simply factually erroneous.

      Sorry- Israel is an apartheid state. Stop referring to ‘my’ extrapolations- again, a ploy not unlike the word ‘speculatively’ (above), since I am merely reiterating both world opinion as well as the facts on the ground. What I say or do not say on this front, on a more personal level, really does not matter.

      So, let’s go through the evidence-

      First, ‘legally indefensible’. Interesting. So, the Palestinians have been trying to establish a state for decades now, and every year, pretty much the entire world votes for Palestinian statehood, but because of the U.S. veto power, that’s irrelevant. In other words, we have this strange situation where millions of people are forced into a kind of limbo of both occupation and non-recognition. Now, when they demand rights from the only monopoly force in the region- which, incidentally, ALSO refuses them statehood- they are asking for something ‘indefensible’? Normally, I’d just tell you to fuck off, but since you do seem to at least be engaging in good faith, I’ll ask you to at least think through your own position here. There is nothing ‘indefensible’ about demanding equal treatment IF Israel wishes to be Palestine’s de facto custodian, since Israel assumes the Palestinians are not “adult” enough to rule themselves without an illegal crib (the Wall), illegal dietary restrictions (sanctions), illegal corporal punishment (bombing campaigns that specifically target civilians), and so on. If Palestine really is a big fuckin’ baby that cannot be let out of its cage, guess what- Israel, who has unilaterally made that judgment, needs to take care of that baby according to the same international norms it is routinely found to be in violation of.

      Second- with THAT in mind- what are the features of an apartheid state? I want you to give me a rundown of the salient traits. Once you have those, tell me if they resemble any of the following-

      Human Rights Watch- “Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel’s Schools”- https://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/israel2/

      B’tselem- water discrimination- http://www.btselem.org/water/discrimination_in_water_supply

      Land discrimination- https://972mag.com/high-court-okays-plan-to-raze-arab-village-build-jewish-one-in-its-place/106637/

      Housing discrimination- https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/8327

      Citizenship rights- http://www.jurist.org/hotline/2012/02/jabareen-zaher-israel-citizenship.php

      US State Dep’t on life for Palestinians within Israel more generally- https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/236814.pdf

      Give it a few decades. Israel will eventually have an even worse reputation than apartheid-era South Africa, when otherwise intelligent folks stop denying the obvious.

    2. Somebody

      Hi Alex,

      I was just wondering, do you know what the Palestinian Authority is? How about Hamas?

      Thanks

    3. Will

      It’s not that I disagree with what you say about Israel’s contemptible treatment of Palestinians (in Palestine), but by your criteria for apartheid, wouldn’t there be quite a few apartheid states (e.g. Turkey, Sri Lanka, Pakistan)?

    4. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Yes, I wouldn’t say Israel is the only apartheid state. It is, however, by far the most powerful apartheid state, and the only state that postures as and declares itself to be a supreme democratic polity, and has much of the world agreeing with this definition…with the most important part of the world (America) joining the chorus. There’s not a single elected politician in the US (except maybe Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but we’ll see) who will call Israel an apartheid regime.

    5. Will

      I’d have to disagree with the part about Israel being the only country to claim democracy as a way to whitewash its human rights. Sri Lanka, one of the countries I mentioned, has always remained a democracy in spite of its civil war and insurgencies. But it has an even worse human rights record than Israel that has been swept under the rug by most of the world and there’s hardly any international interest in probing the war crimes anymore. It uses the fact that it’s always been a democracy that gives minorities voting rights to whitewash its bloody history and hide the fact that its voting system is skewed in favor of the Sinhalese majority, at the expense of minorities (most notably Tamils).

      This also relates to my second source of disagreement with you, that the world agrees with Israel’s definition of itself as a “supreme democratic polity.” Didn’t you say this earlier when justifying your label of Israel as an apartheid state: “I am merely reiterating both world opinion as well as the facts on the ground”? In any case, lots of countries (including Sri Lanka) condemn Israel, perhaps to whitewash their own discriminatory policies.

      Just to be clear, I’m not exactly “pro-Israel”, but it’s hard for me not to notice that lots of countries get away for things that Israel does not. Now, Israel deserves every condemnation for its legitimate violations of human rights, but then again, so does the rest of the world.

    6. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Re: world opinion of Israel- you’re right, but I do draw a distinction between broad world opinion in terms of UN votes, etc., versus both public perception (which is mixed) as well as the MASSIVE amounts of incomplete information or downright disinformation as filtered through the media, politicians, and so on. There has been a change here over the last 10 years- for example, the UK is far more critical of Israel now than it’s ever been, but it’s also very hard to penetrate a concerted effort to whitewash Israel’s record. And, yes, Israel/Palestine seems to get everyone on board- including other monster states, who can use the conflict for their own ends. To Iran, Israel is a source of propaganda. To Russia, it is a way to pretend being an honest broker.

      Sri Lanka might posture too, but I honestly get tired of the ‘Israel is not the only one’ complaints. I mean- Israel has been front-and-center of world geopolitics since 1967. No one- not America, and especially not American Jews- gave a shit about Israel before that. If you have huge world relevance AND you are engaging in human rights abuses that an entire region has weaponized into propaganda against the West for decades, you are bound to get some attention. This is all the truer when the world’s leading power has engaged in its own propaganda to justify these abuses, creating push-back both in America (at least in some segments of the population), as well as by other countries who are forced to respond to this propaganda and deal with its consequences. Europe has alliances too, and the Mid-East is actually Europe’s closest geopolitical neighbor. And now that Russia is on its own anti-West axis, and Israel and Russia are courting each other as de facto pariah states, you can’t expect this attention to suddenly diffuse.

    7. Will

      Oh, and I should mention that America has been and continues to be supportive of Sri Lanka in spite of its record.

  59. Gisele

    I enjoyed reading this critique and deconstruction as implied by an earlier comment on this essay. I have already shared it a handful of times on Youtube videos where the threads are openly brimming with pro-Shapiro commenters. They appeared to contentedly caper about in their own conservative echo chambers, often eagerly remarking amongst themselves on the gaping lack of any valid, intelligent dissent or counterpoints from the left (or at least from the people pundits like Shapiro choose to engage). In any case, I optimistically imagined some inventive or imaginative discussions could follow, but expected nothing.

    Well, someone did respond. And this was their response:

    “First off, the very beginning of the article itself shows immediately that there will be major issues with it. Calling someone as respected as Shapiro a “total fraud” then picking apart minor items (that are quite debatable) again mostly based on liberal feelings, is HARDLY proof that someone is in error, and if anything just proves that yet again, liberals ignore facts, or at the very least, ignore facts that support conservative leanings. Sheremet is an idiot himself, he takes conservative ideals promoted by Shapiro, points out a minor area where they didn’t work, failing completely to note the majority of situations where the ideas do work.

    The entire article is a negative vapid load of nonsense, loaded with personal insults, and finding more offense towards him being a conservative, and his viewpoints, than to actually proving the viewpoints themselves are incorrect. Of course conservatives view abortion as murder, simply because Sheremet disagrees with that assumption, that doesn’t make a conservatives position incorrect on principle with the “All human life deserves protection”, liberals do not see abortion as taking a life, conservatives do.

    Take for instance comparing use of tax dollars to fund subsidies for farmers and subsides for planned parenthood. Perhaps if everyone in the United States needed an abortion that would be a valid analogy, but everyone in this country DOES need to eat, and it’s a common ignorant argument against farming subsidies by those who fail to understand that those subsidies help keep family farms in place (and yes, admittedly, they are abused by some corporate farms, that does need to be fixed), and those family farms are the main reason why a loaf of bread or gallon of milk in this country tend to cost about 1/4 of what it does on average in Europe. Cheap food is the backbone of our economy more so than any financial market or big city in the United States. Substantially more people would be affected negatively by farming subsidies being taken away, than if subsidies are taken away from Planned Parenthood.

    Then later, Sheremet basically bashes on Sowell’s incredible amount of work, backed by data, and calls it “odd” and dismisses it, this is a complete mystery, Sheremet does not explain himself whatsoever aside from the fact that he disagrees.

    Stating that someone is not called out on fallacies, then posting up a blog post where a person does it, all while the person posting the blog has plenty of laughable fallacies within his own post, is rather humorous. It’s very easy to sit back and critique someone via written text, when that someone has the balls to do live broadcasts. I seriously doubt that, given equal time on a state in a debate, Mr. Sheremet would fair too well on the opposite side of Mr. Shapiro.

    Yes, it was an interesting read, but digging deeper into Sheremet’s blog, I find his viewpoints to be trapped within the shallow confines of emotional feelings that simply don’t have factual support.”

    A few things happened for me during and after reading this reply. Initially, I was surprised that someone had indeed read the essay. In fact, I still am; there was curiosity on his part, and he ostensibly stuck it out till the end, although it appears the title primed the reader’s negative appraisal. The second thing that struck me was a distinct feeling that he had gotten it wrong, that he was biased and was committing logical fallacies himself. The third thing was paralysis. His comment was a direct response to my own neutral one in which I stated that this was an interesting analysis worth checking out. What would I say? I had no interest in attacking; I wished to post a meaningful response and remain detached from the outcome/reception, but didn’t know what to respond with. It also made me acutely aware of my default knee-jerk reaction to reading something I didn’t agree with, and of the dissonance that invariably followed “feeling” that I didn’t agree with it yet not knowing -how- to justify that position. The fourth thing was this inclination to search for contrasting literature and research that could definitively disprove the author’s limited examples, but this also seemed to stem from some base urge to win the debate. Dropping only facts and links leaves something to be desired anyway. It all felt disingenuous so I chose not to write back.

    You wrote, “…do not assume that some viewpoint is necessarily ‘you’ in a fundamental sense. The view isn’t, but the way one gets to that view is.” I share many of your views, and for the most part, think that I could defend them, yet I don’t know how to go about doing just that in this instance. How would you respond to such a comment? What are your thought processes while you’re responding? You’ve taken it upon yourself to consistently respond to comments here. What keeps you in check? You’ve taken each comment head-on. I understand you’ve arduously honed and refined your writing skills since adolescence–how about what goes on within? How do you separate your SELF from your views and trust that you achieved that? What keeps you in check? How do you know you’re not being too absolute? Do you often catch yourself out on writing fallacious arguments or assuming biased stances? In this article, you took on different positions and unravelled those one by one. How do you know how far to go and when to stop? Was it your repeated exposure to arguments and the many ways they could be framed (and the biases, prejudices, blindspots and fallacies that bled through) that led to where you are now?

    As I clawed through almost every blog post here, I’ve edged closer to the limits of my intellect in a way that transcends that feeling one might get when they realise how little knowledge they actually possess. No, this is something else. This isn’t just about the acquisition and dissemination of information; you explain it, you couple it with opinions and interpretations that elevate it, and you make it come full circle. And while I can more or less grasp the gist of your reviews, analyses and so forth, there is still much to be humbled by. The clarity of your writing is remarkable, and it is a great deal better than a lot of the stuff that is prevalent online. Despite that, I wonder whether I am not guilty of some idealisation. Maybe, to me, this essay is perfect because I can neither identify any contradictions nor can I articulate them. But then this suggests I am weighing in on whatever I read in much the same way as the supporters of the Ben Shapiros, Jordan Petersons, Milos, etc, do. I can’t seem to observe myself from a vantage point severed from emotion and identity. How do you do it?

    Thanks again for reading my meanderings and I apologise for the length and all the questions. I am so very curious.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Gisele,

      Thanks for sharing, but keep in mind that virtually everyone in those cesspools will react to this essay with hurt and frustration. What does Shapiro like to say? ‘Facts don’t care about your feelings’- and yet, look at the dumb comment you quoted, and the morons who invaded this page in the first week the article was posted. They don’t give a shit about addressing specific points, and won’t touch the studies I’ve linked. This, to them, is purely an issue of identity- they are playing identity politics and don’t even know it! They are exactly what they loathe, and are self-loathing because they have nothing except an idol and his YouTube appearances. They wanna be Shapiro, but can’t, because Shapiro has expertly whittled away his own audience until all that’s left is kids even less intelligent than he is, so he can now lord over them. I know you want to ‘get through’ to them, but keep in mind that if you manage to break this spell, they will simply replace it with another one. So, if you link around, I’d just do that and not engage at all with the fallout. Really, it’s a waste of time. If you wish to debate politics, find a serious Internet forum with long-form discussions where the members clearly knowing something about history, philosophy, etc. You will gain a lot more.

      Re: the comment you quoted. I mean, what can I say? This moron is not any less of a moron than any other, save for the fact that he is at least grammatical. Congrats, I guess! To say that I nitpicked Shapiro rather than engaging Shapiro’s statements in-depth, from multiple angles, from preferred turf, and using dozens of references, is absurd. Where’s the nitpick? Shapiro is respected by whom- academics? Or does the commentator mean YouTube dick-jerkers such as himself? Ben has refused to debate any expert on anything, and refuses to even show up on the less friendly liberal talk-shows because he feels like he can’t keep up. Look at the other ‘points’. I did not say we should cut subsidies. I merely said cutting subsidies is a position consistent with laissez faire principles, and it is irrelevant whether 1 or a million people need something if the discussion is ethics in the global scope- but, I digress. Sowell was not the subject of this essay, but of a short comment in which I already point out that Sowell’s positions are in fact identical to Shapiro’s on several key issues, thus making any longer commentary redundant. Yet this jackass wants me to write another essay for him to glibly dismiss? Fuck off, leech! His objection to take on abortion is already answered in the article. Sorry- the fallacy (and emotion) are both his.

      To answer your more specific questions. When I argue, I first try to give the other person some benefit of the doubt- that is, I argue from their preferred turf. It is mostly irrelevant, to me, whether tax cuts lead to GDP growth since GDP growth is not the main goal I have in mind. Yet I begin with why even that conclusion is wrong before I start arguing from my turf. Same with abortion. Look how long it takes before I get to my own core position- abortion as an extension of basic, social contractarian positions that we ALL ascribe to, whether or not we’re willing to admit this (and conservatives generally do not). Instead, I start with abortion by using Ben’s own arguments against him, and highlighting the inconsistencies, within. This allows me to kill off an argument from multiple angles, and forces you to practice thinking from the ‘other’ side even if the ‘true’ argument comes from another angle. The final argument is tested with the strongest 2 or 3 objections I can think of, and if it fails, I do not use it or adjust it so that it does pass. Merely framing an argument incorrectly opens you up to red herrings and nitpicks, and you have to backpedal even if the core claim is 100% correct.

      Thanks for your other words, but keep in mind WHY this essay is (or seems to be) so bullet-proof. It is not simply because my examples are well-chosen, well-argued, and supported by mainstream data. I’ve become a really good rhetorician over the years and so, I’m constantly in a position where I can go for a lazy, well-articulated argument instead of a correct one, since I know how to phrase things in such a way that they are unanswerable- even if they might be wrong. No, I do not engage in such, but the point is, I can, and this is where that ‘perfection’ (as you call it) comes from. It also makes me VERY sensitive to the possibility that I can be wrong on many things, simply because I know how to think my way out of appearing wrong. There is no doubt in my mind that I’m likely wrong on any number of issues- yet the only difference between me and any other person is that 1) I’m willing to admit it, 2) I do put an honest, careful effort into being right. I don’t think anything in this essay is dishonest. Yet even writing the abortion section, I was surprised at how many sophistic, super clever, pro-abortion arguments came to mind that I had to essentially drown, in favor of arguments that might be less clever but more intellectually defensible. Do you think this sort of conflict even crosses Shapiro’s mind? I don’t. Most people DO go out of their way to be dishonest, and you CANNOT fully separate the intellect from emotion. Literally, the primary reason why we even have a liberal/conservative divide is because of a psychological orientation that gets inherited at birth, and honed over time. People who truly cross over are uncommon. And many are simply extremists that swing from one extreme to the next- see Horowitz and Eldridge Cleaver, for example, two commies who became arch-conservatives when the thing which once fed their sickness eventually dried up. Yet they were never cured, and quickly moved to feed on the next corpse.

      In sum- I don’t want you to idealize me in any way, whether it’s my writing or my person or anything else. This goes for any reader on this page. I have idealized many people before, and wrongly, it turned out. It’s just a bad idea. Look at religious idiots, the Sam Harris sycophants, the Ben boosters. I may not be in their category, but how do YOU know that? I am revealing to you only what I wish to reveal. I am revealing to you only what YOU are willing to see- or are smart enough to see! I could simply be a sophist. Or I could merely be deluded. I welcome, obviously, any attempt to prove this by way of argument and reason, but the point is, until that successfully happens, you will have to simply take my word for it. And you shouldn’t. Take whatever you need from this essay or others, but I don’t want to be a pundit or thought of as someone with lots and lots of answers. I have many, but I will never have enough for any one person- your needs are simply not my own. You strike me as a smart person, so you likely already know this, but just keep this in mind if you haven’t yet thought about what YOUR needs are.

  60. Shaun

    Hey Alex,

    You mention political debate forums as a way to learn more. Do you have any specific forums that you’d recommend?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Not really. It’s been too long. Yet if you search for “politics forum” or a “philosophy forum”, you’ll get a bunch, the latter of which most likely has a politics sub-section. You can also post to ideological boards, if you feel like you won’t get sucked in too deeply into one way of viewing the world.

  61. Samuel

    Hey Alex,

    Since you are against tagetting individuals for their group tendency despite the fact that they may have consistently been associated with crimes and acts harmful to society. How would you then, propose to handle the current Muslim problem? Immigration and foreign policy, accepting refugees, border control, etc. Would you also prefer to adopt a similar constitutional stance against pragmatism for gun control?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Samuel,

      That depends on what you mean by gun control ‘pragmatism’. I am actually quite pro-gun, although not in the ways modern Repubs might be, and for very different reasons. Before you answer this question, keep in mind what happens when you disaggregate certain data points in favor of salient traits.

      As for the modern Muslim ‘problem’- again, that depends on what you mean by the word ‘problem’. Are you specifically referring to terrorism? Where? In America, abroad, or both? In general, the best way to deal with terrorism is to stop doing things that promote terrorism. So, no more money for Wahhabism, no Mid-East adventures, no coups against moderate factions in favor of extremists (such as Israeli support for Hamas in the 1980s against the PLO’s ‘peace offensive’), no playing off both sides of the Sunni/Shia divide and their respective patronage networks, and- perhaps most importantly- working towards both a diplomatic and economic Marshall Plan to bring Muslims what they want the most…including, of course, video games, girls in thongs and various forms of lingerie, booze, weed, McDonald’s, and American television. The goal- as maligned as it is- is utter mediocrity in the medium term.

      All of this assumes, by the way, that religious-based terrorism is an existential threat to the United States. It is not, and when most Americans are actually dying from the marriage between personal stupidity and corporate malfeasance, I’m gonna insist that these far more boring concerns is where we put most of our attention to. A typical American has virtually nothing to fear from terror, and everything to fear from too many carcinogens, some poorly regulated pharmaceutical, and sugar being pumped into his food.

    2. Samuel

      By pragmatism, suppose that if gun control was statistically shown to be able to decrease gun violence, and the data could further demonstrate that increased number of gun ownership tends to lead a consistency of greater gun violence, would you be for or against it? You wrote a little about our humane cognitive biases of controlling for factors beyond our control earlier in one of your comments, but I don’t see that the logic of attempting to make society safer is necessarily a liability just because it might possibly infringe on our freedom a little bit. It may be a small chance that a terrorist attempt of hijacking planes like 9/11 would occur very frequently, but I doubt anyone would feel safe sitting on a plane knowing there are no safety regulations on it.

      Not exactly an equivalent here, but similarly we have significant portions of data showing that increased influx of immigration and refugees in Europe has led to bad results. I awknowledge the number of terrorist attacks in American soil has been relatively low compared to Europe, but that’s partly also because of our strict border control and immigration policies. That’s also why I asked you what’s your stance specifically on those two. I generally agree with you on everything there, but I don’t suppose you’d think that alone would stop the terrorists? More muslims are being killed by other muslims in their own countries and radical jihadists have terrorized other non-western countries who should be completely irrelevant to their feud with the west. All of those goals cannot be achieved in the short run either. Terrorism is not an existential threat to America, but that doesn’t mean it is not a threat at all. With more recent examples of terrorists blowing off on concerts, killing kids in school, squashing people with their truck of peace – people are becoming more and more concerned about their safety. You cannot just tell them to live with terrorism and not expect someone like Trump to get elected in the process.

      Also how much pro-gun are you really? Because the republicans I know love to push the idea that guns don’t kill people, only people do, and because some gun control policies haven’t managed to deter a few mass-shootings, they are altogether utterly useless and we should remove all regulations. I don’t think you would be the type to argue against basic things like mandatory training and background checks.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Re: gun ownership, this is what I support. I’d like every city and state to have reasonably accessible concealed carry permits. By ‘reasonably accessible’, I mean this. Every person that owns a gun (especially for concealed carry) needs to pass an annual background check and submit to annual psych evaluations. Any violent offenses are automatic disqualifications. I’d ban all silencers, gun show purchases, assault weapons, and idiotic stuff like that. I’d make sentencing for illegal gun ownership much harsher, as well- perhaps a 10 year minimum or whatever other number can be established to be effective. Conservatives like to posture, and claim that their defense of gun ownership is somehow tied to defending themselves against the state, but that only makes them sound nutty. My argument is simple self-defense that has nothing to do with the state and some hypothetical tyranny. Thus, these suggestions are WAY stricter than what conservatives typically like, but it also opens up legal gun ownership in highly controlled ways in places where it’s otherwise impossible, such as New York.

      By pragmatism, suppose that if gun control was statistically shown to be able to decrease gun violence, and the data could further demonstrate that increased number of gun ownership tends to lead a consistency of greater gun violence, would you be for or against it? You wrote a little about our humane cognitive biases of controlling for factors beyond our control earlier in one of your comments, but I don’t see that the logic of attempting to make society safer is necessarily a liability just because it might possibly infringe on our freedom a little bit.

      It depends to what degree it helps, and how strong the correlation is. Yet I suspect what I’ve outlined, above, can satisfy both the more rational conservatives as well as gun-happy liberals while eliminating gun violence to a significant extent.

      Not exactly an equivalent here, but similarly we have significant portions of data showing that increased influx of immigration and refugees in Europe has led to bad results.

      The net effect of immigration is almost always a positive in the long term. This is both true in tangible and intangible terms.

      I awknowledge the number of terrorist attacks in American soil has been relatively low compared to Europe, but that’s partly also because of our strict border control and immigration policies.

      Then take your argument back to European turf. Are you really willing to suggest that Europe has a serious terrorist problem affecting the general population? If so, how serious is ‘serious’, in your eyes? If the risk of dying from a terror attack, in Europe, is about 1/100th the risk of dying in your bathtub, does Europe truly need a significant policy overhaul- particularly when we compare today’s violence rates (from all causes) compared to one century, five centuries, and ten centuries ago? Further, if we can establish that- say- the risk of death due to corporate malfeasance is 1000X greater than the risk from terror, would you support the media covering such at 1000X the rate? Because, if we assume limited resources and honest risk assessments, I am not very convinced that terrorism (at least in the way it’s presently discussed) is the issue it’s made out to be except in war torn and/or 3rd-world nations. And even there, your risk of dying from, say, a water shortage, or an infection, is astronomically higher than from a terror attack. Again- where do you want to put your attention to, in the face of limited resources?

      I generally agree with you on everything there, but I don’t suppose you’d think that alone would stop the terrorists? More muslims are being killed by other muslims in their own countries and radical jihadists have terrorized other non-western countries who should be completely irrelevant to their feud with the west. All of those goals cannot be achieved in the short run either. Terrorism is not an existential threat to America, but that doesn’t mean it is not a threat at all. With more recent examples of terrorists blowing off on concerts, killing kids in school, squashing people with their truck of peace – people are becoming more and more concerned about their safety. You cannot just tell them to live with terrorism and not expect someone like Trump to get elected in the process.

      Again, I’m going to ask you to put all this in perspective. You are saying “live with terrorism”, etc., as if it’s a constant and enduring threat. How true is this, really? Look at the examples I’ve given above. I guarantee you that there are at least a hundred things (to be quite conservative) far more threatening to the average Westerner than terrorism, often by factors of a thousand or more. Yet there is a reason why people fear terrorism over far deeper and more omnipresent threats, and that is cognitive bias. Further, I’m arguing that the attention things like street violence and terrorism get vs. these other issues encourages not only paranoia, but less impetus to solve real shit that DOES matter.

      Look at Trump’s presidential campaign, for example. He ran partly on an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant platform as if this is part of some American crisis. Lots of bought it. But let’s imagine Trump was not a complete moron, and managed to 1) stop ALL Islamic terrorism in America, 2) ALL illegal immigration, 3) pass one of those idiotic health care packages that would kick tens of millions of people off of insurance.

      Question- which of those 3 would have the most dramatic effect on everyday death rates in America- even if we were to assume a 10,000 casualty terrorist attack gets stopped in the next 5 years due to these draconian policies?

      And that’s just healthcare. Terrorism- as far as I can tell- is being dealt with well enough. I mean, since 9/11, we’ve had, what? A few hundred deaths (at most) on American soil that can be linked to Islam? We’ve probably had many more lives that were saved due to both national intelligence and police work, most of which is not conducted in an illegal or abusive way. Yet the costs of bringing these terrorist attacks down to zero (meaning, NO chance of death for the average person) from a few hundred (meaning, a NEAR-ZERO chance of death for the average person) are way bigger for society — if we implement racial profiling, semi-permanent immigrant bans, etc. — than simply keeping the status quo. It’s just not worth it. The benefit will mostly be a perceived benefit, and that’s not good enough.

  62. Edward Huynh

    I have to say that this is a phenomenal read. You’ve broken down most of Ben’s arguments and exposed them for what they are: empty rhetoric. I’ve taken the liberty of sharing this essay with multiple videos online. However, one of the commentators had this to say; “I’d also like to add I read a bit more of the link and the guy who wrote it is a total moron who accuses Ben of not understanding statistics while making huge mistakes in the analysis of those very same statistics regarding percentages of blacks born to single mothers. Ben’s argument is higher % of fatherless blacks => higher % of black poverty. The idiot then goes on to claim Ben is being disingenuous because he doesn’t mention that the total number of fatherless blacks isn’t higher, not understanding that the total number doesn’t factor on the % of black poverty because it’s a fucking percentage. And this isn’t even the only case where this guy presents studies that don’t contradict Ben’s arguments and pretends they do, either because he doesn’t understand the argument of because he misinterpreted the study.” How would you argue against this? Even after reading your article that highlights Ben’s dishonesty, some still think Ben as someone to be propped up?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Thanks for the comments.

      First- I’m not denying that TRUE single motherhood (more on this below) will contribute to poverty. I mean, duh. Cut your family’s productive labor by half, and what do you suppose you get? That said, black divorced fathers (or those that have never been married) are typically more involved in their children’s lives than white fathers, which is another confounding variable that has not been closely evaluated. Further, the 70% statistic refers to unwed mothers- not ‘single’ mothers. 60% of black fathers co-habitate with their children- hardly the picture Shapiro is in fact painting. To put this in perspective, roughly 80% of white fathers co-habitate with their children. That’s actually a fairly modest difference between black/white, at present, not some huge, multiple orders of magnitude jump Shapiro implies in the black community alone. It is no one’s fault that half a century ago, almost all parents married, thus skewing an economic reality by the ruffle of a certificate.

      Also- yeah, the 20% difference is real, and can have some consequences as I’ve already said. But what’s the reason behind this difference? Conservatives basically say, close your legs, whore, and it’ll all get better. Economists take a more nuanced view, however. Janet Yellen- you know, an actual, well-respected researcher- has primarily blamed the 20 to 70% statistic on the decline of shotgun marriages in the last 5 decades- a non-negotiable, really, which will forever be with us going forward. From what I can tell, this is the biggest contributing factor. Yet others exist as well, such as the growth of the welfare state (a mild effect that replaces true fathers with a state surrogate), for the poor, and careerism for the better off (thus depressing birth rates among the married and skewing ALL statistics). Another is pure sexual economics. Black females outnumber black males, due to incarceration and significantly decreased mortality. In EVERY society on earth with such skewing, this creates a de facto polygamous arrangement where fathers have multiple children with multiple women, even if they are living with only one child. Rather than blaming it on some deficit in black culture, I’d like Shapiro to give me ANY example, anywhere, present or past, where men who outnumber women DON’T engage in the same sexual practices. It’s the physiology, stupid! So, if these folks really gave a damn about black whatever, they’d really be addressing poverty and incarceration to bridge this 60/80% divide rather than implicitly bemoaning the fact that men and women are no longer compelled to marry. Further, it’s not even clear that unwed parenting IN AND OF ITSELF is a risk factor for anything at all. Keep in mind that in France, only 50% of kids are living with married parents- a 150% jump (if using the same thinking behind their original statistics) from the ‘black illegitimacy’ rate conservatives point to in the black community during its ‘golden’ years (um, ok). Yet France is STILL better of in pretty much every single marker vis-a-vis America. Clearly, there’s something else at play here they are uncomfortable with addressing.

      Second, the moron cannot follow simple logic. IF it is in fact true that the 20 to 70% illegitimacy jump is mostly a product of WEDDED behavior, rather than true fatherlessness, it is simply irrelevant that “the total number doesn’t factor on the % of black poverty because it’s a fucking percentage”. Why? Because TOTAL fatherlessness has been more or less stable, EXCEPT for the fatherlessness that can be accounted rather equitably in BOTH white and non-white populations due to a decline in shotgun marriages (search the comment section for the phrase). This change is simply irreversible at this point for obvious reasons, and implicitly cheerleading for the opposite is just ludicrous. Further, non-white teen pregnancy has dropped 50% over the last few decades- surely that would stall black poverty, at least? Right?! Yet the gulf between black/white continues to grow dramatically, and sorry- economists have pinned this on all the reasons I’ve already written of in the article and comments, NOT on the culture war bullshit this moron wishes to engage in.

      And Edward- do not be surprised that anyone in an ideological bubble does not wish to see reality. I’ve had tweets by liberal morons, too, who hated the fact that I called out the Left in this essay. I’ve had morons who could not stomach the fact that I ‘attacked’ the lying Emma Sulkowicz. Then there are Men’s Rights morons who think I don’t go far enough in my critiques of feminism. Fuck ’em all. I’ve had enough of these parasites that want you merely for completing their own agenda. Too bad, as I happen to have my own agenda.

      By the way, this is the last time I’ll be responding to comments from anyone other than those directly posting under this article. If someone wishes to engage me, they are free to write to the site like everyone else. I’m uninterested in hearing what some random YouTuber has to say about me, or else I’d be responding to nonsense all day.

  63. Christopher

    What are your thoughts on all the Russian hacked elections? Or even Wikileaks supposed involvement? I’ve recently started watching David Pakman, and though I agree with many of his positions, it’s these issues that I find myself in opposition to David. Personally, I believe that much of the Russia narrative is just hot air and gaslighting from the DNC. It just gives them an excuse not to address many of the problems the American people struggle with today. I also find it hypocritical of many of these pundits and politicians to point fingers at Russia when our own government intervened in the elections of other sovereign nations and overthrowing their democratically elected leaders. What’s worse is that anyone going against this narrative is automatically labeled a puppet of the Kremlin. It’s McCarthyism all over again. Now, I’m not saying Russia hacking our elections is ok, but I don’t really see any strong evidence to conclude that they did. At the end of the day, Clinton lost to Trump because of reasons that have been stated again and again. None of which are really illegal.

    Reply
    1. Silas

      “Personally, I believe that much of the Russia narrative is just hot air and gaslighting from the DNC.”

      The intelligence agencies are the ones who came to the conclusion that the Russian government interfered with the election. Are you suggesting that the DNC controls the intelligence agencies, even under the Trump administration?

      “It just gives them an excuse not to address many of the problems the American people struggle with today.”

      It doesn’t IMO. Progressives will still battle the ‘centrist’ Democrats for control of the party. Policy will still be argued out. Another faction’s actions don’t absolve the DNC of its issues.

      “I also find it hypocritical of many of these pundits and politicians to point fingers at Russia when our own government intervened in the elections of other sovereign nations and overthrowing their democratically elected leaders.”

      This is classic whataboutism. Even if you can prove that the US government intervened in similar ways to the Russian government and on a similar scale, that doesn’t mean that we should just let it happen to us. Previous leaders/officials have made mistakes in the past – does that mean us current citizens should just take it up the ass?

      By your logic, we should allow terrorists to nuke us in the name of their ideology because we nuked Hiroshima in the name of ours.

      There’s a false dichotomy being created wherein we’re forced to choose between either investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections and protecting ourselves agains it or focusing on policy issues. The reality is that we can do simultaneous justice to both.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I agree with Silas, and David Pakman. No, Russia did not ‘hack’ the election, in the sense that they managed to change votes and such, but they did attempt to penetrate voting machines. Yes, Russian bots and FB ads, etc., made up a TINY fraction of all politics-related web traffic/targeting in 2016, but they were there, and they were meant to sway the outcome. A couple of real-life events (however small) were staged in America due to their intervention. A few somewhat known Twitter ‘celebs’ were actually Russian trolls. And Russia IS trying to accumulate as many useful idiots as possible by way of appealing to both sides.

      Some conservatives love Putin- he is anti-gay, nominally religious, etc. Some genuine leftists like Putin too- he is the anti-American in a world dominated by American hegemony. Russia telegraphs multiple contradictory bits of info- Ukraine is a non-state, on the one hand, and has no language of its own. Then, Ukraine is a hostile state, and is repressing Russian-speakers by imposing their own language. Which is true? Putin executes dissidents and the like. Then he calls Edward Snowden a hero, and is cheered. Again- which is true? This is a wonderfully nuanced propaganda tool, and Putin is a goddamn master of it.

      Russia would love to kill off American power. That’s obviously just the way of the world, particularly for a nation (like Russia) with a messianic complex and no tangible worth to show for it. What Russia did is definitely overblown by Dems who ARE trying to use Russia to absolve themselves of any responsibility for 2016. But, that is not the same thing as saying Russia did nothing. You ought to take a more nuanced position here.

      http://alexsheremet.com/the-russian-hacks-are-distracting-you-from-the-real-problem/

    3. Christopher

      Thank you both for answering. That article you linked is another great read. I’ve despised the DNC since their shenanigans in the 2016 primaries and election, but I’ve come to realize it’s the people who are currently running the DNC are what aggravated me. Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk co-founded the Justice Democrats along with Cenk Ugyur. In your honest opinion, do you think they stand a chance? Would a third party be more viable? Thanks for answering!

    4. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      We’ll see. A lot has to change before a third party is viable, such as instant runoff voting. Yet I tend to vote third party anyway, because the alternative – political stasis, and a de facto hostage situation every 4-8 years – ensures that monsters keep coming, and will continue to exploit the system.

    5. Christopher

      @ Alex the more I look into the tax plan, the more depressed I become. People are cheering this? I don’t consider myself very articulate or intelligent, but even I can see that trickle down economics is an utter joke. Several of my closest friends/family voted for Trump, and although I cherish them very much, it’s difficult to see them celebrate something that’s going to hurt them. Do you have anyone close to you that voted and still supports Trump? How do you deal with it? Thanks again for answering.

    6. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Some people are cheering it, sure, but it’s a pretty unpopular bill. Of course it will hurt people. The plan is always the same- balloon the deficit by giving tax cuts to the wealthy, then cry about the national debt with entitlements put up as a sacrifice. I know the stock market rallies at this kind of shit, but it is an irrational response. It will create significant long-term instability in the wider economic sphere in exchange for a quick corporate pump in the short term.

      Not close, but I definitely know and am friendly with a number of Trump voters. It is something to needle them with and joke about, not much more. I don’t necessarily resent the gullible.

  64. Jamie

    A very interesting and informative read. I’ll admit to some confirmation bias as I was actively searching for a critique of Shapiro’s debating style. Not having seen him in action alarm bells started ringing when I started hearing the words “genius”, “intellectual” etc. Terms probably about as overused as “racist” and “SJW” on the internet.

    Despite Shapiro’s reputation the conclusion of your piece isn’t surprising if this is in a country where Trump is considered by many as a competent politician.

    I wrote a short rant on Reddit, about the paucity of quality debate and rational discourse in the World. Plus the rampant use of sophistry in public discourse. I hold what you might consider classical Cynical views.

    I don’t have a background in philosophy or dialectics(other than existing(maybe)) but for the longest time it’s seemed to me that public debate is principally about influencing the audience and not reaching informed consensus or seeking truth.

    Having said that, I’m glad there are people like you taking the time to deconstruct flawed thinking or sophistry, because many of us are exhausted just thinking about adroitly arguing against asinine assertions.

    As they say: Argue not with idiots. Onlookers can’t tell the difference.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Yes, that’s why I hate public debates. Just look at Politicon 2017. People hoot and scream for a good show, and nothing more. Liars get away with lying, and that can’t really change unless people learn how to read. You can’t weasel your way out of a dumb position if it’s subject to 5 carefully written objections from 5 different sides, and you must answer them knowing there will be a careful riposte. By contrast, a public debate appeals more to what the brain immediately apprehends, even if wrong.

      Thanks for reading.

  65. Silas

    Alex,

    Regarding your vote for Jill Stein, I’m curious what that actually accomplishes. We know based on pre-election polls that Stein had a 0% chance of winning. Wouldn’t not voting give the same result as voting for Jill Stein? If you take away the 3 million people who voted for Jill Stein, nothing changes. The political climate would still be the same. Had those 3 million people voted for Clinton, we would have stagnation for the next 1-2 presidential terms from a progressive perspective, which is certainly better than the years of regression that we will likely be seeing in the years to come.

    Afterwards, the progressives would likely wage war on the corporate Democrats for control of the party, similar to what we saw in 2016 with Sanders. If we assume that the progressive movement will increase the same amount during Clinton’s hypothetical term as it did under Obama’s term, I think it’s reasonable to believe that such a ‘war’ would result in a progressive victory.

    Is there any advantage in increasing the chances of victory for Trump/Republican, which is essentially what voting for Stein did? Perhaps I am missing some nuance to your point. Is it that a Trump victory would actually prove to be beneficial to the progressive cause compared to a ‘corporate’ Democrat perhaps due to the backlash that Trump would face?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      The short answer is, accountability. The Dems know, unfortunately, that the Dem voting bloc is more or less a mass of (in their mind) useful idiots. They know they can do whatever they want to them; they can rig primaries, they can move more and more right, they can fail legislatively, they can even prop up monsters (Reagan, Bush, Trump) by way of their own moral vacuum, and there will STILL be a healthy majority ready to say, “Yeah, but…” and live on excuses. The only thing these pricks fear is actual loss of votes, which is why every 4 years there’s a predictable outrage-machine all revved up against Green voters to shame them into ‘behaving’. It is precisely this mentality of being ‘owed’ something that’s utterly destroying Dems, since they’re too sassy to accept the most basic facts of voter psychology as presented to them by folks like Jonathan Haidt, whom they ignore out of sheer arrogance. They still think they can casually lose 3 mil liberal votes every election cycle and win. Perhaps. Yet if the number is 4 million, or 5 million, they will literally have no choice but to adapt, and to co-opt the Green platform. This is what Obama did in ’08 (at least in spirit), and why the Greens netted a measly 1/5th of their regular numbers then.

      What people fail to realize is how utterly stagnant politics has been for decades now. I can’t think of a single truly great legislative accomplishment in my lifetime, and it seems that every 4 years or so, it’s basically just a war of attrition between 2 parties slowly chipping away at each other’s agendas, only to reinstate (or retract) the parts they can once they get a slim majority. This is a literal death march to nowhere. I do not blame the Republicans for the Reagan/Bush/Trump swamp-things. I blame Dems, because it is Dem inaction and desire to play to both sides that allows Repubs to rightfully say ‘Aha! You’ve lied’, then prop up their monsters as a corrective. We are thus in a perpetual hostage situation where Dems throw shitty, self-serving candidates, then tell us to shut the fuck up and vote because the alternative is even worse. Yet I’ve dropped out of this bullshit a long time ago because I realize it’s not Trump that’s the problem, but that Dem non-accountability is birthing new Trumps just around the corner. A pretty good hustle they have there- get the most fucked up people on the other side imaginable, then offer a protection racket that works only about half of the time.

      That said, I don’t necessarily begrudge Hillary voters, especially those with a serious, tangible fear from a Trump presidency. My wife, best friend, and brother all voted for Hillary and I think it’s decent from a tactical standpoint. The liberal Hillary voter thinks they’ll avoid Trump, for now, and try to change the party from within in the meantime. I think that’s way oversimplifying things, but OK. Yet that is merely your agenda. My agenda is to bring pressure from the outside, by de facto bleeding votes simply by voting for the best candidate running (although I actually dislike Stein and almost stayed home this time). It is wrong to assume that it’s simply the progressive wing that trying to wrest control from corporate Dems. It is ALSO the possibility that the Greens’ 3 million can easily turn to 4 or 5 million next time around, guaranteeing irreversible losses forever and for aye. The Dems are constantly on edge about those ‘entitled, irresponsible, thoughtless assholes’, and it’s definitely figured into some of their strategy whether they will admit it or not. Yet people ought to take the strategy they are comfortable with, as I think both tactics have a place.

    2. Silas

      So, in essence, your response to the question, “Is it that a Trump victory would actually prove to be beneficial to the progressive cause compared to a ‘corporate Democrat victory?” would be “Yes”, correct? Your rationale being that the Democrats (as a whole) will now be more likely to switch to progressive stances because their loss in 2016 largely came down to their inability to attract enough progressive voters. Is this an oversimplification of your view, or am I on the right track? Apologies if it is the former.

      If that is an accurate summary, what would you say to people like Sam Sedar, who ridicule those who wanted a Trump victory:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqrggq2ceWw

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      No, that’s not really my answer although perhaps it’s part of it. I know lots of progressives have felt the need to adopt some sort of ‘parity’ approach, where Trump is as good (or even better) than Hillary. I find this absurd, and have written on this before. Clinton was more competent and- in my proposed framework- would have been the one to consolidate the bits of incremental progress made under Obama, as opposed to Trump’s equally incremental dismantling of it. The wonderful thing is that, in my system, I don’t need to paint Hillary as ‘worse’ in order for it to make sense. In my historical worldview, we are dealing with placeholders, for the most part, not movers and visionaries, and so I don’t need to moralize

      Voting Green (or any other party, really) may or may not push Dems to the Left during a given election cycle. That’s really a toss-up, although in the long term the existence of a large non-Dem liberal bloc is obviously a great thing for liberalism. The deeper point is that, over the course of 3 or 4 decades, the net effect of voting Dem ‘no matter what’ is stasis, at best, and hostage-taking at worst. This is not theory. I’d simply tell you to look around, and tell me where we are- bad trade deals, an explosion of incarceration, and destruction of the welfare state under Clinton, trickle-down under Reagan, Bush, and Trump, a refusal to regulate under Obama and the killing of the public option due to just one Dem moron who was picked by yet another Dem moron in 2000 to be his running mate. Inequality is rising. Racial politics are ‘in’ because labor politics have been out for so long. I don’t know you, but really- is there anything the Dems can do (or not do) that would make you withhold your vote? If the answer is no, how can you honestly expect the Dems to change themselves? They know you are faithful and dependable. You will do precisely as they ask, even though you might grumble, and they’re banking on this. In turn, this will absolutely ensure that another Trump is just around the corner, waiting to fill the niche that Dems refuse to. My real concern is what happens cyclically, not just an individual Trump or an individual Bush (as bad as they are). America seems to be the only modern nation on earth which produces monsters over and over again, and no one dares examine why.

      There’s this weird idea that Green voters are merely the Dems’ own prodigal children. I mean, what? You might as well try to convince Republican voters to vote Dem, but this- for whatever reason- is never the conversation after a Dem loss. It’s always the Greens who are targeted. Yeah, I get it- the assumption is that Greens and Dems have some common ground whereas Dems and Republicans do not. This is true, but the basis of comparison ought NOT be ‘common ground’, unless you just want to keep losing. The basis of comparison is whether this liberal bloc WILL OR WILL NOT VOTE DEM- and the answer is ALWAYS ‘it depends on the candidate’. This is Voter Psychology 101, and it’s appalling that Dems have refused to consider actual research on this topic. Yet this is merely symptomatic of the Dems’ disconnect from the real world.

      I’m aware of what Sam Seder and Michael Brooks think of 3rd party voting, and although I love their shows, this is a point of disagreement. It does strike me as odd, however, that while Sam Seder has spent the past decade or so criticizing Dem corruption, etc., he is then angered that people in his audience would act on the very information he imparts. Really, if you think long-term preservation of Dem votes is what’s most important, the rational course of action is to not criticize Dems at all since this means, literally, you will push voters away in the macro (where Real Life happens) even though you might call them out and bitch at them in the micro (where mere individuals live). Yet there has been one and only one thing which has ever moved the macro, if the Dems are willing to stop gambling, and to start listening.

      Personally, I prefer Russell Brand’s take on all this, which Michael Brooks praised and even played the clip, but did not really discuss:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkFJvHepN2g

    4. Silas

      I would argue that under Obama, we saw genuine progress. At least ‘progress’ relative to what we would have had under a GOP administration.

      You justifiably point to bad policies in America, but I think many of those come down to political pressure/action from the GOP. While certain corporate Democrats did indeed get in the way of the public option, it’s undeniable that Obamacare, despite its numerous flaws, was a vast improvement over what was in place before and what would have been in place had a GOP administration been in control.

      Then there’s anthropogenic climate change, a topic the GOP doesn’t even seem to acknowledge. Clinton and other ‘corporate’ Democrats like her (including Obama) have been seeking to diminish the effects of climate change for years. Net neutrality is another one that comes to mind.

      I saw a post on Reddit outlining the difference between the Democratic Congressional Members and the Republican Congressional Members:

      https://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/6pc5qu/democrats_propose_rules_to_break_up_broadband/dkon8t4/

      To me, the relative difference between the Republicans and Democrats like Clinton/Obama is vast.

      In response to your question: “is there anything the Dems can do (or not do) that would make you withhold your vote?”

      If the situation is such that there are only two choices in the general election (Republican vs. Democrat) and the relative difference between the two continues to be as significant as I believe it to be, then I don’t see how I could in good conscience NOT vote for the Democrat. When I look at the recent Net Neutrality vote or Trump’s proposed tax plan or the recent healthcare slashes, I think to how different things would look under Clinton/’corporate’ Democrats. It wouldn’t be close to perfect, but it would be SUBSTANTIALLY better than what we have now.

      I would agree with your reasoning IF primaries did not exist. But the existence of primaries makes it so that by voting for a corporate Democrat in the general election, you are not necessarily telling the corporate Democrat, “You’re safe buddy, you can do anything and I’ll vote for you.” His ass will (hopefully) be primaried assuming the progressive cause is advertised well and argued for intelligently.

      Of course there’s no guarantee that this will happen, but there’s also no guarantee that voting for a third party will spur progressive change. What IS guaranteed in voting for a green party is the contribution to the election of a GOP candidate, which has a profoundly negative effect compared to the election of a corporate Democrat.

      I think I do understand where you’re coming from though. You see this as an endless cycle wherein the progressives will never really have a chance to take over the Democratic Party. We also probably disagree a bit on just how much worse the GOP/Trump is compared to the corporate Democrats. Both are understandable points of contention.

    5. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I actually don’t disagree with much of that. Obama DID push the country permanently left- there is no way, for example, to turn back the clock now things like universal healthcare. This is why I voted for Obama, not Green. He was, without a doubt, the best president we’ve had in many decades- which is, I fear, less of a compliment to Obama than it is a damnation of all the bad presidents we’ve had. I also don’t think living under corporate Dems in a utopian one-party dictatorship would be all that bad. The country would get better, bit by bit, and rational people do see this.

      But look at the paragraph I just wrote. Notice the 2 conditions- the first in Obama, who was a once-in-a-generation politician. The second in the one-party dictatorship, in which Republicans don’t get to compete. My issue is NOT with the Obamas of the world, even though a part of me still thinks they do poorly in a country riddled by morons. My issue lies in the fact that #1 is by definition rare, and #2 is impossible- meaning, at least 50% of the time, we WILL get a Repub administration to undo progress, AND ensure that the cycle of attrition can continue more or less forever. I think this is the effect of Dems not listening to polls/popular demands, as well as near-total allegiance to the Dem party among half of active voters. If the Greens/principled non-voters did not exist, the losses would be appreciably greater over time. And if I do in fact believe this (and I do!), this is really where I need to budge/be rebutted, not anywhere else.

      Note, again, what my argument is, and why Dems being better than Repubs is at best only tangential to it. If every president was Obama, and did everything Obama really wanted to do, I think we’d literally supercharge human evolution and have total world peace and free sex for all by 2100. Yet if you only give me Obama every 40 years, and a near-guaranteed method for a hostage crisis every 4, it is almost irrelevant what I or anyone else does.

      Like I said, throwing your weight in with corporate Dems is not necessarily wrong, and can work. There’s definitely a place for that. But you absolutely also need Greens, principled non-voters, and weird-party (Nazis, libertarians, communists) wildcards, in order to make the present outcome not worse than 50%. The reason is basic voter psychology. Repubs have a very specific program of sucking voters’ blood, and whipping up a certain kind of passion. If the Dems become indistinguishable from Repubs, the Repubs would be guaranteed wins forever, because there would literally be nothing emotionally tangible for Dem voters to latch on to in their own party. Just look at the electoral vote in Reagan’s 2 elections. Yes, I know 3rd party types often hate Dems, period. And I know that committed Dem voters often hate 3rd party voters. But guess what- the Dems need the 3rd party voters for their own survival, as much as the Greens need Dems as a point of distinction. I’ve often used destructive imagery for hyperbolic effect, but really, I see all this more as shapeshifting rather than cannibalism.

      America felt different in 2008, the day after Obama’s election. By 2012, and especially by 2016, it just felt cheated. Yet people voted overwhelmingly for a black man. I don’t think this gets repeated enough. I don’t think this gets figured enough into race-conversation. But it happened, and the Dems don’t know how to replicate it. Yet you don’t even need an Obama. You need charisma, a message, and commitment, even if it’s not in Obama’s specific proportions. If not, you will find yourself always in an uphill battle to forever scrub and restore what everyone else destroys, and more often than not, you’ll lose on important issues. The country today is both far better and far worse than it was in 1970, and to me, that’s kinda frightening.

      You do you, I’ll do me, because America absolutely needs both- and the Dems, especially.

  66. Billy

    @Jamie:

    “[…] for the longest time it’s seemed to me that public debate is principally about influencing the audience and not reaching informed consensus or seeking truth.”

    In 1831, German philosopher Arthur Shopenhauer published a book[1] of 38 rethorical tricks to convince the audience that you’re right, even when you’re objectively wrong. So, “for the longest time” is literally true!

    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Being_Right

    Reply
    1. Jamie

      There it is in black and white; “28. Persuade the Audience, Not the Opponent” .
      “14.Claim Victory Despite Defeat” – well internet comments do this on behalf of the debater amplifying the effect exponentially.

      I think this leaves us with a dilemma. Do avoid engaging with people to avoid legitimizing their illogical or unethical viewpoints? Or do we argue against their views, because left unchecked they can directly do untold damage or lead to untold damage in unforeseen ways?

      Take the issue of healthcare. I’m from Europe where socialized medicine is an accepted norm and it’s just a question of how to fund it. Something I’m in favour of. However, to debate a staunchly conservative American for example, they’re likely to have to have intractable view that healthcare is something of a privilege. I would make some counter argument along the lines that in its duty to preserve the lives of its citizens a government has various mechanisms in place to this end. A heart attack or tumour is no less a threat to life than an armed intruder or a flash flood or fire and so forth.

      But to an American audience of such a debate, whom are already inculcated in that “privilege not a right” mindset, the frame of reference is already heavily tilted and even a weak anti national healthcare argument will likely sway public opinion. Maybe “reinforce” or “harden” is more apt than sway in that instance.

      Some other suppositions that would likely be at play; there is a Christian god and America is a Christian nation, following from that the Gospel of Prosperity and Just World Fallacy thinking.

      As another example there’s the resurgence of Flat Earth conspiracy theorists etc. which I think arise from the same mindset. It’s a patently ridiculous proposition that maybe needs to be tackled to prevent thinking like that metastasizing into something more dangerous. At the same time the mere act of engaging in open debate lends the “theory” some perceived legitimacy as a contrasting and credible theory.

      Besides we all know the World rests atop a disc carried by four elephants itself astride a giant turtle.

      That turned out longer than intended but I guess the trust is it that this has always been an issue but it feels like there’s even less room for truth-seeking and rational today.

      If you’re interested; to clarify my previous comment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynicism_(philosophy)#Philosophy

  67. Christopher

    Thanks so much for answering these questions Alex. What is your position on net neutrality? I support it, because I don’t really see any reason not to.An open and free internet is a powerful tool that can help combat income inequality, so are there any legitimate counterarguments or reasons to be against net neutrality?

    Reply
  68. Michael

    Hey Alex,

    What do you think about the idea of a progressive consumption tax, land value taxes and pigouvian taxes? Do you agree with the logic that when you tax something you make it more expensive to produce and/or consume that thing. So one should try and not tax things they want more of such as trade, income, business growth, capital investment, efficient land use (tariffs, corporation tax, capital gains, property tax) to avoid economic deadweight loss, instead taxing things they want less of and that create negative deadweight loss. For example, taxing pollution through a Carbon tax.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Taxes do sometimes lead to higher prices for consumers, but this is 1) not always true, 2) usually offset by better services and net income gain (not loss), provided the taxes are used for services like healthcare, etc.

      The minimum wage is a kind of ‘tax’, as well: if you want to be allowed to grow rich, you MUST hire people at this wage. But it’s also for the greater good. It is ultimately better than not for the vast majority of people.

  69. Nack Baxster

    Shapiro’s poor thinking skills? The man thinks out loud for a living and most people can barely keep up… Regardless of your political views, he is a Harvard Law educated genius.

    Reply
    1. TheLonelyOrganicChemist

      I truly hope you’re using hyperbole when you call Shapiro a ‘genius’. Having Harvard listed on his CV does not make him a genius. That is the laziest excuse for a counterpoint I have ever heard in my life.

      Most people can barely keep up because he panders to the lowest common denominator of people within the conservative base. I grant you that when you first hear his politics and reasoning for his arguments (in one of his Fox News click bait videos, or when he ‘debunks’ institutional racism using the most short-sighted reasoning imaginable), it is easy to fall into the trap that Shapiro is presenting logically sound arguments. However, as Alex writes, it is clear that the man is incapable of effectively debating a cold and calculated liberal or progressive that utilizes logic instead of outrage. Sure, the Left has a bunch of pussy SJWs who have bastardized the term social justice, and there are plenty of ‘easy targets’ such as Cenk and Jimmy Dore that are correct in their policy positions yet fail as debaters. However, when faced with principled liberal that argues without emotion, Shapiro’s ideology is shown to be – as Alex’s article alludes to – vapid and fraudulent.

      Fucking phenomenal essay, Alex. These comments are idiotic, but they gave me a decent laugh.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Nack- honestly- what is the point of this comment? Can you not, yourself, imagine- oh, I don’t know- about a hundred counter-points to what you’ve written? Do you not see the logical tangles you’ve trapped yourself in? Say something, or say nothing at all.

      LonelyOrganicChemist- thanks for reading.

  70. Vivek Kaul

    Thanks for your good article. I do feel that the best arguments for the other side do come from Milton Friedman. What do you think Yanis’s criticism of Picketty http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue69/Varoufakis69.pdf here especially the distinction between wealth and capital. He says after the fact tax distribution opens itself to libertarian attacks http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue69/Varoufakis69.pdf.
    In addition, did you see some companies raise wages after the tax cuts? I do feel the companies did that so that tax cuts will become more popular though in the long run things will become worse.

    Reply
  71. Vivek Kaul

    This is from Friedman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOMI0ORGH44 who is more effective than even Alex Shapiro.
    A few points:
    1. Why the state capitalism of 1945-1970 could not sustain itself is that since 1970s the demand in US was not sufficient and it needed financialization to sustain the US economy when domestic debts started to increase. They were recycling the surplus of other countries.
    2. In medical care, it is hard to switch to anything else here in US because people are used to getting subsidized care from corporations and they won’t want to pay 14% medical payroll tax for public health.

    “Taxation is theft” is the most popular slogan even in US.

    Reply
  72. Nate

    Great piece, thoroughly enjoyed your take down of the American Right’s latest fraudulent “intellectual heavyweight.”

    I particularly loved your observation that Shapiro throws every argument in the book at his adversaries, and hopes to overwhelm them in that way.

    This mirrors his chatterbox speaking style, which in addition to being incredibly annoying to listen to, serves as a smokescreen for his utter lack of substance. Though he speaks a mile a minute, it’s amazing in retrospect how little ground he covers, how much he repeats himself, and how poorly-crafted his rhetoric is. Truly brilliant and eloquent thinkers don’t feel the need to speak in this way.

    As you note, his entire schtick is based on a few premises that he makes no effort to support, and falling back on a few rehearsed phrases that might as well be “four legs good, two legs bad.”

    Reply
  73. Brian

    This was a really terrible hit piece. I’ve lost interest in Ben a while back because I know his views and he is an obstinate person. He is no philosopher, he is a lawyer and a political pundit, and thus it is none of anyone elses concern how deeply he decides to think on his own position. That is something each person chooses to do for themselves. You could have used this as a reason to suggest Ben should not be put on a pedestal. He shouldn’t be. But to call him a fraud?

    You titled the article with a clearly accusatory word. FRAUD. You then showed how Ben is not a deep philosopher. How he is not a purist libertarian, which bothers you an undue amount for a person who clearly doesn’t believe in libertarianism, which is like me criticizing religious people for how well they follow their holy books. You show how he is obstinate, smug and suffers from cognitive bias and a willingness to engage in populism. Traits I see in most humans I meet. What I don’t see here is any proof whatsoever of Ben being a fraud.

    You writing this article is going to prove to anyone who isn’t already drinking the same Kool-Aid as you that people that bitch about this guy are the frauds. If you know hes not the star of the moderate right or whatever you see them as, then why try to assassinate his character? You are either lying about your beliefs and intentions or you are terrible at taking aim at important people. Aiming right matters, you wrote a pretty giant wall of useless text at this guy, assuming he is as empty as you say he is.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Brian,

      This was a really terrible hit piece.

      By definition, a 15,000 word essay that tackles a pundit’s key 5 or 6 opinions in depth, anticipates and answers multiple objections from multiple angles, picks through the studies said pundit supplies, then offers dozens more as a corrective, while still responding virtually every criticism leveled at the essay half a year later, cannot be a “hit piece”.

      He is no philosopher, he is a lawyer and a political pundit, and thus it is none of anyone elses concern how deeply he decides to think on his own position. That is something each person chooses to do for themselves. You could have used this as a reason to suggest Ben should not be put on a pedestal. He shouldn’t be. But to call him a fraud?

      It is not my ‘concern’, in the sense that he is perfectly free to be a moron. I certainly do not wish to infringe on that right. As for ‘fraud’, I stand by my statement, based on the arguments laid out in this essay- none of which, of course, you happen to address. If you have any issues with specific arguments/claims, though, go ahead and lay them out, and maybe we can have a productive discussion.

      Now, I want you to take this statement of yours:

      You titled the article with a clearly accusatory word. FRAUD. You then showed how Ben is not a deep philosopher. How he is not a purist libertarian, which bothers you an undue amount for a person who clearly doesn’t believe in libertarianism, which is like me criticizing religious people for how well they follow their holy books.

      and re-read it against your next claim:

      You show how he is obstinate, smug and suffers from cognitive bias and a willingness to engage in populism.

      In other words, Ben Shapiro, who posits himself as a “facts-first” type of guy annoyed by the Left’s use of emotionalism, stubbornness, and pandering, engages in- according to your own words- the very same behavior all the while cherry-picking any fact he happens to dislike. How is this, based on your own proposed logic, NOT an example of fraud?

      If you know hes not the star of the moderate right or whatever you see them as, then why try to assassinate his character?

      His character is immaterial. I do not know him. I only see some obvious falsehoods and wish-fulfillment, and pointed them out.

      Do you have any specific issues with my argument(s)? If not, thanks for reading.

    2. Silas

      It’s interesting how the same types of idiotic criticisms of this article keep popping up. Sheremet has already answered them. His argument for why Shapiro can be characterized as a fraud is plainly laid out in the essay. If you are going to disagree with his claim, why not quote specific aspects of his argument and respond to them? It’s rather disingenuous to disagree with the conclusion but then simply reiterate your own tired talking-points (which Sheremet has already countered before in the comments).

      Why do you disagree that a person who presents himself as an unbiased, facts-first pundit but is instead disingenuous and/or exceedingly ignorant can be reasonably considered to be a fraud?

  74. A Ben Shapiro Fan

    I only skimmed through your complaints, but all the ones I looked at were issues of you disagreeing with Ben on principle, rather than logical inconsistencies in Ben’s arguments or viewpoints. If you don’t acknowledge that it’s definirely not worth the exponentially-growing effort of each person responding to each point the other makes in a back-and-forth fashion.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Then don’t skim. Read. You are making a false dichotomy between principle and logic, mostly because (I suspect) you might not have an answer to my objections, and, being a fan of Shapiro, it is easier to chalk it up to irreconcilable differences than something truly fundamental which would require a response. I am basing these ‘different’ principles on argumentation, not moral feeling, and in most cases Shapiro and I in fact begin with the same exact premises- such as, for example, the notion that IF a fetus were a viable human being in full parity with an adult person, THEN abortion would be murder. The issue is really how (to continue with the above example) Shapiro justifies or does not justify said viability- and my claim is that he does not.

      Of course, we can go through half a dozen or so other positions that I tackle, and clear up any further misunderstandings that way. Pick an issue, and let’s discuss.

  75. Kyle R

    Solid article. I’ve only skimmed through most of it but am reading on my phone so I’ll have to give it a full read when I get to my laptop. From what I’ve read, it’s an honest critique of some conservative principles (and that’s from a pretty hard positioned conservative).

    I believe that some of your critiques of Ben are simply a bit misunderstood. Bens simple responses that come across as instigative are only short lines that sum up conservative principles that he often makes to sound provocative on purpose. If you understand the entire thought behind some of those principles, they make more sense.

    I understand this is extremely vague and therefore wouldn’t expect you to respond to this response. I’ll find some specific examples and reply in a separate thread when I get to a computer.

    P.S. My hat is off to Alex Sheremet for not only posting an extensive article but as well as responding to basically every criticism tossed Alex’s way. That is a rarity that should not go unnoticed.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Thanks. Feel free to give any comments, etc., after you give it a full reading, and I’ll respond.

  76. Frankly Just Curious

    So you may not respond to this, but I was wondering who you think actually is a good voice for conservative thought. Based on the article, you rule out Ben as a legitimate voice for conservatives, and in the comments you rule out Friedman and Sowell.

    I ask this because I would be curious to read and research someone who actually gets in the swamp and doesn’t just skim above it.

    Also, some the same question but for liberal thought.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Not really. Keep in mind, though, what people mean by ‘conservative thought’. They mean stuff that might more or less align with the modern Republican Party. Yet you are asking for good, logical defenses of a series of positions utterly disconnected from reality: climate change denialism, fetus-as-person, tax cuts for the rich, creationism, perpetual war, and so on. You cannot have a reasonable defense of something so unreasonable at its core. Virtually no one in the sciences, academia, etc., identifies with the GOP because intelligent people really cannot hold these sorts of positions without huge cognitive dissonance.

      That said, more classical conservative thought can be seen in folks like Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, the Founding Fathers, and so on. They would NOT recognize the modern GOP, regardless of what people might tell you. The idea of James Madison or Thomas Jefferson, thrown into the modern world, being pro de facto oligarchy is insane, even if they had similar blind spots elsewhere.

      William F. Buckley was, at least, pretty clever, and entertaining to watch.

      As for liberals, I’ve recommended him elsewhere- John Rawls’s “Theory of Justice” for a classic text on what it means- in a philosophical, foundational sense- to be a liberal. There’s also literally thousands of decent books in between on more specific subjects (Shelley Kagan on ethics, Joseph Stiglitz on economics, etc.)

  77. Tony Penserini

    LOL What a crock of shit! Get that head of your out of your own ass, you arrogant bastard. “These folks just aren’t worth it when I’m working on my novels or reading shit that actually matters.” Grow up instead of writing novels.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      No. I will say whatever I want, because I know you, Tony, will be there to read every single article, then slip on your cock-ring and jerk yourself off to every single comment.

      Thanks for reading.

  78. Silas

    Alex,

    This is a bit unrelated to this article, but is there any chance you could do a take-down of the alt-right’s views? An alt-righter recently sent me this email:

    “If you set out to disprove the intelligence disparity between blacks and whites (or whites and asians) you’ll sooner or later realize it’s actually true.

    Same thing if you start looking at how tribal different groups are. It’s essentially only white people who are willing to treat non-whites as well as their own group. No non-white group returns the favor. Realizing this will make you very angry if you are white, since you’re being exploited and played for a sucker by people who are at best indifferent to your well-being.

    So no, rationally using your brain is absolutely not a good idea if you want people to stay away from the alt-right.”

    How would you respond to this? Does a hypothetical IQ difference warrant the alt-right’s views? Is there an IQ difference? Is there some merit to their argument that ‘whites’ will become the minority soon and thus must be ‘preserved’?

    Apologies if I’m out of line in asking you this.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      First- I am thinking about writing a long essay sometime this or next year on race and IQ, tapping the latest research in cognitive and evolutionary psych. Both fields have changed enormously in the past decade and even well-meaning liberals have not kept up, much less alt-right morons. If I do write it, it will debunk much more than race-based thinking, though. Beyond that, I’m not interested in any particular figures.

      Second- honestly, I don’t understand how these morons can toot their own IQs so much, yet literally not know a thing nor have any insight into the tiny bit they do know. White people are willing to treat non-whites as well as their own group? Um- by what physiological mechanism, exactly? As I point out here, ALL people have an innate preference for their in-group depending on what manifests itself as “ethnicity”…and I mean the term in its technical, anthropological sense of shared appearance, dress, code of conduct, etc. Thus, a white person growing up among blacks *can* have as much of an innate preference for black people as a white person growing up in a strictly white environment. That’s because the human brain treats potential in-group markers, such as skin color, as an extension of its tendency to group and corral ethnicity (appearance, behavior, beliefs, etc.) as a whole. In other words, race, which was not at all a human constant for long periods of time, often short-circuits the brain’s innate stereotyping, even when it might be disadvantageous. However, it is just as true that OTHER, non-racial ethnic markers can be just as important…and, with multiple markers at play, race becomes quite negligible in psychological terms. Just ask yourself whether a white Baptist in Alabama would be more comfortable having dinner with a black professor of theology, or a serial felon who grew up in St. Petersburg and still speaks with a thick Russian accent. The fact is, the worst parts of Slav culture are even worse than what the alt-right ascribes to black culture…and often share the same nihilism.

      Further, what is this shit about the white in-group treating out-groups well? Let’s see- American slavery, Jim Crow, the genocide of Native Americans, the colonization of Africa and India, the Holocaust, the Opium Wars in China, great waves of American anti-European bigotry which coincided with the influx of new immigrants from Italy, Ireland, Russia, etc. Fuck- forget the clear anti-nonwhite bias among whites- what about white people’s utter destructiveness towards EACH OTHER? WWI, WWII, Britain vs. France, France vs. Russia, America vs. Spain, Brits vs. Irish, Irish vs. Irish, and THOUSANDS of years of non-stop conflict before that, whether it’s ‘barbarian’ whites (Gaul, Teutons, Anglo-Saxons) against civilized Greece and Rome, or- fuck!- what about that utter fountainhead of Western European Identity- Greece, itself, which was never ‘Greece’, but dozens of warring city-states who wouldn’t wait to cut each other’s throats? What about Italy’s wars against itself before its slow and bloody consolidation? This is not to even mention the rates at which local whites offed each in numbers that, neighborhood by neighborhood, would make the alt-right’s nightmares re: “Chicago blacks” seem like paradise. Just look at human murder rate over time! Europe was NEVER unified until the last 50 years, there was NEVER an ‘Islamic’ empire, NEVER a ‘Christian’ empire, just a bunch of self-loathing morons who were arguing, in micro, exactly what the alt-right morons are currently arguing in macro. And because I see absolutely NO historical evidence of white people’s respect for other white people, it would be quite the leap of faith for me to accept that white people are innately accepting of non-whites. Goddamn- the European Union can’t even hold itself together without finger-pointing, and these morons are pining for a ‘European homeland’ where they would be absolutely rejected by the true locals as ‘fooking Yanks’! They are idealizing Europe and ‘white’ identity because they neither understand Europe nor white identity. Put another way, they’ve been utterly cucked by history, and think the resultant stain is some sort of inborn nature. You MUST realize this if you get into e-mail exchanges with folks who simply refuse to learn.

      Re: IQ- yes, there are IQ differences, but that misses the point. Further, I used to believe IQ was predominantly genetic, because that was the science even just 1-2 decades ago, but that has seriously changed. Are we forgetting that the average American IQ in the 1800s would have been around 70? And that the average medieval European IQ would have been sub 50- what some psychologists call clinically retarded? Just think about that for a second- their entire beloved continent was clinically retarded for 99% of its history, and they go on and on about the master race. Damn! The fact that there hasn’t been some big, ‘official’ left-wing response to these simplifications and distortions is appalling, mostly because liberals secretly fear the alt-right is correct and wish to sweep bad science under the rug, as opposed to flaunting actual science and knocking those idiots in the mouth.

      As for the white race dying out- I mean, yeah, it’s true. But no one has been able to provide a cogent, intellectually consistent explanation for WHY a race ‘dying out’ is a bad thing. What does that even mean? WHAT is dying out? Not people- they’re here, but just look different now. Not the culture- human culture will do just fine, thanks. Not the genetics- they’re all there, from specific phenotypes (curly hair, blue eyes, big asses, etc.), to resistance or propensity for disease, and whatever else, just in fresh combinations. And, obviously, any human being that is born is genetically unique. The fact that a ‘race realist’ wishes to focus specifically on the 10% or so of human genetic variablity that is race-based, as opposed to the 90% of variation which isn’t, as opposed to the 99.9% that is the same, is mere cognitive bias for what is most visible and what is most obvious, as opposed to what is most SALIENT- a nuance most people (even liberals who wrongly deny race outright) simply do not understand.

    2. Billy

      Alex, I don’t think your example re: IQ holds up quite well. By your rate of decreasing IQ (or from what I read the other day, IQ increases by 3 points per decades) we would get sub-zero IQ for antiquity and before that. And I don’t think the writing of Aristotle, Plato, etc. can be classified as mentally retarded or even as the product of retards, even if they don’t hold up to modern standards. I think this would imply some sort of minimum IQ—even (larger) animals have *some* IQ—but then it would be interesting to know how far removed this minimum is removed from modern standards.

      Then again, this raises the question of whether the IQ of e.g. such writers, whose works have survived until now, even approximates the average IQ of their time or whether they have been some off-the-chart geniuses.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Billy,

      I am NOT saying everyone in medieval Europe was, in fact, clinically retarded, or even that Americans in the last 2-3 centuries were necessarily unintelligent. I am simply arguing from the alt-right turf to show how absurd it is. The only reason why medieval Europe would be considered clinically retarded, today, if going by IQ, is because IQ is a rather limited glimpse into human intelligence. It *DOES*, however, measure some extremely useful and ‘in vogue’ forms of intelligence for the modern world, which are often compensated by bigger salaries, better life outcomes, etc., despite being utterly useless and therefore latent in antiquity. Yet this is, again, a nuanced position that few people seem to understand. The point is that if you fetishize IQ as some be-all, end-all, especially along racial lines, you are left defending quite a few absurd positions that must logically follow. At the same time, if you completely dismiss the relevance of IQ to the modern world, you are left with a misunderstanding of the types of intelligence that the modern world (rightly or wrongly) values, and therefore continually creates a niche for.

      By the way, Plato, Aristotle, etc., would likely do quite well on IQ test, assuming some of the modern stuff is switched out for things more relevant to classical Greece.

  79. Travis Moore

    I spent multiple hours reading a good portion of this thread. I applaud all of you for your intellect. This was very interesting but I’m just not educated enough to fully understand all the words being used or even the topics being discussed. I’m not sure who is right or wrong but I’m glad to see there are extremely educated people representing me (although I’m not educated enough to know which side I’m on). Go team!

    Reply
  80. Kyle

    Do you think Shapiro has a chance to become POTUS in 2020 like his fans seem to think? Haha

    But yeah, I think he’s full of shit. He relies completely on straw man tactics w/ a rapid-fire delivery (as if he’s on a amphetamine high) to dupe his goofball fan base into thinking that his arguments have any sort of substance.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      No. The cutesy conservatives still think they’re in? It’s Trump’s time, now, and he’s doing the same exact shit out in the open they have always done privately. The Republicans were ALWAYS racist, myopic, pussy-grabbing morons who’d prefer a pedophile Republican to a clean-cut Democrat. They have CREATED the present climate by fanning the flames for decades, and now bitch that things are getting out of control? Fuck that. Now you KNOW what Republicans look like, and what they are. The Ted Cruzes and the Paul Ryans of the world no longer stand a chance. The base WANTS a guy who cheats on his wife with a porn star. Meanwhile, Ben couldn’t even get his dick wet until his wedding day, and I honestly still have my doubts about even that.

  81. Tom

    Interesting. Allow me to refute your points as succinctly as I can (and insofar as I understand Ben’s positions – which I do not claim to, fully, or to speak for him):
    1. On funding planned parenthood – Ben answered question practically, you attack him on principle. So, his principles are: government sucks at everything, it should be as small as possible to protect your property, life and liberty. No subsidies, no interventionism – as much freedom as possible. Under his core belief: there would be no planned parenthood, no subsidies. Case solved. No fallacy.
    2. Kansas – what they did was decrease rates without decreasing governmental spending. And it could only end in a way it did. Nobody reasonable says that tax cuts without corresponding policies will be a cure for all ills. Obviously. Again the principle is: small government, small taxes. It is a non-equivalent fallacy to use no true Scotsman fallacy http://reason.com/blog/2017/06/19/kansas-tax-cut-experiment-a-predictable
    3. ZERO evidence that taxation is anything more than 1) a collective means of ensuring social goods that an individual cannot guarantee; 2) equity- Badly worded sentence. And incorrect. Give me one example of a social good that a group of individuals cannot guarantee. People do not need government to provide healthcare or infrastructure or pensions. Of course, most governments do provide them, but look at Chilean example for pensions. Also – equity? People do not pay taxes for reasons of equity. I agree with you that there are wildly divergent economic views on taxes. Taxes are merely a small part of an extremely complex system. Given the above my axiom is: go with freedom and not with the government.
    4. Taxes: 1% pays 30% of taxes revenue, earning 15% of income. Sounds unfair to me.
    5. Real wages went down: yes, because geniuses on both sides (D&R) had a wonderful idea of giving people more and more stuff without raising taxes (which you need the bigger the expenditures, subject to Laffer). Enters printing money, “quantitive easement” and inflation. All fault of the government. So again you look at “Shapiro system” from a strange point of view – taking taxes into account to the exclusion of everything else.
    6. Minimum wage: you have appropriate caveats here so I won’t argue too much. Shapiro’s argument seems logical, but you can’t argue with the data. The only problem is finding the way to carefully implement minimum wage. I think the government sucks, so a priori I don’t think they can do it properly.
    7. Shapiro derives his views on rights from a very sophisticated Jewish theology and Greek telos and the golden rule. Like the Founding Fathers. From this axiomatic perspective some rights are “self-evident” and bestowed upon you. Not a Social Contract at all. As to your argument regarding 1854 blacks, a person coming from Shapiro’s camp would probably say: it was illegal and unconstitutional then, courts failed to recognize it. And on some issues that they were wrong: it is an issue of epistemology. It is OK to change your mind, as long as your basis (ontology) is solid. I struggle to properly understand this (as an agnostic) but I can see how this provides a vast foundation for morality. What’s more it invalidates your point If the constitution (plus other sources) does not recognize your right to healthcare – they are not self-evident, bestowed etc., then treating it as commodity makes logical sense. And applying free market ideas (which is what he advocates) may be the best solution. I hasten to add: it has never been tried so nobody knows. And you may disagree, but this position is not based on fallacies.
    8. You are wrong regarding taxes for roads: Shapiro said once that he would be open to consider privately funded infrastructure. Fraud protections: as mentioned above: government is to in principle protect your life, liberty, property. Perfectly coherent to have it protect against fraud.
    9. Go to community for help – Jews have done it, with amazing success, for thousands of years. My community is not organized like that at all, but I wouldn’t laugh at this idea or dismiss it out of hand (fallacy – argument from incredulity).
    10. Shapiro is against all abortions. He has said it numerous times. If he uses some rhetorical arguments or sophistry it is silly to overly rely on the type of inductive reasoning you have tried(like you “taking apart” his Gossnel comment). Basically, distinctions are just irrelevant if his axiom is that from the second of conception you have a human life. That’s the end of the argument and no amount of philosophy will help. The guy is consistent on this, and it is consistent with his theology. So you use different definitions and then claim “obvious victory”I also find your “vegetarian” argument really preposterous as well – a maiori ad minus reasoning obviously doesn’t work when you are talking about axiomatic assumptions! To him human life is different than animal life and he doesn’t take that from a “reasoned social contract” but from his basic religious and moral beliefs. I don’t share them, but I accept his foundation for them. My personal view on this: I accept that the society is split 50/50. Since we live in it together, we should compromise (if for the other 50% it is murder, and you cannot disprove it, which I don’t think you can). From this perspective a heavily limited abortion (post rape, endangering life of the mother) is in my view logical. And again – to me personally it is a cluster of cells for a long time
    11. Gay marriage – again you may disagree, but the guy is consistent and true to his axiomatic assumptions. Nothing wrong here to have a consistent opinion, in my view
    12. White privilege – bank lending – ok, so how to deal with it? Also, Shapiro blames subprime crisis on banks lending to the poor, not the poor themselves. Obviously true. I recommend an excellent Bird and Fortune sketch on subprime crisis. Intersectional arguments will of course get you nowhere. Shapiro gives example of Nigerian blacks being very successful. So not race, but culture in a particular community and individual responsibility are the reason of relative poverty difference. I recommend the most recent Crowder change my mind video on this (black participant).
    13. Finally: on black crime: are blacks perpetrating more crimes per capita or less? The answer is the reason why they are disproportionately represented in prisons Also strongly consider methodology of some of your statistics, because (like with the taxes) it is never a univariant analysis.
    Ok, I tried to address your main points without too much of my bias. But personally, I think that this is a rather viciously written and overly long (for the amount of content) article.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hello Tom,

      1. On funding planned parenthood – Ben answered question practically, you attack him on principle. So, his principles are: government sucks at everything, it should be as small as possible to protect your property, life and liberty. No subsidies, no interventionism – as much freedom as possible. Under his core belief: there would be no planned parenthood, no subsidies. Case solved. No fallacy.

      No, Tom- a ‘practical’ approach to abortion would suggest legal and subsidized abortion in EVERY case where an abortion is desired. This is indisputable unless you start to bring in the issue of personhood, which is a philosophical question. Note, also, that while you deny Ben is using pure philosophy to justify his position, you then go on to use pure philosophy to justify his position: “government sucks at everything.” I do not agree with that premise, and like Ben, I will not allow you to declare it to be the case merely by fiat. I also disagree with the idea that government is there to ‘only’ protect one’s property, life, and liberty, and thus, we are back to philosophical queries once again.

      2. Kansas – what they did was decrease rates without decreasing governmental spending. And it could only end in a way it did. Nobody reasonable says that tax cuts without corresponding policies will be a cure for all ills. Obviously. Again the principle is: small government, small taxes. It is a non-equivalent fallacy to use no true Scotsman fallacy http://reason.com/blog/2017/06/19/kansas-tax-cut-experiment-a-predictable

      Actually, Kansas did cut its budget, despite what Reason’s agitprop tells you. They cut Medicaid, pension contributions, put projects on hold, siphoned cash that was earmarked for infrastructure spending, and more. But let us pretend, for a second, that your point is correct, so I could pick it apart on a more fundamental level. What you are saying, essentially, is that Kansas continued to fund the police, education, healthcare, and other essential services, as per the social contract and the status quo in every Western nation in existence, which you (and a small minority of others) deem to be a negative. But note what the GOP argument was- that these tax cuts would SPUR growth and make up for any budget shortfalls in the interim. Obviously, you cannot throws kids out of public schools BEFORE the libertarian utopia begins! Yet Kansas did not grow any faster than anywhere comparable- there were no new businesses, no wonderful entrepreneurship to pick up the slack, no great private schools to take in the unwashed masses, no charities that popped up due to all of this extra disposable cash on the hands of do-gooders, and little to show for these cuts except the inevitable shortfall. Thus, you are now boxed into a corner, and forced to defend your position strictly by way of philosophy- in other words, forget best practices, forget data, we need, at the very least, short-term suffering to bring about what is, essentially, a warped, fun-house mirror variation of Marxism. But I do not argue theology, as I’ve said, so what else you got? 😉

      3. ZERO evidence that taxation is anything more than 1) a collective means of ensuring social goods that an individual cannot guarantee; 2) equity- Badly worded sentence. And incorrect. Give me one example of a social good that a group of individuals cannot guarantee. People do not need government to provide healthcare or infrastructure or pensions. Of course, most governments do provide them, but look at Chilean example for pensions. Also – equity? People do not pay taxes for reasons of equity. I agree with you that there are wildly divergent economic views on taxes. Taxes are merely a small part of an extremely complex system. Given the above my axiom is: go with freedom and not with the government.

      Tom, this is just tiring. Are you really trying to get me on semantics? Yes, you’re right, there is technically no social good that a group of individuals CAN’T guarantee. But there is a plenum of social goods that a group of individuals WON’T guarantee, due to everything from practicality to basic human psychology. Just look at that Darryl Perry moron arguing that everyone in the audience (“by show of hands!”) would willingly contribute hard cash to ‘cute grandmas’ to sidestep Social Security, to see how utterly divorced from reality these lunatics are. Shit, we can’t even get the more privileged fuck-ups to fund their OWN retirement, and you want to leave the grandmas to the whims of that psychotic audience?

      4. Taxes: 1% pays 30% of taxes revenue, earning 15% of income. Sounds unfair to me.

      What argument are you making, exactly? Give me something to actually respond to.

      5. Real wages went down: yes, because geniuses on both sides (D&R) had a wonderful idea of giving people more and more stuff without raising taxes (which you need the bigger the expenditures, subject to Laffer). Enters printing money, “quantitive easement” and inflation. All fault of the government. So again you look at “Shapiro system” from a strange point of view – taking taxes into account to the exclusion of everything else.

      Is there a reason why you are singling out just this one explanation (of the dozen or so that economists typically use) to analyze the decline of real wages in a way that is maximally helpful to your own ideological framework, and ignoring every other set of explanations that is less charitable to it?

      6. Minimum wage: you have appropriate caveats here so I won’t argue too much. Shapiro’s argument seems logical, but you can’t argue with the data. The only problem is finding the way to carefully implement minimum wage. I think the government sucks, so a priori I don’t think they can do it properly.

      I agree, the minimum wage needs to be implemented carefully and closely studied for effects. As for govn’t, you live in the most peaceful time in all of human history. Say thanks to the Leviathan, baby!

      7. Shapiro derives his views on rights from a very sophisticated Jewish theology and Greek telos and the golden rule. Like the Founding Fathers. From this axiomatic perspective some rights are “self-evident” and bestowed upon you. Not a Social Contract at all. As to your argument regarding 1854 blacks, a person coming from Shapiro’s camp would probably say: it was illegal and unconstitutional then, courts failed to recognize it. And on some issues that they were wrong: it is an issue of epistemology. It is OK to change your mind, as long as your basis (ontology) is solid. I struggle to properly understand this (as an agnostic) but I can see how this provides a vast foundation for morality. What’s more it invalidates your point If the constitution (plus other sources) does not recognize your right to healthcare – they are not self-evident, bestowed etc., then treating it as commodity makes logical sense. And applying free market ideas (which is what he advocates) may be the best solution. I hasten to add: it has never been tried so nobody knows. And you may disagree, but this position is not based on fallacies.

      I am not debating ‘views on rights’, though. I am debating what rights ARE- and they are ALL derived from Social Contract. They are ALL changeable, they are ALL socially constructed, they are ALL subject to our whims, they will NOT be respected by any sentient, hostile, superhuman actor which might visit us from outer space and force us into slavery while pissing on the Torah. And while Shapiro might say ‘it was illegal and unconstitutional then’, this is immaterial given the fact that 1) no one accepts the Constitution as the be-all, end-all; 2) what they do and do not ‘think’ is immaterial, since things are enforced per social contract theory. I only make appeals to the Constitution WHEN it is based on a more immanent ethic, because while these documents change, some parts probably never will (assuming we survive to continue polishing and finessing our ethical ideas).

      8. You are wrong regarding taxes for roads: Shapiro said once that he would be open to consider privately funded infrastructure. Fraud protections: as mentioned above: government is to in principle protect your life, liberty, property. Perfectly coherent to have it protect against fraud.

      I am wrong about what, exactly? I am saying multiple things at once as part of a wider argument.

      9. Go to community for help – Jews have done it, with amazing success, for thousands of years. My community is not organized like that at all, but I wouldn’t laugh at this idea or dismiss it out of hand (fallacy – argument from incredulity).

      It’s not an argument from incredulity. It’s an argument from the utter lack of proof of it working on any large scale without huge social costs. Your own evidence is what, exactly? Anecdotes that we hear about Jews and anecdotes that Jews themselves repeat- specifically, groups like the Hasids, who in exchange for supporting one another also force each other into violence, delusion, ostracism, and other social pressures which magnify 100X the worse abuses of govn’t meddling. Nor is this a novel observation, Tom, since it’s been pointed out by anthropologists for decades. The ONLY place where ‘extreme social cohesion’ works (at least for what you are suggesting) is in environments that tap into both the best AND the worst aspects of human tribalism- environments that you, yourself, would absolutely loathe, by the way, and which we cannot revert back to unless we wish to live like Hasids.

      10. Shapiro is against all abortions. He has said it numerous times. If he uses some rhetorical arguments or sophistry it is silly to overly rely on the type of inductive reasoning you have tried(like you “taking apart” his Gossnel comment). Basically, distinctions are just irrelevant if his axiom is that from the second of conception you have a human life. That’s the end of the argument and no amount of philosophy will help. The guy is consistent on this, and it is consistent with his theology. So you use different definitions and then claim “obvious victory”I also find your “vegetarian” argument really preposterous as well – a maiori ad minus reasoning obviously doesn’t work when you are talking about axiomatic assumptions! To him human life is different than animal life and he doesn’t take that from a “reasoned social contract” but from his basic religious and moral beliefs. I don’t share them, but I accept his foundation for them.

      Honestly, do you understand my objections to his anti-abortion argument? You can throw around terms and say this or that, but you really do not address them, at all. Why not? It is not ‘some rhetorical arguments’ and ‘some sophistry’ on his part, either- the ENTIRE video he has on abortion (his most longest commentary on abortion, as far as I’ve seen) is a slippery-slope logical fallacy. And no one is denying that conception is the start of life- I mean, duh? The deeper question is one of PERSONHOOD, and Shapiro has NEVER, to my knowledge, tackled the tough philosophical work of trying to establish personhood for a fetus, either on its own, or even just trying to disentangle its personhood from the mother’s. This is not some quibble. This is a serious issue that philosophers have attempted to pick through for a really long time. And Shapiro does NOT address the fact that, even if one were to accept personhood for a fetus, abortion in the case of rape does indeed have a bulletproof argument- a contradiction to his (as you state) ‘against ALL abortions’ stance.

      11. Gay marriage – again you may disagree, but the guy is consistent and true to his axiomatic assumptions. Nothing wrong here to have a consistent opinion, in my view

      I do not know if it is consistent, because just as he calls it ‘unconstitutional’, he then explicitly states he will not discuss the legal basis for that claim. Yet let us concede that it is consistent- yes, it is consistent, AND dumb. You can have a highly consistent argument for torturing animals, too. What is your point?

      12. White privilege – bank lending – ok, so how to deal with it? Also, Shapiro blames subprime crisis on banks lending to the poor, not the poor themselves. Obviously true. I recommend an excellent Bird and Fortune sketch on subprime crisis. Intersectional arguments will of course get you nowhere. Shapiro gives example of Nigerian blacks being very successful. So not race, but culture in a particular community and individual responsibility are the reason of relative poverty difference. I recommend the most recent Crowder change my mind video on this (black participant).

      It’s not banks lending to the poor. It is banks lending to the poor without following govn’t regulations. It is interesting, to me, that both you and Shapiro avoid the obvious in this regard. Why?

      Bank discrimination- good question. I have not thought what to do about it. But it certainly does not help to deny the problem outright, as Shapiro dishonestly does. No doubt he did a Google search for that source of his. Why did he ignore, then, the literal mountain of countervailing evidence which he almost certainly found?

      Re: culture and individual responsibility- this has been heavily addressed in the comments multiple times, but the short of it is, you are basically asking black people to behave more exceptionally (given their original position upon birth) than everyone else. A black child born into higher than average poverty, higher than average rates of single parenting, lower than average school zones, higher than average crime rates, etc. etc. etc. will FROM BIRTH be, on average, more prone to all of these negative outcomes. In other words, they experience steeper consequences for the same incorrect behaviors (teen pregnancy, parking tickets, falling in with the wrong crowd, etc.) that white people do. To ‘lift themselves by their bootstraps’ means- functionally- that they need to be more exceptional than others, which is an unfair and an unrealistic burden. Further, note that you have glossed over every other tangible explanation that economists and behavioral scientists rely upon to explain worse-than-average outcomes for blacks, including the destruction of black wealth in the 1930s and again in the 1950s-70s, which erased all of their carefully won gains after Reconstruction. Again, ask yourself why you are cherry-picking.

      13. Finally: on black crime: are blacks perpetrating more crimes per capita or less? The answer is the reason why they are disproportionately represented in prisons Also strongly consider methodology of some of your statistics, because (like with the taxes) it is never a univariant analysis.

      I’ve already addressed this in depth in the article and in the comments- but, to answer your question: often more, but sometimes less. And even when they are committing fewer crimes (or an equivalent number of crimes), they are still being targeted more often- even in white neighborhoods without a real police presence, so you can’t simply fall back on the ‘more police = more arrests’ trope. You know, I’ve cited many studies to this effect- did you read them? Your solution to solving black crime is what, exactly- to stand on a mountaintop, and lecture at the benighted fools below? I wonder why this has never worked in all of human history, with all of our wars of attrition and 5-60% murder rates for tribal peoples before the introduction of the very Leviathan which you hate?

      Further, keep in mind that we are now only discussing the most visible and ‘sexiest’ crimes. Yes, black people disproportionately commit those. But as far as the total crime burden in America (and perhaps the world, for that matter), it is clearly white people who OVERWHELMINGLY commit the most crime. Fuck a local black drug dealer- the pharma-initiated opioid crisis has taken far more lives. Fuck muggings- wage theft, violations of minimum wage, petty white-collar bullying, and bank-engineered meltdowns account for WAY more property loss than all violent crimes combined. Fuck people in the projects throwing diapers out the window- corporate pollution actually kills, and makes whole cities uninhabitable. Fuck terrorism- you are a million times likelier to die of a heart attack due to the sugar lobby. And if we find out that the Republicans have been complicit with Russia? Do you not think that’s the equivalent of at least a dozen 9/11’s? And if corporate greed leads to yet more global warming, and probable catastrophes on the scale of trillions of dollars? Etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. The difference is that the big players privatize the gains and socialize the costs, so that no one person is ever held responsible for what is unequivocally the greater burden, and snooker you into a typical cognitive bias- towards the grisliest (and least likely) outcomes, while ignoring the very real dangers that will most likely get you instead. Snap out of it, Tom!

      Ok, I tried to address your main points without too much of my bias. But personally, I think that this is a rather viciously written and overly long (for the amount of content) article.

      I agree it’s overly long. I mean, does anyone really believe that Shapiro will be remembered a few decades from now- much less when a smarter, more cunning, more manipulative, and less cowardly arch-conservative comes along to gives Shapiro’s target demographic the things they crave, but which he himself cannot give? So, you’ve got me there. But VICIOUS? The word has a negative connotation in the way you’re using it- as if I have been unfair to him. Yes, I have been cutting, I have been destructive, and I have watched his silly ideas squirm on my meat-hook, but unfair? I don’t think so.

      Thanks for reading.

  82. Mark H

    Alex,
    It’s nice to see the likes of Shapiro taken down with intellect, reason and logic. I came across him some while ago and dismissed his schtick as in kind with the likes of Yiannopoulos, Coulter, Maulkin, and d’souza. All of whom are cashing in on the gullibility and ignorance of right wing/religious extremists. Thanks

    A word about ‘Black Lives Matter’.
    I think that they made a huge blunder right off the bat by not adding one simple three letter word at the end of their name – Too.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I agree, liberal/left messaging tends to be pretty bad. Then again, ‘Black Lives Matter’ sounds much more in-your-face, too: sort of like, this is what WE go through, and I am putting all emphasis on your denials.

  83. Tom

    Thank you for your reply.

    1. I am sorry for the phrasing I used, it was rather poor. But this is a small point for me, so I will not address this in detail. Just – obviously it has philosophical implications, but my point was: if someone asks me a straightforward question (fund A instead of B) and I oppose A and not B, then under the circumstances the only practical answer is “yes”. But it is based in my philosophy, which I explain in other places. And what I would really want is not funding at all. Much bigger point here: a number of times when you use the word “indisputable” I literally cringe. There are numerous schools of thought and approaches and nothing has been (or probably ever will) “be settled”! You must concede this. Even as we learn more about terrible effects the abortions may have on mothers, their lack of education, some principles like a legal principle of Nasciturus in Roman Law. You yourself speak of personhood – there are debates to be had. Just because a particular branch of philosophers on the left say something is settled, doesn’t mean that at all. Again, I come at this from a secular and a really materialistic point of view (e.g. as we learn more of say a nature of consciousness, we may come to completely different conclusions). The argument you used in the article (reductio ad absurdum one) may be valid, but it is in my view inconsequential as far as ethics and morality are concerned.
    2. Kansas: my agitprop says clearly, that expenditures increased every year. Giant bureaucracy and inefficiencies caused a lot of problems. So, this may be a reason why it didn’t work (I may be approaching no true Scottsman though). If you want to discuss principle: what about California then? Why everyone is running away from there to Texas or Nevada? Also: give me a few examples of countries you think are good to model after and then we can discuss this in more detail.
    3. Sorry, I was just very surprised when I saw this, hence my comment. To the principle: society is getting older and Bismarck principle of social security is not sustainable at all. In the US it operates literally like a ponzi scheme. I don’t necessarily agree with Perry or Shapiro as to the solutions, but let’s talk solutions. Like localized mutual benefit societies with heavy market investment, instead of immediate redistribution.
    4. My principle: flat tax (20%) is the fairest and best. You basically know how much money you will get. Then you cut spending to meet the revenue. It is simplistic, household economy. I would like to see it tried. Really.
    5. You may have a point. I concede that there are other factors. I think however that there seriously is a correlation between QE and lowering wages and it is reversely proportional. I also don’t mind at all changing my mind.
    6. Remember the point you are making, we will come back to this.
    7. From secular perspective – I agree. But there are other perspectives. Concept of transcendent morality, concept of a god, evolutionary etc. It just is not so easy. I seriously notice a very circular logic in your thinking. If rights are derived from SC – axiom btw – you enforce them per SC – therefore no non SC basis is possible. Again, I believe as you do. But man, this debate is long and much more complicated and just dismissing the other side is getting us nowhere. And deriding the other side (as I used to do myself in the past) is not conducive to a debate. As to your comments on constitution: obviously not be-all, end-all. Hence the amendments. But I do not think that the core has changed much at all.
    8. You say he is inconsistent. He really isn’t in this regard.
    9. I disagree with Shapiro here. And somewhat agree with you. But there is something very wrong about solely materialistic society in terms of outcome. This is a great experiment of XX century which went very badly and continues to deteriorate the core of a society. It is actually interesting how important small communities may be and how to bring about the interdependency of its members based on common values. That’s what I meant by not dismissing this concept.
    10. Without going into detail – that’s why I made references to Jewish theology. It tackles every single one of your points in detail and that’s what Shapiro seems to believe. Yep, a religious argument, so what? Also, again – even the rape case is not at all bulletproof and there are good arguments to be made against it. Why fault innocent child for the crimes of a rapist, why not love him and make him into a great member of society. Yes, this may be at a giant expense to a mother, but maybe the child will make it up to her? Maybe, if society agrees that abortion should be illegal in this case, such a mother should live in great wealth as a compensation for her suffering? And so on. This is of course oversimplification, however based in legal theory (e.g. legal base for punitive damages). And again, I agree – raped mother (a total outlier btw) should be able to abort. But your positions are not as strong as you seem to think.
    11. Most of my replies were basically aimed at one thing – to get you to concede that Shapiro is really consistent. Because you tend to respect more your consistent opponents. You understand that they are not FRAUDS. They just think differently than you and may have really good reasons. In other words, to my mind, it is a way to address most of ad hominem attacks in your article, because I really think that they are unfair.
    12. I am trying not to cherry pick. Yes – the black wealth was destroyed. Yes, I think that underprivileged communities must be and do better. My solutions would be: delegalize gangs, treat them like terrorists, destroy them without mercy. Police extremely heavily. And preach a lot about individual responsibility. Give them tools of education. Good example Peterson’s self-authoring programme and its effects. Yes, there are inequalities, obviously. But solutions proposed by the left generate more problems. Intersectionality and post modernist thinking is a single most destructive thing you can devise. Unless you can offer your solutions?
    13. Boy, I am really curious what do you think is the best ideology for the world, after reading this. Bad white people in corporations destroying the world, stealing from the poor, killing them in millions? I have literally the opposite view. The standard of living increases in astonishing rate, wealth (measured in dollars per capita per month) is spreading like crazy, access to education, calorie intake, security is increasing like crazy. In my view it is because of the very good Western ideas and systems. Not ideal – of course. Plenty of bad people. But general blessing of a capitalist system is to my mind very difficult to refute. And I literally refer you now to point 6. Thank the system!

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hello again,

      1. I am sorry for the phrasing I used, it was rather poor. But this is a small point for me, so I will not address this in detail. Just – obviously it has philosophical implications, but my point was: if someone asks me a straightforward question (fund A instead of B) and I oppose A and not B, then under the circumstances the only practical answer is “yes”. But it is based in my philosophy, which I explain in other places. And what I would really want is not funding at all. Much bigger point here: a number of times when you use the word “indisputable” I literally cringe. There are numerous schools of thought and approaches and nothing has been (or probably ever will) “be settled”! You must concede this. Even as we learn more about terrible effects the abortions may have on mothers, their lack of education, some principles like a legal principle of Nasciturus in Roman Law. You yourself speak of personhood – there are debates to be had. Just because a particular branch of philosophers on the left say something is settled, doesn’t mean that at all. Again, I come at this from a secular and a really materialistic point of view (e.g. as we learn more of say a nature of consciousness, we may come to completely different conclusions). The argument you used in the article (reductio ad absurdum one) may be valid, but it is in my view inconsequential as far as ethics and morality are concerned.

      “Not funding at all” can certainly be a consistent (though wrong-headed) position, but Shapiro’s argument was about the morality of paying a tax on something you are personally against. Like I said, the issue here is that you’re engendering a free-rider problem over which you will quickly lose control. Shapiro is obviously not against taxation on principle, but still has strong beliefs on what government ought to be (a philosophical question, and easily objected to) as well as a completely separate position on funding something you personally find abhorrent. The idea of picking and choosing your taxes when you accept taxation as a concept is extremely tricky (if not outright unworkable) for this reason.

      Re: abortion. I will contend that providing quick, easy, and cheap access to abortions is in fact an indisputable good *if* one concedes the non-personhood of a fetus. It does not matter if there might be, in some cases, damage to a mother’s psyche or whatnot. How can you dispute the idea that NOT bringing in a child into the world that the mother does not want, is willing to kill before birth, is not ready to have, cannot support, might not love, etc., is, on average, a good thing? Now, think for a second- I am CERTAIN you can find individual instances where an unwanted child HAS in fact turned out well, and perhaps on average unwanted children are even good, functional members of society. But what are, by contrast, the typical outcomes for WANTED children (again, remember- personhood is not an issue, so we are not ‘killing kids’ here)? Further, if we are to tackle things like single parent households, crime, poverty, and so on, pretty much all data suggests that abortion is useful to at least limit some of these negatives. And if we are starting from the assumption of non-personhood, what is left, really, except nebulous claims about ‘sanctity of life’, and so on?

      You are saying the argument is valid, but perhaps- if I am reading between the lines correctly- the consequences are still too dire, even if I am right? Alright, but what are these consequences? What do you think is happening, or could be happening, if abortion becomes less controversial? Furthermore, do you think these consequences outweigh the consequences for restricting abortions legally? The last question is critical. There are, for example, costs to allowing Nazis free speech. Yet the potential costs of restricting their free speech are far greater in the long run.

      2. Kansas: my agitprop says clearly, that expenditures increased every year. Giant bureaucracy and inefficiencies caused a lot of problems. So, this may be a reason why it didn’t work (I may be approaching no true Scottsman though). If you want to discuss principle: what about California then? Why everyone is running away from there to Texas or Nevada? Also: give me a few examples of countries you think are good to model after and then we can discuss this in more detail.

      Expenditures increased because Kansas eventually had to stop dipping into its own cash reserves after they were depleted by the tax cuts. Yet even the original sources Reason cites indicate that state spending increased by only 0.3% per year on average- hardly the picture of out-of-control spending Reason is trying to disingenuously paint. But like I said, I’m not interested in arguing from the turf of “Kansas should NOT have cut spending”. Why would I be? After all, the entire point of these cuts is that they were meant to spur the kinds of extreme growth which would close any fiscal gaps. That did not happen. Kansas’s BUDGET woes have nothing to do with whether or not the tax cuts themselves would provide such growth in the first place. They obviously did not. So, why is Reason focusing on this red herring? They’re trying to explain away the failure by focusing on its side effects, rather than dealing with the original argument that libertarians put forward.

      California is one of the biggest economies in the world, but is experiencing corporate-made water shortages (there is in fact more than enough water for everyone) and extremely high costs of living due to the fact that everyone wants to live there. Not sure about who is trying to ‘escape’ (if anyone), but I can think up about a dozen reasons why which might have nothing to do with taxes – save for the fact, of course, that Californians are paying for the red states’ dismal, selfish, let-the-blue-states-take-care-of-us failures out of their own pockets. You, yourself, say that problems tend to be ‘multivariant’, so why do you automatically default to the neatest, most ideologically comforting explanations?

      I am not sure if I’d say this or that country is a good model- a model for what, exactly? For America? We have unique problems and demographics that they don’t and would have different solutions. That said, you know the deal- strong social safety net, universal healthcare, significant tax hikes in exchange for great services, which means taxing the middle class, as well. I do not know how to solve America’s deep racial problems without creating even more uproar and extreme resentment. That is an American fuck-up of epic proportions that is uniquely ours.

      3. Sorry, I was just very surprised when I saw this, hence my comment. To the principle: society is getting older and Bismarck principle of social security is not sustainable at all. In the US it operates literally like a ponzi scheme. I don’t necessarily agree with Perry or Shapiro as to the solutions, but let’s talk solutions. Like localized mutual benefit societies with heavy market investment, instead of immediate redistribution.

      I do not agree that Social Security is unsustainable. I know the typical lib objections- “ponzi scheme”, etc., but let me ask you this. Have you read the objections to those objections? Why don’t you search for the objections to those talking points, and tell me what you find? You might be surprised to learn that the way you THINK Social Security operates is not how it in fact operates, and certainly not how it CAN operate with some tweaks.

      4. My principle: flat tax (20%) is the fairest and best. You basically know how much money you will get. Then you cut spending to meet the revenue. It is simplistic, household economy. I would like to see it tried. Really.

      My principle: progressive tax (oh, maybe 90%) is the fairest and most tried-and-true. You basically know that corporations and the super rich will NEVER pay 90% anyway. Then you increase spending to stimulate growth and ensure long-term stability and well-being. It is simplistic, empirical data. I would like to see it tried. Really.

      Not to be snarky or anything- obviously, we disagree here. Is your disagreement one of principle, or what has in fact worked? Because cutting spending any more than we have will mean either sluggishness or misery, and most likely both. Prove to someone who is NOT a libertarian why taking services away from the struggling (most of the country, really) and the poor is really a ‘good’ thing for them, preferably by using research, behavioral economics, and the like, rather than nebulous concepts which may or may not be true but are quite debatable either way.

      7. From secular perspective – I agree. But there are other perspectives. Concept of transcendent morality, concept of a god, evolutionary etc. It just is not so easy. I seriously notice a very circular logic in your thinking. If rights are derived from SC – axiom btw – you enforce them per SC – therefore no non SC basis is possible. Again, I believe as you do. But man, this debate is long and much more complicated and just dismissing the other side is getting us nowhere. And deriding the other side (as I used to do myself in the past) is not conducive to a debate. As to your comments on constitution: obviously not be-all, end-all. Hence the amendments. But I do not think that the core has changed much at all.

      What do you mean, “From a secular perspective – I agree”? What other rational perspective is there? Yeah, I get that some Muslims think sharia is the way, or that African animists might put the scissor to a girl’s clit, but there’s no evidence for any of this stuff except the very limited argument of Hasid-like social cohesion. What do you propose is a legit alternative, and why? What is a transcendent ethic? What does this even mean? The only thing I can grant re: ‘transcendent’ anything is that there is, somewhere, a set of precepts that- given our biology, our historical trajectory, etc.- will work better for society than any other set of precepts, and that we may or may not be getting close to it. Yet even this is not truly transcendent, since it presupposes both our biological blueprint as well as our current historical position.

      My reasoning is not circular. I am saying rights are derived from the social contract because there is no other default that obeys Occam’s Razor- there are, in short, the fewest assumptions in my position. And, yes, to be fair, EVERY system of morality needs axioms. The difference is that religious systems (or any system, really, other than social contract) needs MORE of them and demand far more of its adherents. In other words, you need more irrational building blocks to get to where I am, which also means that you will end up with a lot more irrational baggage in the long run. My irrational baggage is thus lightweight and far more dynamic- it is superior in terms of the more plastic side of human psychology, among other justifications I can easily make.

      It’s like positing God as the Creator of the universe because the universe logically needs a First Mover but side-stepping the issue of a ‘First’ First Mover by appealing to our lack of deeper understanding, yet ignoring the fact that I can make the same argument for a lack of a transcendent cause. Why can a believer default to ‘God works in mysterious ways’ but I can’t simply replace the word ‘God’ with ‘cosmos’ to explain what we might not ever know? There are fewer assumptions in what I am suggesting. By contrast, using God creates additional layers of the impossible, and leaves you with more than you’ve bargained for (don’t fuck, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t masturbate). Just apply the same logic to social contract, and you are where I am.

      8. You say he is inconsistent. He really isn’t in this regard.

      I am saying he is inconsistent, HERE, because he has not clearly delineated nor justified these distinctions. Like I said, Shapiro does support taxation- a flat 20% rate, if I recall. He has a set of services (fraud protections, defense, etc.) which he considers essential and therefore tax-worthy in some way. He never truly argues why ‘essential’ is the deciding factor, how they are in fact ‘essential’ at all, and why we ought to buy into this definition as opposed to any other. He simply takes it for granted and knows that his target demographic does, as well. Notice how, for much of this essay, I am not even arguing FOR any one position- for example, I am not trying to make a bulletproof case for abortion, or for a specific tax rate. That is because it is way beyond the scope of what I’ve written. Instead, I am responding to the lack of genuine thinking and reflection in both Shapiro’s proposals and denunciations, which take way more foundational work than Shapiro is capable of. And I do not wish to be rude, but really, Shapiro is just not intelligent nor well-read enough to be able to construct these sorts of arguments. He does ‘just enough’ to keep his base engaged, then basks in the results of being just a little bit better than his slack-jawed fans. He’s a good pundit- I’ll give him that- but that is like saying Trump is a good demagogue.

      9. I disagree with Shapiro here. And somewhat agree with you. But there is something very wrong about solely materialistic society in terms of outcome. This is a great experiment of XX century which went very badly and continues to deteriorate the core of a society. It is actually interesting how important small communities may be and how to bring about the interdependency of its members based on common values. That’s what I meant by not dismissing this concept.

      I don’t believe in a purely material society (I have always had extreme spiritual yearnings, for example, that I’ve simply sublimated into art), but I think what you are suggesting is that we need ‘purpose’. And I agree. The question is whether we will do the courageous and difficult thing of creating our own purpose, almost from scratch, or fall back on old delusions (and not merely religion/god, either) out of convenience and fear. But I also disagree about social disintegration. I mean, sure, in some ways, but compared to when? The 20th century could have done things better, yes, but we’re in a place, today, to do FAR more than we have ever done as a species partly because of the groundwork we have laid over the last 10,000 years. And the 21st century is WITHOUT A DOUBT the most peaceful and objectively ‘quiet’ period in all of human history: the period with the greatest potential, and at least a good chunk of our most realized potential. Yeah, I hate PoMo, I hate the publishing industry, I hate the political hacks, I hate TV, I hate this growing cowardliness and anomie and joylessness that I see in people, but fuck, I can do almost anything I want to do with far less energy expenditure than I would have ever had to make. I am able to use my brain (whether or not it’s recognized) and fill a niche I and many others like me could not have filled many years ago. I can walk the streets without getting mugged and live an entire lifetime without ever seeing war. If I were single, I could go to a bar and get sex whenever I’d want to for the cost of a few drinks and a wasted night of dumb conversation. I am not sure if you know what prehistory has been like for the average person, but it has not been kind to their bodies, to their genetic material, and- even worse- to their ideas, and to their minds. I will GLADLY take all of our problems in exchange for being able to live in the world as presently constituted, in part because history indicates it will probably keep getting better.

      10. Without going into detail – that’s why I made references to Jewish theology. It tackles every single one of your points in detail and that’s what Shapiro seems to believe. Yep, a religious argument, so what? Also, again – even the rape case is not at all bulletproof and there are good arguments to be made against it. Why fault innocent child for the crimes of a rapist, why not love him and make him into a great member of society. Yes, this may be at a giant expense to a mother, but maybe the child will make it up to her? Maybe, if society agrees that abortion should be illegal in this case, such a mother should live in great wealth as a compensation for her suffering? And so on. This is of course oversimplification, however based in legal theory (e.g. legal base for punitive damages). And again, I agree – raped mother (a total outlier btw) should be able to abort. But your positions are not as strong as you seem to think.

      Yet you’ve not offered any counters. You are saying “religious argument” flippantly, as if it does not come with unnecessary baggage and assumes a framework the rest of us simply do not assume. And you can argue about whether or not a mother SHOULD keep a rape-fetus and mold him into a great member of society, but obviously, the question we are discussing is legality, and only legality. And from a purely legal perspective- that is, whether or not a raped mother ought to be COMPELLED to keep the child- there certainly are bullet-proof arguments against compulsion:

      http://spot.colorado.edu/~heathwoo/Phil160,Fall02/thomson.htm

      Your saying that rape-cases are outliers is irrelevant in terms of Shapiro’s core argument. That’s because if I can find even ONE situation (at least, where the mother’s life is not danger) where abortion is permissible, whether it’s rape, or something else, it very much calls into question the idea of personhood for a fetus. After all, there is no other case where murder (and abortion in every case IS murder, if we accept Shapiro’s assumptions!) is permitted. A woman’s ’emotions’ cannot trump a person’s right to life- why would they? Yet if Judith Thomson’s “tiny violinist” thought experiment works, fetuses are not people, period, even IF her thought experiment only applies to rape, and thus any personhood we might grant fetuses in any situation beyond rape HAS to be done in a highly synthetic, ad hoc manner simply meant to satisfy our intuitions.

      As for the rest, I will easily grant you that it’s “ethical” of a would-be mother to go through birth if she has the resources and the desire to do as much as she can for the child. Again- it’s really, really nice of her, especially if she’s been raped. But we are discussing legal compulsion. Do you not see how that is now a completely different discussion? Do you notice how you are almost imperceptibly conflating the question of what a person OUGHT to do, versus what she ought to be ALLOWED to do?

      11. Most of my replies were basically aimed at one thing – to get you to concede that Shapiro is really consistent. Because you tend to respect more your consistent opponents. You understand that they are not FRAUDS. They just think differently than you and may have really good reasons. In other words, to my mind, it is a way to address most of ad hominem attacks in your article, because I really think that they are unfair.

      He is more consistent than the average person, sure, but I have no way of knowing how consistent he really is, given how little justification he offers his positions. I am, therefore, working purely on the scant piffle he DOES provide- and, sometimes (though not always), he is inconsistent. As for ‘fraud’- I am not saying he is a fraud due to a lack of consistency. I am saying he is a fraud because, despite posturing like some sort of intellectual heavyweight, he is extremely superficial and extremely careless and often very much dishonest. I know, for example, that he saw a mountain of evidence for bank lending discrimination against blacks while doing research- there’s no way he wouldn’t. Yet he turned a blind eye to it because it did not fit his narrative, and he knew no one would ‘dare’ fact-check him.

      And I want to be very clear about my use of ad hominem- sure, I do it. I admit that. But it is obviously just the cherry-on-top, not the ‘substance’ of my argument. For example, I give an extremely careful, reasoned, non-emotive, logical take-down of Shapiro’s anti-abortion stance over the course of 2 or 3 thousand words, then spend a poetic paragraph highlighting his personal repulsiveness as a mere capstone. Yet that has nothing to do with the argument I’ve made. That is simply my flair, as a writer, showing you just how big and veiny my dick grows when I spank it. You may personally dislike this tactic, but it is part of the reason why this essay works, and why people have responded to it, and responded to it quite psychologically, at that. Surely you must realize, at this point, that I am not some random petty moron on the Internet doing a drive-by hit-piece against Shapiro for the sake of my own ego? This article actually took WORK- and more work, probably, over the course of 2 weeks than Shapiro will likely ever put in over the course of his entire life. Again, I am not trying to be ‘mean’ to him. He just quite literally offers nothing of value, to anyone.

      12. I am trying not to cherry pick. Yes – the black wealth was destroyed. Yes, I think that underprivileged communities must be and do better. My solutions would be: delegalize gangs, treat them like terrorists, destroy them without mercy. Police extremely heavily. And preach a lot about individual responsibility. Give them tools of education. Good example Peterson’s self-authoring programme and its effects. Yes, there are inequalities, obviously. But solutions proposed by the left generate more problems. Intersectionality and post modernist thinking is a single most destructive thing you can devise. Unless you can offer your solutions?

      You are saying you are not cherry-picking, and yet, your initial comment discussed everything BUT the causal issues of those behaviors which you rightly detest. Like it or not, people behave in VERY predictable ways. You can quite literally get a regular percentage output for X, Y, or Z based on variable A, B, or C, over and over again, as if we were dealing with a mere probability space. And that is because human behavior IS a kind of probability space. I know conservatives are uncomfortable with this idea, but it’s true: people ARE rather predictable, on the whole. This is why we are not getting a Golden Age of philosophy out of modern-day China, and black children in Savannah are not ushering in some new era of modern classical composition with all of their fancy, expensive instruments. Though, of course, we might get one or two outliers.

      I agree gangs are bad (duh), but America has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world. Your solution is yet more of the same, but to what end- if, in fact, there is an end in sight? And you seriously think ‘preaching about personal responsibility’ will ever do a damn thing? Honestly, Tom; where did you grow up, and whom do you know? You DO realize that you and me, everyone in this comment thread, Ben Shapiro, people arguing over free will the Internet, are probably somewhere in the top ~5% of intelligence, privilege, and self-control (even if one were to concede that the great majority of them are still incorrigible morons) the world over? Do you understand how easy it is for us to say ‘don’t join a gang’? Do you understand how RIDICULOUS the idea seems to us- that is, us, who have never had anything in our lives that would ever nudge us in such a direction? And I have already stated something that you seem to agree with- that, ON AVERAGE, black people are born into greater obstacles than white people are…meaning, they need to do MORE, in order to reach the SAME outcome! And not even the same outcome- they need to do MORE than the average white person in order to simply not BACKSLIDE into their parents’ and their parents’ parents’ way of life. If you let this sort of probability loose into the wild, and run this experiment, oh, I don’t know, 38 million times (the population of blacks in America), what do you think will happen ON AVERAGE? Not with exceptional cases, not even with the top 20% or bottom 20%, but the trend-line, vis-a-vis whites, given that we seem to agree on the starting conditions?

      Let’s set aside whether or not you agree with specific solutions from the Left, and look at the principle behind them. The philosophy is- change the material conditions (that is, the variables in the experiment) in order to get a different trend-line. This is sound policy, based on everything we know of human behavior and the law of averages. And although you do seem to pay lip-service to things like inequality (which is better, I must say, and more honest than most conservatives), you still think you can engender meaningful change by preaching change from the mountaintop. But where has this worked? I have NEVER seen this operate anywhere else in history, if we take very specific situations and see how they have played out in the past. Yet black people- with these additional burdens- need to be exceptional and super-historical, in your eyes, just to avoid some admittedly difficult policies?

      13. Boy, I am really curious what do you think is the best ideology for the world, after reading this. Bad white people in corporations destroying the world, stealing from the poor, killing them in millions? I have literally the opposite view. The standard of living increases in astonishing rate, wealth (measured in dollars per capita per month) is spreading like crazy, access to education, calorie intake, security is increasing like crazy. In my view it is because of the very good Western ideas and systems. Not ideal – of course. Plenty of bad people. But general blessing of a capitalist system is to my mind very difficult to refute. And I literally refer you now to point 6. Thank the system!

      I am not saying anyone is ‘destroying the world’. Far from it- I think we live in the greatest period in all of human history, and although we’ve squandered opportunities, we still have many more ahead. I was specifically responding to your claim that black people commit a disproportionate number of crimes, to which I conceded, yes, when it comes to the most *visible* crimes. But the most destructive ones? Sorry- a black guy with a gun, at his worst, will NEVER do what a corporation does, at ITS worst. Or a state. Or an extortion racket, like the IMF has been. This is just common sense. The sugar lobby has killed more people in America than if we were to have a 9/11 every year- how can you logically dispute this? And wage theft and the like are responsible for far more property loss than muggers, etc. That is the point, really. We, as human beings, have a cognitive bias towards recognizing and fearing what is grisly and ugly and ‘sexy’ in that way, and we ignore far larger and more tangible threats because we are maladapted for such abstraction. I am sure, for example, millions of people all across America fear getting killed by a terrorist at some point or another, or their plane crashing, or whatever. But they don’t fear lightning or slipping and killing themselves in the bathtub or dying in a car crash, which are all far likelier outcomes. Same with crime.

  84. Tom

    1. “idea of picking and choosing taxes” – come on man. This seems dishonest on your part. If a question is asked on policy, it essentially means – if you were in power, would you tax X. Obviously the government is picking and choosing. Obviously it taxes the things it wants to discourage heavier (cigarettes, alcohol). With the stupid exception of income.

    Re abortion: I can easily argue that you simply don’t know the consequences. And have some humility. How can you think that you can know on average that unwanted children would not be a good thing. And I mean it – think about it. By instinct it seems correct, but think about the way to test this hypothesis. What methodology would have to be used (other than mind reading and crystal ball!). Even under best of circumstances (honest mothers who would participate in a study) it would be very difficult to assess the “goodness”. Say from a group of 10,000 unwanted children, 9,999 will be in poverty and 1 will invent a cure for Alzheimer. To me it makes for a great deal in terms of outcome, but philosophically – that’s the reason why you don’t treat human life lightly, why there are those self-evident rights.
    2. I think I adequately addressed Kansas tax cuts in my previous posts. I think the argument here is similar to the wage gap argument – it needs to be implemented carefully, with multiple additional caveats.

    California – it takes 5 seconds to search this on the internet. And here is a further issue I have, especially in relation to your comments on Shapiro being a FRAUD for disregarding statistical data regarding blacks. I will pay you the same compliment that I think you should pay him – i.e. he has seen it but disregarded not for reason of bias but having analyzed the data and finding it for some reason unconvincing.

    http://www.calbizjournal.com/whybusinessesleavecalifornia/

    Racism – please consider a hypothesis that this is indeed the least racist country in the world. Or very close. I like the Morgan Freeman approach – there is no racism today in the US. Stop talking about it. As a part of any minority group – where on earth would you choose to live instead?
    3. I read some of course. But I have some professional experience in a number of those systems and I have yet to discover one that could work in a sustainable fashion. Maybe provide links to the ones that you find most persuasive?
    4. 90% – has been tried, 80% has been tried. Doesn’t work AT ALL. See Laffer Curve. Unless, like Obama you think that – doesn’t matter if the revenue is lower, you take away people’s money “for reason of fairness”. One of the most evil things anyone has said. Increasing spending to stimulate growth. I am trying to be polite here. Think in this direction – in your view the government is a giant redistribution system. It costs enormous amount of money to have bureaucracy to redistribute and it is extremely inefficient. Look at NASA vs SpaceX in terms of spending per rocket.

    My example – see Panama economy.

    I can actually make a case that it is the welfare state that causes a lot of problems. E.g. giving subsidies to people on low income per capita in a household. This policy has directly led to a giant increase in single motherhood, especially among minority communities in just a few decades. This in turn is the biggest factor in the long term poverty level. I can go on forever.
    5. (7)OK, do you think anyone that thinks differently than you is a complete idiot? Do you think that they may have some reasons, that even if you find them unconvincing, doesn’t make them imbeciles? Sure, I think that secular case is the strongest one. But, only recently I have come across a really good idea, like a Jung’s collective unconsciousness. I am learning about certain thought structures that have been imbued in us via very old ancestors over hundreds of millions of years. And, most of all, we do not understand at all how consciousness works. So, my position is agnostic.

    Given the above – Occam’s Razor is not as strong as it usually is, because you don’t even know the number of variables that you don’t know:) I have read Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris and I know these arguments very well, so no need to convince me. But I think there is even a case to be made that we could be objectively right, but it doesn’t matter, because such a large amount people believe the transcendent and they anchor their rights within this belief, to the extent that the transcendent (despite objectively not real) manifests itself in the outcome, like the laws.
    6. (8) Essential = protecting liberty, property and life. That’s the axiom from the inception of the US, shared by all Founding Fathers. Arguments for them (and the union, and small government etc.) have been very extensively and brilliantly presented in e.g. Federalist Papers. Conservatists are persuaded by those. The rest is ad hominem against Shapiro and his fans. Please note that you are offending me as well, as I am a Shapiro fan.
    7. (9) OK, seems like we can agree, with the caveat that if postmodernists win, we will devolve very quickly into one big international gulag.
    8. (10) My point is – if a sufficiently large group of people have a similar framework, it has to be recognized, even if objectively not true. As to the article you linked: it was a painful read but I think I understand why we disagree on principle. I have read this and it makes logical sense and is based on basically pure thought experiments. Fine. But let’s say that next year a discovery is made that every time mother aborts, 20 people die because of it. So playing hypotheticals is extremely unconvincing to me, albeit I understand its value. But that’s the reason why philosophers have so little to contribute to society. I prefer – medical and psychological studies on short and long term effects of abortions. And being very careful about policies in life or death decisions (hence my compromise in the original post).
    9. (11) vide comment re California (2 above) re fraud issue.
    10. Sure people are predictable. Re incarceration: my, more comprehensive proposal: at once legalize every drug and let people, who only committed drug offences out of prison en masse. You save 300 billion a year, bloody psychopaths lose 300 billion in profits, companies start to produce and distribute drugs which you can administer to willing people in special clinics and you have tax revenue on top. Oh, and eliminate gun free zones. And encourage people in poor neighborhoods to get a concealed carry licence. This way – you have a lot of free space in prisons for bloody gangs. Btw – I thought about it and I think that if I was born in such poverty and circumstances I could very likely become a gang member.

    You do know that high crime rate has been caused by racist people, who refused policing in black neighborhoods? That was a systemic problem.

    Again – show me your solutions, because it is a rather uneven conversation. I think that if solutions do not work at all, or are counterproductive, they must never be implemented regardless of whatever principle you believe in.
    11. Do you think that people who made and perfected criminal codes basically all around the civilized world have not thought about this? Literally millions of debates have been made on all of those points. And what you perceive as injustice (a very bad lense in my view) in terms of effect of say black person with a gun and a billion dollar corporation – ok, so shall we decriminalize black guy with a gun? Or shall we not talk about the fact that 3% of people commit 50% of murders, mostly intra racially? Ok, so a corporation kills 10 million people – who is responsible? Why? Is it a decision maker or a group of people in a factory in China who packed the damn stuff? Remember – we are talking about how to help poor black communities.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      1. “idea of picking and choosing taxes” – come on man. This seems dishonest on your part. If a question is asked on policy, it essentially means – if you were in power, would you tax X. Obviously the government is picking and choosing. Obviously it taxes the things it wants to discourage heavier (cigarettes, alcohol). With the stupid exception of income.

      What? His statement (as far as I am aware) is that it is “unethical” to force those against abortion to pay a pro-abortion tax. How is my objection dishonest? Yes, the government IS picking and choosing what it taxes — and YOU, personally, are not. Why are you conflating these things- beyond, of course, your bias against the state? And how is this inconsistent with my objection that any single individual, with any given belief, has- by contrast- 1) NO right at present to opt out of taxes by citing a belief, 2) probably should NOT have that right, in most circumstances, due to the free rider problem I’ve described, and 3) therefore, this NOT being an ‘ethical’ issue? Not to mention the fact that anti-abortion crusaders going out and getting abortions with some sort of laughable post hoc rationalization is a well-known phenomenon. Do we then hunt through their medical records, and make them pay what they’ve hitherto refused? The entire idea of making this an issue on the grounds Shapiro provides is just ridiculous. It is simply his hatred for abortion that allowed him to make an asinine argument (even if part of a thoughtless, off-the-cuff claim) that he’d otherwise not even think to.

      Re abortion: I can easily argue that you simply don’t know the consequences. And have some humility.

      And, using the same argument, YOU do not know what these nebulous consequences are, either, but- unlike me- you are citing THEM, as opposed to empirical research on the *objective* collective good of legal abortion (women not killing themselves with coat hangers, fewer single parent households, less poverty, etc.) to support your position.

      Do you not see how backwards this is? I’ve asked you what evils abortion has perpetrated, and you cite ignorance while dismissing all the data points on my side. This is quite uncharitable, to me, though I have been more than fair to your argument. I have explicitly stated, Tom, that there very well MIGHT be consequences to the mother and perhaps even to society as a whole if abortion remains legal. But you seem to have an issue with the fact that I have tempered this completely subjective, unproven and perhaps unprovable statement with what is objective AND provable- namely, whatever these consequences of legal abortion MIGHT be, it is an absolute certainty that the alternative- making abortion illegal- DOES have dire consequences which we can all point to. But, in your eyes, I am the one who needs to be “humble” and default to YOUR position simply because it is attached to some nebulous possibility that you cannot even name? Surely, you MUST see how difficult it is, from a purely intellectual standpoint, for me to follow your suggestion?

      How can you think that you can know on average that unwanted children would not be a good thing. And I mean it – think about it. By instinct it seems correct, but think about the way to test this hypothesis. What methodology would have to be used (other than mind reading and crystal ball!). Even under best of circumstances (honest mothers who would participate in a study) it would be very difficult to assess the “goodness”. Say from a group of 10,000 unwanted children, 9,999 will be in poverty and 1 will invent a cure for Alzheimer. To me it makes for a great deal in terms of outcome, but philosophically – that’s the reason why you don’t treat human life lightly, why there are those self-evident rights.

      You are, for whatever reason, defaulting back to what I have already cautioned against: namely, that I am uninterested in any hypothetical serial rapists OR saints that ‘might’ have come out of an aborted fetus. I am interested in LEGAL policy, which has tangible, measurable impacts, and the costs/benefits of one OR the other, since there can be NO in-between here. I am not denying that an aborted child might have the cure for cancer or go on to be the greatest president in American history. I mean, sure. But are you SERIOUSLY suggesting that we adopt a policy that limits reproductive freedom, increases single parenthood, increases poverty, increases the use of dangerous backdoor abortions, increases the number of unwanted and unloved children, and so on, for the sake of some extremely unlikely hypothetical that you have concocted in order to hold on to an increasingly emotional position? Why are you privileging “the cure for Alzheimer’s” (near-zero chance, but large social benefits) over the huge, non-hypothetical, and immediate costs of outlawing abortion? More importantly, since you and Shapiro are big on using non-outliers for argumentation, why are you now using such an EXTREME outlier for the sake of rationalizing a broader anti-abortion platform?

      And, look- if you choose to play this silly game, you need to realize that anyone can do that. What if, for example, a mother wants to give ‘everything’ to her child in the future, but gets raped and is forced to carry a child to term when she is not ready? What if her genetics AND her readiness to sacrifice for a child at a later date (but not now) means she has to raise THIS kid, instead, with fewer resources and more resentment- thus eliminating from the cosmos what would have been a kid who cures cancer, becomes president, and discovers the elixir to immortality one week before his would-be death, had the mother’s original conditions been met at some later, more ideal date?

      Yet the nonsense, above, holds the same logical weight as yours does. Perhaps not in strict numbers- I will grant your possibility is ‘more possible’ than mine- but EXACTLY the same if we are discussing far wider policy recommendations, since we simply cannot default to such hypotheticals and outliers when we are simply trying to fine-tune for a social average.

      2. I think I adequately addressed Kansas tax cuts in my previous posts. I think the argument here is similar to the wage gap argument – it needs to be implemented carefully, with multiple additional caveats.

      But you have not adequately addressed them, nor the fact that Reason is purposely misrepresenting the data to make an argument which has nothing to do with the original argument put forward by the GOP. And no, it is not similar at all. The libertarian position is that steep tax cuts will lead to great business growth. That did NOT happen. The fact that Kansas later developed budgetary woes is IMMATERIAL to the fact that businesses did not hire more nor expand their operations nor bring extra wealth to Kansas vis-a-vis any other comparable state. The budget is a red herring, and you are falling for it. You need to focus on what happened to business and to growth- namely, nothing.

      I mean- don’t you see what Reason is doing? It is attempting to create more and more improbable conditions in order to not deal with the fact that there is virtually no research and even less empirical data to support their beliefs. Then, they can just wave their hands and say, ‘That’s not what I’d do!’ while ignoring the fact that NO ONE will EVER do what they want to do for all the reasons I’ve already explained. And then, not having their impossible set of conditions on which to test their ridiculous assertions, they can still look legit from the sidelines to the true believers while nitpicking every new bit of inductive data which contradicts their religious dogma. Yet Kansas was a pretty good test of their beliefs, even if it was imperfect- after all, libertarian perfection is impossible if you are a politician and you need to keep your constituents from dying. You are being EXTREMELY charitable to them, Tom, but are for whatever reason willing to ignore, say, hundreds of studies and dozens of federal-level lawsuits and investigations into racist policing. Why is that?

      California – it takes 5 seconds to search this on the internet.

      Research what? What argument are you responding to?

      And here is a further issue I have, especially in relation to your comments on Shapiro being a FRAUD for disregarding statistical data regarding blacks. I will pay you the same compliment that I think you should pay him – i.e. he has seen it but disregarded not for reason of bias but having analyzed the data and finding it for some reason unconvincing.

      http://www.calbizjournal.com/whybusinessesleavecalifornia/

      Oh, look- “Cal Biz Journal” insists California is bleeding its businesses. Meanwhile, ever since Prop 30 passed (the same year as Kansas’s tax cuts), California has seen great economic movement, with some of the fastest job growth over the last 5 years of any state, improved credit ratings, increased services, and- yes- more and more people wishing to live in what is probably America’s most desirable area. (Of course, whether they CAN actually live there is a different story.) Cali has 2X the GDP of the entirety of Russia and is one of the world’s largest economies. Meanwhile, Kansas is now a literal shitstain that the libertarians are wringing their kilts over trying to rationalize away.

      Cali’s biggest problems are what I’ve already said- a tough housing market, corporate-induced water shortages, crop failures due to the recent immigrant crackdowns, and companies actually having a tough time finding WORKERS (not workers having a tough time finding companies!) mostly due to the housing premium. Yet the housing premium exists because people WANT to live there. Most companies WANT to stay there, even if SOME (this is the key word) do go elsewhere to enjoy lower tax rates or a bigger labor supply or whatever else. This has meant NOTHING to California’s economy, which is stronger than almost every other economy on earth. Yet I know the objection already- but they’d even be better with tax cuts! Oh yeah? And if these tax cuts come with cuts to essential services, and California is considered less desirable, overall, could THAT not affect business, too- perhaps even more than ‘burdensome’ taxes (for which they, apparently, get so much more in return)? You, like many others tackling this issue, pick and choose your variables while ignoring the big picture, which is precisely why the Standard Economic Model gets some traction in some circles, but almost ZERO research in actual journals that deal with the real world. And now- to this point- with Trump’s tax ‘cut’, even more Californians will be squeezed out due to not being able to take mortgage deductions on what has quickly become their biggest expenditure. That said- who’s moving to Kansas, Tom?

      Racism – please consider a hypothesis that this is indeed the least racist country in the world. Or very close. I like the Morgan Freeman approach – there is no racism today in the US. Stop talking about it. As a part of any minority group – where on earth would you choose to live instead?

      You accept the studies which indicate black mortgage applicants get fewer loans if they attach a photo of themselves, but say there is no racism. You see a president (that is, our head of state!) who says “most” Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug-dealers, with tens of millions of people cheering him on, but say there is no racism. You do not seriously address any of the dozens of studies and lawsuits — many brought by our very own justice system, at the highest levels — I cite, but say there is no racism. You see the GOP target and disenfranchise black voters with “surgical precision” (according to court rulings), then say there is no racism. Then, your “proof” for what is just patently untrue is a quote from a rich black celebrity? Please tell me you are just trolling at this point.

      3. I read some of course. But I have some professional experience in a number of those systems and I have yet to discover one that could work in a sustainable fashion. Maybe provide links to the ones that you find most persuasive?

      Hold on- what do you mean by work in a sustainable fashion? What is NOT working, and why is it not working? You need to zero-in, for me, on what the issue is, exactly, and how it’s playing out (at least in your eyes) before we can move forward.

      4. 90% – has been tried, 80% has been tried. Doesn’t work AT ALL. See Laffer Curve. Unless, like Obama you think that – doesn’t matter if the revenue is lower, you take away people’s money “for reason of fairness”. One of the most evil things anyone has said. Increasing spending to stimulate growth. I am trying to be polite here. Think in this direction – in your view the government is a giant redistribution system. It costs enormous amount of money to have bureaucracy to redistribute and it is extremely inefficient. Look at NASA vs SpaceX in terms of spending per rocket.

      You misunderstand the Laffer Curve: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gyobu3pd50

      Like I said, in lieu of actual empirical data, we must logically default to the tax-equity position. Seems rational, to me, but you insist on satisfying some ideological framework, then call one of the key bases of the modern industrialized Western world “evil”. Ok, but do you not see how I can’t accept this as a reasonable argument? To say 90% has been tried, etc., and failed, is not true simply because you say it is true. You MUST understand that a 90% progressive tax is, in fact, somewhere around 30-50% of the true tax rate (even at the levels where the rich are supposed to be paying the top 90% tax rate on their final millions)? This is why you set it high- you KNOW these guys are going to wriggle out of it, anyway.

      NASA and SpaceX are not doing the same things- not even close. Why are you even comparing them?

      My example – see Panama economy.

      No, Tom. You have to say more than just “see Panama economy”. I have seen Panama proffered by both the Left and the Right to ‘prove’ whatever it is they wish to prove, so I have no idea what argument you are trying to make here.

      I can actually make a case that it is the welfare state that causes a lot of problems. E.g. giving subsidies to people on low income per capita in a household. This policy has directly led to a giant increase in single motherhood, especially among minority communities in just a few decades. This in turn is the biggest factor in the long term poverty level. I can go on forever.

      Out of curiosity, did you read the comment thread before posting? (I am not saying that I expect you to- yes, it is really long.) I’ve actually addressed this in great depth already, but let me just touch on a few those points once more. Yes, behavioral economics has proven- much to the Left’s chagrin- that the welfare state DOES encourage specific behaviors, and not all of them are positive. One of these encouraged behaviors is single parent households. But according to the same data, it is a SMALL contribution- more importantly, it is far smaller than 1) the decline of shotgun marriages, 2) the unavailability of black men due to poverty, crime, and the resultant incarceration rates, 3) the relative birthlessness of MARRIED black women, which only seems to drive up the illegitimacy rate since it has to logically fall on everyone else (i.e., the non-wedded) to produce children to fill out all of those misleading graphs.

      Further, there is also a cultural discrepancy between illegitimate children in black vs. white contexts, as black fathers are in fact, on average, significantly more involved in their children’s lives even when they live apart. And while ‘black promiscuity’ (particularly among males) is a real thing, this is because virtually EVERY instance of a skewed male/female ratio in the anthropological record has led to, at the very least, a de facto polygamous or polyandrous society. It does not matter whether it is culturally enshrined or religious or accidental- it makes perfect biological sense that more women competing for fewer men encourages men to be more sexually lax. Again, this happens everywhere, and singling out the black community for behaving according to a well-established human universal is- dare I say it?- kinda racist.

      5. (7)OK, do you think anyone that thinks differently than you is a complete idiot? Do you think that they may have some reasons, that even if you find them unconvincing, doesn’t make them imbeciles?

      They are neither imbeciles nor without their reasons. But, if their reasons are bad, they ARE wrong. And if their reasons are consistently bad, position after position, issue after issue, for which they argue in the same exact way as they copy each other’s thought processes again and again, due to myopia or emotional neediness or outright dishonesty (as with Shapiro), they are, at best, not people I would take very seriously. Ask yourself this- I’m sure you can tell I take lots of liberal positions on things? Yet I bet that you have not come across these sorts of arguments before, phrased in the novel way that I am phrasing them. I had to actually THINK about these positions, and I had to ADMIT to myself that liberals are pretty awful at justifying what should be, in effect, the logical default on so many things. Had you dealt with liberals, like me, non-stop, I doubt you’d still be a conservative. I’ll say the same about these non-imbeciles- they have NOT thought past the talking-points stage, and they simply do not know how to deal with canned answers. Shapiro is fuckin’ great at dealing with canned liberal answers. That’s why he spends most of his time trolling students at college campuses or ‘debating’ ogres. Let’s see him take his ‘we need God for free will’ to a Shelly Kagan or ‘Israel is just wonderful’ to a Norman Finkelstein. He would die, and knows that, in order to not die, he needs to stay exactly where his audience wants him. He has found mediocrity, and was shocked to learn that it has worked far more in his favor than genuine talent ever would have. It’s embarrassing that people worship him, but I also understand it.

      Sure, I think that secular case is the strongest one. But, only recently I have come across a really good idea, like a Jung’s collective unconsciousness. I am learning about certain thought structures that have been imbued in us via very old ancestors over hundreds of millions of years. And, most of all, we do not understand at all how consciousness works. So, my position is agnostic.

      It’s great that you have both the time and willingness to explore all of these what-ifs. Hell, I still do the same, now, because I’m a genuinely curious person. But most people are in the real world, dealing with real issues, and need to come to real conclusions, RIGHT NOW. To say we must not abort fetuses because there might be a soul is just irresponsible given the consequences. If we have something that we think is ‘the strongest case’, we argue about it (as we are doing now) and then default to it. What else can we do, besides stay in a kind of perpetual limbo?

      Given the above – Occam’s Razor is not as strong as it usually is, because you don’t even know the number of variables that you don’t know:) I have read Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris and I know these arguments very well, so no need to convince me. But I think there is even a case to be made that we could be objectively right, but it doesn’t matter, because such a large amount people believe the transcendent and they anchor their rights within this belief, to the extent that the transcendent (despite objectively not real) manifests itself in the outcome, like the laws.

      Yes, and these laws are becoming more and more secular, in order to reflect the fact that society HAS decided upon “the strongest” explanation, or is at least getting close to it. I will say this, however- I am not in fucking Saudi Arabia, and I will not live under someone else’s sharia, whether it’s a Muslim or some crypto-Christian who tries to strip away all religious doctrine from their anti-abortion stance or their pro-libertarian free will position while still utterly relying upon the same concepts. Do what you want with your womb and your cock and your delusions, but stay the hell away from me. If I am the one that is deluded, that will ultimately come out, in time. Until then, they need to prove it, and if they can’t, no whining about my supposed intolerance.

      As for the variables I don’t know- that applies to everyone. Yet you seem to be ‘therefore’ making an argument for stasis and indecision, which does not logically follow from imperfect knowledge. Especially if we DO have consequences that we CAN measure for the other side.

      6. (8) Essential = protecting liberty, property and life. That’s the axiom from the inception of the US, shared by all Founding Fathers. Arguments for them (and the union, and small government etc.) have been very extensively and brilliantly presented in e.g. Federalist Papers. Conservatists are persuaded by those. The rest is ad hominem against Shapiro and his fans. Please note that you are offending me as well, as I am a Shapiro fan.

      But you again reveal your bias, and are not honestly dealing with my objections. So, let us get pragmatic here. Protecting liberty- yet liberty comes in two forms: the freedom TO (which is what you and me are both advocating), and the freedom FROM (which is what I am advocating in addition to the former). I demand the “freedom FROM” dying from easily treatable diseases even if I cannot afford treatment, and the freedom FROM being hassled for ‘debt’ if I cannot pay my way through accidents over which I have NO control. Incidentally, pretty much the entire industrialized world (which takes its concepts from the same Enlightenment ideals on which America was founded) agrees with me, because, like it or not, America is very much an outlier in this regard.

      Property- yes, I am all for property rights, which also mean- even in the Founders’ days- collective goods. What would they have said about the price of air, if it were bottled and distributed Total Recall style? Yet I can extend this further- water, environmental protections, and the right to live in a habitable planet that energy companies are doing their best to destroy. Thus, a heavy tax (or some other burden) placed on their malfeasance might, in your system, be a violation of property rights, but is, in my interpretation, a preservation of mine. Your system can only work if market forces are perfect and informational dynamics are not asymmetrical (hint: they are) and things go precisely to the libertarian plan. My system works if human beings behave according to the way that human beings in fact behave, rather than according to some unfalsifiable claptrap. Yes, I know, it is tautological and it is unfair, but that’s just the way of the world.

      Life- which, incidentally, means the freedom to NOT die, if the state can easily prevent it. And universal healthcare will easily prevent it in many more cases than the system we currently have. And since a fetus lacks personhood, well…*flush*.

      Founding fathers- yet this is a logical fallacy- an appeal to tradition. The Founding Fathers were also slave owners, and believed a ton of bullshit we’d be discomfited by. You threw the phrase ‘founding fathers’ in there because you assume it somehow deepens your argument, when in fact it reveals the very biases I am highlighting in this article and with which you emotionally struggle to disentangle from. (And, look- I know the feeling, and I sympathize, as I used to be a Marxist, which is just a fun-house mirror version of your own ideology. I got out of it, though. Will you?)

      Anyway- do you see where I am going with all this? Shapiro has NOT explained why my interpretation of the above is any less legitimate than his. He says so, and that’s that. Interestingly, every one of my interpretations expands MEANINGFUL freedoms for the AVERAGE person way more than the ones you guys default to. In other words, I have a far broader definition of freedom- it is a freedom people can actually USE and build their lives upon and refers back to the world as-is. Your notion of freedom is, essentially, “I get to give away less of my own money, and so do corporations.” This is why the Western world has gone in the direction it has gone, while America is this last bastion of defense for the irrational- both in our attachment to violence (and Old World phenomenon), religion (ditto), racism (ditto), and so on. Do you HONESTLY believe that, a century from now, every single person on the planet WON’T be covered by universal healthcare, and probably a universal basic income, to boot? They will read our comments and wonder who Tom was, and what the fuck he was thinking. And it’ll be OK- you’re in good company, because we say the same thing today about great men such as George Washington.

      8. (10) My point is – if a sufficiently large group of people have a similar framework, it has to be recognized, even if objectively not true.

      But no one is saying to not recognize it. No one is telling them that they MUST get abortions. They ARE saying, however, that their framework is objectively not true, does not apply to non-believers (and govn’t ought to be de facto non-believers on these sorts of issues), and that the rest of the world will default to empirical research, but that, IF the non-believers so wish, they can join the rest of this world whenever they feel like it. I mean, what is the implication of your “sufficiently large group of people”, exactly, on these far broader policy positions? Are you suggesting we ought to outlaw abortion to satisfy some irrational whim whose consequences- based on that same research- are far greater than the status quo?

      But that’s the reason why philosophers have so little to contribute to society. I prefer – medical and psychological studies on short and long term effects of abortions. And being very careful about policies in life or death decisions (hence my compromise in the original post).

      Philosophers do have a lot to contribute, though- such as settling the non-personhood of a fetus, so that when fucking lunatics wish to condemn women to bodily harm and unborn children to poverty and worse-than-average life outcomes (then cut off welfare ‘for their own good’), I can actually have an argument against them and do not need to resort to a baseball bat.

      Re: studies- like I’ve said, even if one were to concede psychological damage, the real question is whether the alternative (that is, legality) is better on the whole. And, obviously, whether or not a person has the right to subject oneself to psychological harm for the sake of some perceived good. I mean, aren’t you a conservative, and almost libertarian, at that? Do you really wish to limit someone’s freedom to do as they please with their own bodies IF we have already settled the non-personhood of a fetus, and those ontological questions are no longer questions? And if they are still questions, in your mind, you need to be arguing with me from that turf, and not shift your argument to fresh territory which is- at best- a tangent to the real point you need to establish (personhood). I am not sure if you see this, but you keep conflating so many things and your argument is just all over the place now.

      10. Sure people are predictable. Re incarceration: my, more comprehensive proposal: at once legalize every drug and let people, who only committed drug offences out of prison en masse. You save 300 billion a year, bloody psychopaths lose 300 billion in profits, companies start to produce and distribute drugs which you can administer to willing people in special clinics and you have tax revenue on top. Oh, and eliminate gun free zones. And encourage people in poor neighborhoods to get a concealed carry licence. This way – you have a lot of free space in prisons for bloody gangs. Btw – I thought about it and I think that if I was born in such poverty and circumstances I could very likely become a gang member.

      I agree with some of those proposals, particularly legalizing every drug and funneling part of the tax money to rebuilding communities that were once drug-infested. In fact, I’d probably start there.

      You do know that high crime rate has been caused by racist people, who refused policing in black neighborhoods? That was a systemic problem.

      No, black neighborhoods did not always have high crime, in relative terms. High crime, generally speaking, is not even a police issue for the most part. Yes, coercion has to be part of the equation, but it could be implied or promised coercion, too, without anyone even having to see any part of the state apparatus. The most egregious, long-term, attrition-like violence is caused by an inability for a group to shift its revenge needs from the group to an objective mediator who can effectively punish and redress. Sure, part of this could be a lack of access to cops. Yet it could also be an ingrained social dynamic where problems NEED to be handled interpersonally (such as with kids growing up in the streets) at the risk of being a target, yourself. You can have a cop on every street corner, but if you come from the street and refuse to avenge others’ disrespect, you will become a target to other predators. Poverty simply exacerbates this, and often by mechanisms that are not as well understood as liberals (people need money!) or conservatives (it’s the culture, dammit!) seem to think. I bet a huge part of black crime, today, has to do with a lack of all sorts of structures, and a lack of more abstract incentives, which means far fewer outlets for male urges.

      If you haven’t seen it, here is an alternative hypothesis for crime which touches on these more complex causes, and can explain why poverty does not always necessarily lead to crime: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_strain_theory

      Again – show me your solutions, because it is a rather uneven conversation. I think that if solutions do not work at all, or are counterproductive, they must never be implemented regardless of whatever principle you believe in.

      Legalize all drugs and funnel part of the money into black communities, abolish all private schools, abolish all de facto race-based public housing, abolish racist policing, black-focused work and education programs (particularly for high-paying but neglected, skilled blue-collar work), and a lot more, probably, but these are just off the top of my head.

      11. Do you think that people who made and perfected criminal codes basically all around the civilized world have not thought about this? Literally millions of debates have been made on all of those points. And what you perceive as injustice (a very bad lense in my view) in terms of effect of say black person with a gun and a billion dollar corporation – ok, so shall we decriminalize black guy with a gun? Or shall we not talk about the fact that 3% of people commit 50% of murders, mostly intra racially? Ok, so a corporation kills 10 million people – who is responsible? Why? Is it a decision maker or a group of people in a factory in China who packed the damn stuff? Remember – we are talking about how to help poor black communities.

      Thought about what? And ‘perfected’? Nothing has been ‘perfected’. Given the nature of corporations, etc., it is exceptionally difficult to nab people based on our current legal system. Again, the tendency is to privatize the profits of their malfeasance, and socialize the costs- not just down to us, but also across the corporation itself, until everyone can reasonably point fingers at one another and culpability is so diluted that no one is truly held accountable.

      And what debates? What I am saying is true. You said blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes. I agreed, but only with the stipulation that they are VISIBLE crimes. The other crimes – wage theft, environmental destruction, too much sugar, war, opioids, manipulated food studies, etc. – are not ‘a black thing’. That they happen to be more destructive and ‘a white thing’ is a historical accident, and really says nothing about white people, but it’s still true. You began to harp on this in utter disbelief as if I’d said something crazy. But what is crazy about it? It is definite that the efforts of various food lobbies will do more bodily harm in 2018 than every black person will do in America. It is definite that more will be stole in wages in 2018 than in muggings. And it is absolutely certain that every time a person in New York gets on a subway and wonders about being targeted by a Muslim terrorist that day, he is about 1000X more likely to die of a hundred other reasons- some of them preventable, and many of them indirectly due to corporate malfeasance.

      Note how you are again conflating things, however. Nowhere did I recommend decriminalizing black people with guns. Nowhere did I say that a black person murdering anyone is not ‘a’ serious crime, as far as two people are concerned. Nowhere did I say we need to be lenient on murderers or psychopaths. I *am* saying, however, that our cognitive bias towards what is sexy and grisly and highly visible has ALSO created a cognitive bias AGAINST black people, although most people’s ills (including that of white people) have nothing to do with the behavior of blacks. I am arguing that our priorities are therefore COMPLETELY misaligned. I am a liberal who believes in the death penalty, and think it is time to start electrocuting cops, politicians, and CEOs ON TOP OF everyone else we are (rightfully, in many cases) targeting. Yet conservatives seem to think that a certain class of person ought to be immune from such, but I do not believe in selective justice.

  85. Tom

    1. I think you responded to this point too quickly without trying to understand at all what I was talking about. The question was about policy and it was responded to on grounds of policy making. Why are you even talking about individuals opting out of taxes?
    2. Objective collective good (position of 50% of the nation) vs personhood of the fetus (position of the other 50%). In my mind we have presented our cases. I understand your arguments, respect those of the other 50% and willing to compromise as outlined. This is the only practical solution.
    3. I understand, really, your distinction about being able to have a right to abortion by way of legal policy. It is clear that there are severe adverse effects on women in particular and society in general are not as nebulous as you want them to appear. You missed my point about thinking about testing those “positive effects” – how in the world you can do this? “increases single parenthood, increases poverty, increases the number of unloved children” – you put it in a sentence seamlessly. Show me the methodology of testing used and explain how is it correctly accounting for all appropriate variables. As to the other issue – discussing the absolutely improbable outlier of an outlier against a reasonably probable one – I do not accept this.
    4. Kansas: I think in my previous posts I did in fact say what other conditions would have to be met and that tax cut is not a magic be-all end-all tool. So I do not accept your position. And I certainly observe what large state, taxes and bureaucracy do to business and economy. It creates EVERYWHERE a spiral of ever increasing debt. No, thank you.
    5. Please look at California debt and explain to me how in the world you think this is sustainable? What in your worldview will this spiral lead to? It is difficult to discuss principle when we have basic disagreements on facts, maybe it’s because of the bubbles we function in. I certainly agree that Cali has a very large GDP and is very wealthy. I certainly disagree it is because of the socialists in power, instead I think it is the capitalist free market enterprise that is there slowing down the inevitable collapse caused by the left.
    6. I make this argument as follows: imagine entering a university with a 1000 black men sitting in auditory in Armani suits, listening to a polite debate about global warming. There is no person I know of (apart from racist outliers like white supremacist assholes) who would feel threatened. Again, the same 1000 black men all dressed as holywood portrays gangbangers, speaking in their version of English and looking at you funny. Different reaction. You see – it is not a bloody race. It is culture.
    Furthermore, I don’t claim there is no racism (I like the Freeman approach because I think it is best and will work practically). It is one of the least racist countries in the world. Complete lack of any kind of racial difference bias is an utopian, impossible to achieve goal. That said – ok, if there is a proven instance of racism you have a legal recourse. And Shapiro always says here – if you can really show me there is racism, show me, and I will help you fight it.
    The crime statistics on illegal immigrants are off the charts. And it is not racist to want to protect your border. And it is not evil to accept to your country those that you want and not bloody everyone.
    7. Pensions: various approaches to systems of direct redistributions. They are based on productivity. Declining working force and society that gets older, plus the increasing inflation which is the only thing that can manage ever increasing spiral of national debt is going to fail. Completely. Because it is not sustainable.
    8. Laffer Curve explained by Pakman. Hilarious. So, let’s analyze this. You have brackets 10-20-30-40-50-60-70-80-90. Lets say based on 10x coefficient in thousands of dollars (i.e. 10% on 10 000-19 999). You will notice, based on Laffer principle that higher you get your expected revenue gets lower. Because less people want to work their assess of, to give it all away and they decrease productivity and create various costs (be it investment costs or fake costs or creating innumerable number of schemes). So, you get less money because you incentivize people to become crooks. This principle guided Reagan – big tax cuts and revenue increased from 515 billion in 1980 to over 900 billion in 1988. You have similar effects on the effects of excise – say for alcohol. There is a limit above which people will just produce the booze themselves.

    I also categorically do not agree you calling such ridiculously high tax rates as a key base of the modern Western world.

    SpaceX is building a BFR. NASA is building SLS. I am comparing them only on that. It is fair. Cost effectiveness is incomparable.
    9. This is silly and you can work it out by yourself. In the 60s – was the incarceration rate or poverty lower or higher than it is now? I don’t know about shotgun marriages at all, but ok I can allow it to make some contribution. But increase from 20 to 70%? I really think it is silly to think that.
    10. You see, I think that the principle is – left side is in my view rarely able to consider, even for a second, that they may be wrong. The right is much more diverse (in my view). That’s, basically, the entire beef that I have with you, which I stated a number of times. I think you argue well and this conversation is making me think, so I like it. I don’t agree at all with some of your principles on economy and other issues, but we probably share a lot more beliefs than is apparent. You do know that bringing theological arguments into a discussion (as an agnostic) I am playing devil’s advocate:) I just really think that people like Shapiro are very honest, hard working and sharp and I like to listen to their points of view. And I don’t believe he is the pope of the right or alpha and omega of the conservatist movement. Sure, maybe he would lose debates, but unless they happen I have yet to see him lose:)
    11. On abortion – again we differ, but let’s agree to disagree. I voiced my concerns, you replied and we are beating a dead horse at this point.
    12. I will respond in the next post – I promise – because I think you are completely wrong on every single point. But can you please tell me how do you think I have a bias relating to the Founding Fathers and where it comes from? Because it is puzzling to me as you continually refer to it. I told you that what I see in federalist papers is extremely convincing and thoughtful.
    13. If you think that Marxism with its collective ideology and individualism and free enterprise are on the opposite sides of the spectrum I have to agree. One is absolutely evil and stupid, the other is good and proper.
    14. As to my particular brand – I appear to be a political martian. I can tell you my thoughts on any issue and they will come from a lot points on the spectrum.
    15. “The most egregious, long-term, attrition-like violence is caused by an inability for a group to shift its revenge needs from the group to an objective mediator who can effectively punish and redress. Sure, part of this could be a lack of access to cops. Yet it could also be an ingrained social dynamic where problems NEED to be handled interpersonally (such as with kids growing up in the streets) at the risk of being a target, yourself.” Interesting. It really shows how we fundamentally differ. To me a society is made of individuals. Individuals commit acts of revenge and crime. I do not think that there is anything like ingrained social dynamic, but I don’t know enough about this at all.
    16. Why would you abolish private schools? Why again limit peoples rights? I still think that there is no systemic racism in policing, certainly not in the law. How would you abolish it? What is black-focused work? Some kind of affirmative action for them? If so, I strongly disagree with this.
    17. So there is a very complex underlying foundation in criminal legal theory that I simply cannot explain in such short posts. In the US system the concept of actus reus and means rea and degree of separation and adequate consequence are the main principles. So those principles underline the structure of criminal liability. Adding additional agencies externalizes the actions for which a human would be liable, but in most ways to extend liability on such agencies through vacarious liability, would immediately cause people who actually had no mens rea to be liable just by being a part of agency. That’s why many things that cause harm are not crimes, because in US system to willfully sentence a person for a crime without mens rea is contradictory to the foundational principles of the law. Not because “black crime is sexy”. It is just fundamentally a very difficult problem, constantly being adjusted.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hello Tom,

      1. I think you responded to this point too quickly without trying to understand at all what I was talking about. The question was about policy and it was responded to on grounds of policy making. Why are you even talking about individuals opting out of taxes?

      Because ‘unethical’ implies a wrong to be redressed, whereas I am arguing that this is not even on the ethical/unethical axis. In other words, forget being wrong; Shapiro’s statement is not even false. And I do not know what you mean by this was all in the context of policy making- honestly, what is the functional difference between arguing that a tax for a well-established good ought not be levied, due to some people disagreeing with it, versus allowing those people to opt out of that tax? In the latter case, you create a free-rider problem over which you quickly lose control, thus dissolving the state, and in the latter, the state slowly deconstructs itself as we go through all of our near-infinite disagreements. It doesn’t matter if Shapiro is not explicitly arguing for an opt-out in this case- if he believes in redress (as the term implies), then anyone can make this argument for literally anything by citing a personal belief, and the state is compelled to listen.

      For whatever reason, you are harping on- at worst- a semantic difference which may or may not even be, just to better position Shapiro’s argument for one horrific outcome over the same horrific outcome reached some other way. Is this really what you want to do?

      2. Objective collective good (position of 50% of the nation) vs personhood of the fetus (position of the other 50%). In my mind we have presented our cases. I understand your arguments, respect those of the other 50% and willing to compromise as outlined. This is the only practical solution.

      Yes, and one case has been presented merely by fiat, and without evidence. The other makes sense, and to rebut it, people (not you, but anti-abortionists more generally) go on about the worthlessness of philosophy because they themselves do not know how to be intellectually consistent.

      And I still don’t understand what this ‘compromise’ is. It is a simple question of legality. Either you are allowed to get an abortion in a licensed medical setting, or not. Either you do as you please, or you are forced into one of two outcomes. Yet I am not arguing for forced abortion to women who do not want to abort. The other side, however, is arguing for forced reproduction no matter the circumstances. That this does not alarm you, as a conservative, proves just how bastardized the word ‘conservatism’ has become. It is- literally!- reproduction by COERCION. Literally, because they would even include RAPE in their abortion ban, and ‘sharp Shapiro’ (your words) thinks it’s cool.

      3. I understand, really, your distinction about being able to have a right to abortion by way of legal policy. It is clear that there are severe adverse effects on women in particular and society in general are not as nebulous as you want them to appear. You missed my point about thinking about testing those “positive effects” – how in the world you can do this? “increases single parenthood, increases poverty, increases the number of unloved children” – you put it in a sentence seamlessly. Show me the methodology of testing used and explain how is it correctly accounting for all appropriate variables. As to the other issue – discussing the absolutely improbable outlier of an outlier against a reasonably probable one – I do not accept this.

      Again, you do not really say what these severe adverse effects are, either on women, or on society. Pick one, or pick both, and let’s discuss. But let me just caution- you need to understand what you’re setting yourself up for if this (as opposed to personhood) is the argument you wish to make. First, you need to establish that these severe adverse effects on, say, a woman’s psyche, are worse than the severe adverse effects on the same psyche of a woman who is forced to carry a pregnancy to term against her will, then either be forced to expend time, money, and other resources on an unwanted child, or to simply give that child up (due to lack of resources, or whatever) after the initial postnatal bond has formed. Are you really comfortable going this route? Because, even in the slim chance that you are successful, you must THEN establish that these personal costs should not even be an option for a woman to undertake out of some cost/benefit analysis on her part, which- according to your argument- really ought to be in the hands of the state as opposed to remaining a highly private, highly variable, and oftentimes complex personal decision. Finally, you must show that these costs are in fact greater than the costs of outlawing abortion. Not that it’s impossible, but you have a really long and difficult road ahead of you, when true personhood is likely your best shot at convincing others both in terms of pure logic as well as in terms of messaging.

      Re: “positive effects”, and testing. I don’t understand- what is your objection, exactly? Out of all the women getting abortions, it stands to reason that some if not many of them do not have a partner willing to support a child- hence, more single-parent households. Out of all the women getting abortions, it stands to reason that some if not many of them do not have the proper resources to support a child- hence, more impoverished households. Out of all the women getting abortions, it stands to reason that some if not many of them simply do not WANT a child- hence, more unwanted children. Are you suggesting that more single-parent arrangements, more impoverished households, and more unwanted children are hidden positives, or am I missing something here?

      Re: outliers- your “reasonably probable outlier” assumes that out of the almost countless places that an object for fulfilling some niche (science, medicine, politics, etc.), it ‘might as well’ come from an aborted fetus as opposed to the thousands if not millions of other people currently working to fill that niche, themselves, or will be once they are born- and likely born in circumstances more amenable to such, especially if an aborting mother chooses to have children later, when she is more ready. More importantly, you are then using this possibility to enforce a policy decision that is neither remote nor hypothetical, but has immediate, tangible, and egregious effects upon millions of women and children. You are then weighing that one gifted person born from this freshly-made morass as irreplaceable (this is arguable, by the way), and implying that his contributions outweigh the suffering of everyone else. Again, do you not see how desperate this tack sounds- all because you have been forced off the personhood argument?

      4. Kansas: I think in my previous posts I did in fact say what other conditions would have to be met and that tax cut is not a magic be-all end-all tool. So I do not accept your position. And I certainly observe what large state, taxes and bureaucracy do to business and economy. It creates EVERYWHERE a spiral of ever increasing debt. No, thank you.

      I know you listed the other conditions. My objection is that these conditions are becoming more and more remote, and since they will always be imperfect, folks like Reason.com are then free to No True Scotsman their way into relevance, just like Marxists still argue that Leninism, Stalinism, and Maoism were born of imperfect conditions, and do not represent ‘true’ communism. Perhaps it is a stretch to argue that Kansas is your Yugoslavia, but I’d say it’s reasonable to at least to say that Kansas is a neighborhood in Yugoslavia where the intelligentsia drinks vodka on park benches, scribbling notes that say ‘what if, what if, what if…’ 😉

      5. Please look at California debt and explain to me how in the world you think this is sustainable? What in your worldview will this spiral lead to? It is difficult to discuss principle when we have basic disagreements on facts, maybe it’s because of the bubbles we function in. I certainly agree that Cali has a very large GDP and is very wealthy. I certainly disagree it is because of the socialists in power, instead I think it is the capitalist free market enterprise that is there slowing down the inevitable collapse caused by the left.

      I did not list California’s debt in my list of problems because it is not currently a problem. The thing that really gets me about debt hawks is that besides being responsible for most debts, themselves (our national debt is almost exclusively due to the Bush-era tax cuts), they also misunderstand what debt is, when it gets to be a problem, how it’s been handled in the past, and what it in fact entails depending on the economy we are discussing.

      First, on the numbers of California’s debt, and comparing it to others more generally. It is still (as far as I am aware) being paid off comfortably below the threshold (when 6-7% of present budget is earmarked for debt repayment) of wise borrowing. There is a debt-to-GDP ratio (really, the number you ought to be looking at) that is likewise quite comfortable- in fact, among the lowest in the entire world. And the lack of a surplus (which should never last very long, anyway) means there is less private debt, since a government surplus- roughly speaking- is private debt, and correlates nicely with economic slowdown. This is why a surplus is often followed by tax cuts and the accrual of debt followed by tax hikes- a constant process, and guess at which part of the cycle California is currently on?

      Further, the nations with the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio are often doing poorly. By contrast, the nations with the highest debt-to-GDP ratio are as diverse as Japan (the second-highest in the world), Greece, Singapore (though they do not spend their debt, a strategy which in fact earns them income above and beyond this debt), Ireland, Grenada, the United States, the U.K., and Portugal. Those right in the middle include quite a few countries with very generous social safety nets and high taxes- with some of the most generous nations having the least amount of both corporate and government debt. In other words, if you think you can get a measure of past, present, or future economic prospects simply by looking at debt, or even at debt-to-GDP, alone, you are wrong. If you think debt at present condemns you to anything whatsoever other than technically limitless borrowing, you are wrong. If you think any government can accrue any amount of debt for any reason, you are wrong, but no one is arguing this, and so there is no point in bringing it up.

      Now, with that out of the way, what IS debt, anyway? The word can mean a lot of different things to different nations. Hell, it means something nutty (that is, apart from the real world) to libertarians and deficit hawks, too. Yet it means something very specific to the United States, or even to a place like California. 20 trillion in debt, in America, must be set against many more trillions in untapped natural resources, the ever-growing premium on our land, almost endless trade contracts with itself as well as with the rest of the world, hundreds of millions of people it could tax at Clinton-era tax rates to eliminate the debt almost overnight, the greatest soft power in the world, the greatest military power in the world (even with long overdue cuts to the military budget- let’s do it!), technology, education, arguably the world’s most important businesses (they’re not going anywhere), and the potential for FAR more down the road. Yet the only way for us to grow (barring some novel approach to manufacturing newly-emerging goods) is to continue to dump our best shit on those that want it- China (hence its low national debt), Africa, India, Latin America, which have barely begun to grow and will explode in the next few decades. Tell me- where do YOU want to be once the world’s developing economies are no longer developing? Do you wish to be tinkering with the debt, biting your nails and sweating your balls off, or hauling a dump-truck full of the latest, greatest shit to unload on them, like a pimp? Yes- THAT is how GDP grows in the new millennium- by the success of developing economies, which we saturate in part by taking on debt to produce the very things (tangible and intangible) that they want after seeing us benefit from it. You are, quite literally, harping on the WRONG issue from even a conservative reading of macroeconomics. It is NOT how big our debt gets, but HOW we spend it (which is part of the reason why Trump might have been so dangerous, had he been competent) and WHAT we put back into the world…including domestically…including, yes, infrastructure spending, health care, Social Security, and so on, which guarantees a smooth transition into all of the above. Yes, I realize some of these ‘assets’ (like tax hikes) are unthinkable to you, but in the real world, this is how economies function, this is where much of the research falls, this is how the greatest prosperity will be built, and this is one of our best weapons against the phantom (for it is a phantom, and ONLY a phantom) of debt.

      To move on to Cali specifically- it has all of the assets I’ve listed, and more. It also feeds the rest of America and ensures we have access to cheap, plentiful, and diverse food. It allows the rest of us to focus on things we do best. It is, in some ways, one of the 2 or 3 fulcrums of the entire American system. It represents a ‘dream’ for the well-to-do, and those working to become well-to-do, hence the housing premiums. And it also pretty much provides the technological framework for much of everything I’ve outlined- again, those companies are NOT going anywhere. In the next decade or so, it will likely hit the tail-end of its debt cycle, followed by tax cuts, before it all starts up again as a new generation of folks who don’t ever learn from history sound the alarms once more. If you for whatever reason are still nervous about it RIGHT NOW, though, you can always agitate for a return to Clinton-era national tax rates (I’d personally go for pre-Reagan, but that’s just me), and send a nice monetary package to California as a “thank you” for quite literally putting food on our tables, iOS on our phones, and propping up myopic backwaters like Kansas who bitch and take and bitch and take and can’t bring themselves to provide anything in return.

      6. I make this argument as follows: imagine entering a university with a 1000 black men sitting in auditory in Armani suits, listening to a polite debate about global warming. There is no person I know of (apart from racist outliers like white supremacist assholes) who would feel threatened. Again, the same 1000 black men all dressed as holywood portrays gangbangers, speaking in their version of English and looking at you funny. Different reaction. You see – it is not a bloody race. It is culture.

      Yes, this is why I pointed out the difference between race and the more technical, anthropological term: ethnicity (which in the narrow sense is not at all just about national origin). But, beyond that, what point are you making in the context of what we’ve been discussing?

      Furthermore, I don’t claim there is no racism (I like the Freeman approach because I think it is best and will work practically). It is one of the least racist countries in the world. Complete lack of any kind of racial difference bias is an utopian, impossible to achieve goal. That said – ok, if there is a proven instance of racism you have a legal recourse. And Shapiro always says here – if you can really show me there is racism, show me, and I will help you fight it. The crime statistics on illegal immigrants are off the charts. And it is not racist to want to protect your border. And it is not evil to accept to your country those that you want and not bloody everyone.

      But look at how deflationary your framing is. “…if there is a proven instance of racism you have a legal recourse.” Uh, what? What about the countless instances of such that occur at a systemic level, either due to present racist behaviors, or the long-term, cyclical effects of older racist policies such as redlining, policing, and more, that have never been adequately addressed because they are in fact so hard to address without riling up everyone involved? What about the fact that equally qualified black/white job applicants do not get jobs at the same rates if race is disclosed, in part (but not only) because a racial majority will de facto prefer its in-group as per human cognitive biases? What about the system of de facto educational apartheid, which fractures rather well along racial lines? What about the fact that the GOP has been engaging in anti-minority voter suppression for DECADES, and is only now being addressed by the courts? What about the obstacles that we both agree upon that black children face at birth, thus condemning them to worse-than-average life outcomes against which they must expend twice the effort just to not backslide further along in this inherited cycle? I honestly don’t even know what you are talking about right now, and I don’t know why you’ve brought up illegal immigration. I have never said that I support illegal immigration, although your numbers about illegal immigrants’ crimes are simply cherry-picked.

      And accepting your own countrymen is just dandy, but America does not even accept its own countrymen if you don’t fit the preferred mold. And if you want evidence for such an “outlandish” claim, simply re-read this paragraph and understand that it describes reality both as it is lived by millions of people in America, and as studied and reported upon by thousands of academics who more or less come to the same conclusion.

      Remember what I said- our ruling political party has been trying to suppress the non-white vote for decades, and is arguably doing it even more now than in recent memory. This is not a ‘proven instance’ of anything. If government actors are infringing on what is, in fact, one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, it is- to put it mildly- evidence of a far wider, systemic problem. Hopefully, you see this.

      8. Laffer Curve explained by Pakman. Hilarious. So, let’s analyze this. You have brackets 10-20-30-40-50-60-70-80-90. Lets say based on 10x coefficient in thousands of dollars (i.e. 10% on 10 000-19 999). You will notice, based on Laffer principle that higher you get your expected revenue gets lower. Because less people want to work their assess of, to give it all away and they decrease productivity and create various costs (be it investment costs or fake costs or creating innumerable number of schemes). So, you get less money because you incentivize people to become crooks. This principle guided Reagan – big tax cuts and revenue increased from 515 billion in 1980 to over 900 billion in 1988. You have similar effects on the effects of excise – say for alcohol. There is a limit above which people will just produce the booze themselves.

      Your entire conclusion about a mathematical model is based on a subjective injection about people becoming crooks due to a change in tax policy which ultimately saves them money. You also do not really address Pakman’s objections.

      Re: Reagan, Carter’s single term generated more jobs per year than during Reagan, whose job growth slowed down only to pick up significantly after Clinton’s election. You are also crediting Reagan’s tax cuts for his revenue increases, when in fact the initial cuts stripped revenue quite a bit, which only picked up again after Reagan’s multiple tax increases soon after as well as possibly unrelated growth in GDP. Am I simply trying to weasel out of the ‘facts’? Well, let’s see; at the same time, the Fed cut interest rates, Reagan exploded the budget due to a sharp increase in defense spending, and the country was JUST coming out of the 1981-82 recession, which logically meant we were going to leave a valley for yet another peak, as per the normal boom/bust cycle. The net effect of Reagan’s tax legislation was a revenue LOSS, just as its architects readily admit, and there were too many variables at play to credit the 1989 economy strictly to tax cuts. I have said, Tom, that genuine growth is possible under almost any tax climate, but you still insist on isolating just one or two variables as valid, comprehensive explanations of prosperity. I am trying to gently remind you that is often impossible and usually fruitless.

      I also categorically do not agree you calling such ridiculously high tax rates as a key base of the modern Western world.

      But it is- although I disagree on your loaded “ridiculously high” framing. The entire basis of the modern world is the introduction of a Leviathan, which has brought incomparable peace, and with it, an expansion of our circle of empathy- which also means (gasp!) that people don’t get to die of easily treatable diseases because they cannot pay or have their life ruined or become homeless due to a mental ill or some accident over which they have zero control. Like it or not, true freedom has come from the state. You may have been ‘truly free’ in aboriginal circles, once, to go out and rape and murder and have a good ol’ time at another’s expense, but that also meant an arrow into your back every time you needed to go out and take a piss in the outback, even if you were a perfectly upright do-gooder. ‘Free’, in other words, by mere technicality. I’d like to be free in the deeper sense of the word, however, which means giving up some things in order to secure others. Those without ideological blinders have long accepted that this is a fair and welcome compromise.

      SpaceX is building a BFR. NASA is building SLS. I am comparing them only on that. It is fair. Cost effectiveness is incomparable.

      But the entire POINT of SpaceX is to build rockets as efficiently as possible. That is their GOAL. Yet as they’ve said countless times, they would have NEVER been able to do what they do without NASA’s infrastructure and NASA’s contracts and NASA’s history of research- which only came about because a government, somewhere, decided they would embark upon an intangible, collective good which had significant costs that- with no prospect of resource mining, etc.- no company responsible to its shareholders could reasonably foot the bill for. Then, after many years of effort, and of trial and error, and of building infrastructure, and of research, companies like SpaceX can now come along and do what NASA was never meant to- build cheap rockets. Take NASA away, however, and there would be no rockets, just as NASA would have a hard time launching its own rockets without SpaceX due to years of budgetary constraints. Once tax rates go up again, however, and NASA resolves its budgetary woes, it will return to far riskier endeavors while SpaceX can fuck around on Mars. And this is not just me saying it- these are the words, almost verbatim, of scientists and executives from both camps when they are asked to opine on each other.

      Honestly, why do you insist on taking such extreme, black-and-white views on things? Notice how I neither had to trash SpaceX nor shout “NASA is the best!!!!11!!1” to get a reasonable point across. There is a place for great, expensive, hubris-dripping, regulation-laden institutions like NASA as well as more technically focused apparatchiks like SpaceX. They can, and should, co-exist, because they nicely complement all of the various parameters of human nature and motivations.

      9. This is silly and you can work it out by yourself. In the 60s – was the incarceration rate or poverty lower or higher than it is now? I don’t know about shotgun marriages at all, but ok I can allow it to make some contribution. But increase from 20 to 70%? I really think it is silly to think that.

      It doesn’t matter whether they were higher or lower for the purposes of the argument, but, to answer your question, incarceration rates were FAR lower in the 1960s for everyone, including blacks. As I’ve said- we have become the largest per capita jailer in the world over the last few decades. You really think this has not affected black men more than anyone? Further, the racial disparity in crimes committed by blacks (that is, blacks committed them at greater numbers) could account for as much as 80% for the racial disparities in incarceration just 40 years ago, but now, it is only 60% or so- meaning, 40% of the discrepancy, today, has nothing to do with blacks committing more crimes, but with pure racial bias. So, yes, black men have filled up prisons just as the black illegitimacy rate went up. And you may try the ‘argument from incredulity’ that you accused me of earlier, by calling the shotgun marriage theory “silly” without even bothering to look at the data, but this is in fact one of the strongest data points to come out in the last twenty years. You are free to pick apart the study by Janet Yellen and George Akerloff if you’d like- there are even some good cultural tidbits you might wish to use there as ammunition against me, but keep in mind, I’ve thought about them, too.

      The Marc Mauer study (and a couple of others) are behind a paywall, but here is the ACLU summary of it and many others, which discusses this plus sentence disparities between races committing the same crimes: https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/141027_iachr_racial_disparities_aclu_submission_0.pdf

      10. You see, I think that the principle is – left side is in my view rarely able to consider, even for a second, that they may be wrong. The right is much more diverse (in my view). That’s, basically, the entire beef that I have with you, which I stated a number of times. I think you argue well and this conversation is making me think, so I like it. I don’t agree at all with some of your principles on economy and other issues, but we probably share a lot more beliefs than is apparent. You do know that bringing theological arguments into a discussion (as an agnostic) I am playing devil’s advocate 🙂

      Thanks. You are wrong, however, but only because you said “left” side. In reality, you ought to understand that the great obstacle for human beings, today, lies in the fact that- contrary to economic orthodoxy- we are not “rational actors”. Instead, we take emotionally comfortable positions (even if it’s because we heard someone charismatic say it) and do the post-hoc rationalization after we feel psychologically satisfied. This has been documented in study after study and one of the biggest flaws in both Left and Right economics is its refusal to look at human psychology, especially as it relates to political science. (If you’ve not read him, I’d recommend the work of Jonathan Haidt.) This applies to every political side, although- and you may not wish to hear this- conservatives are on average more tribal and irrational in this way. If Obama, for example, would have come out with a grab-em-by-the-pussy tape, liberals would have left him in droves, whereas comparatively smaller numbers of Republicans left Trump despite having such strong evangelical beliefs on ‘nasty language’, fucking porn stars, and so on. Bill Clinton is, to this day, a figure absolutely hated by the Right, but people seem to forget that he once utterly divided the Left in ways conservative politicians never seem to divide their own side.

      If you read the comment thread, this is why I’ve told my readers to not think of me as a guru, of any kind. I love the fact that this essay has brought me a lot of interest and followers on Twitter and elsewhere, but I am no expert on anything here. I simply have a brain and intellectual curiosity and a unique way with words, and if I had infinite resources, I’d just write novels all day and only the occasional, large, long-form essay like this piece. My point is, anyone can do what I am doing here with some patience and a willingness to learn- but, obviously, I very well CAN be deluded like anyone else. Just don’t make the mistake that it’s a Left or Right thing.

      By the way- what is your political trajectory, from youth until now? I do think I have a good outsider’s perspective, in the sense that I went from being a religious Christian as a child, to an atheist Marxist, to a John Rawls-esque liberal very much uncomfortable with the sorts of things that liberals say and do- and I don’t really discuss god anymore, since I find the subject so boring. Nor do I respect typical liberal thinking and liberal styles of argumentation. I believe in an objective truth, an objective reality, objective standards for great art, an objective (as far as that’s possible) ethic, and so on. I dislike identity politics but I understand it. I dislike modern feminism but hate the MRAs even more, as they are the exact opposite of what men should be as they merely seek to leech off of others in order to reach their goals. I roll my eyes at a lot of racial bullshit and ‘cultural appropriation’ nonsense but as you can tell by my arguments, I fully accept the narrative of American racial oppression. I do not fear racial science nor sexual science because I understand it, unlike liberals who more or less just attack creationism and climate skeptics but don’t give a damn about reading anything outside of those two politicized realms. And so on. If you are honest with yourself, Tom, you will see that I must have come to many of my positions inductively, rather than picking them up wholesale from some liberal cache.

      I just really think that people like Shapiro are very honest, hard working and sharp and I like to listen to their points of view. And I don’t believe he is the pope of the right or alpha and omega of the conservatist movement. Sure, maybe he would lose debates, but unless they happen I have yet to see him lose:)

      But he is neither honest nor sharp. William F. Buckley was a jackass but he was sharp. Shapiro’s only advantage is his confidence in the face of bad opponents. I challenge you to find anything truly cogent he’s said on any major issue other than his responses to the more typical liberal claptrap. His responses to climate change science are just awful, and regurgitate just the first or second level of skeptic objections as opposed to the 4th or 5th and 6th levels of counter-objections, of which he knows nothing and does not care to look. His stuff on race is bad. His stuff on economics is almost worse. His anti-abortion argument is, literally, an argument that started getting rejected en masse in philosophical circles decades ago, to the point that anti-abortion philosophers, today, would be embarrassed to hear such unsophisticated reasoning coming from ‘their’ side. Then there’s stuff I did not have the time to go over, such as his take on God and free will, which would earn him an F on even the most basic undergraduate course exploring the subject. It reads EXACTLY like something from a guy who knows he could say whatever and get away not doing even the most basic research, because reading just a single book on free will would reveal why those arguments don’t work. The most charitable conclusion I can draw from all this is that Shapiro is one lazy fuck, but please- my offer still stands.

      And be VERY careful about saying things like “I’ve never seen him lose a debate”. Keep in mind what debate is- it is a means of getting an audience on your side by overwhelming your opponent, and not necessarily with good arguments. If you take a debate class, only a part of it is focused on things like validity, etc., and most of it is what I’d pejoratively call ‘debate tactics’. Another human cognitive bias is towards seeing a person get ‘wrecked’ by another’s verbal onslaught, where the wrecker is then thought to be ‘correct’ due to some perceived ability to humiliate. This is why this kind of shit is just so popular to watch, and why LCD entertainment like Politicon exists. But it is also why Shapiro has been VERY selective in choosing his opponents. William Lane Craig has literally made a career out of slaughtering atheists, by arguing what you and I know is pretty much impossible: that God exists, and that, more specifically, THAT God is Our Holy Savior, Jesus Christ. Even Richard Dawkins refused to appear on stage with him for years despite Dawkins’s own reputation as an intellectual bully. And William Lane Craig had never lost a debate, either, until he came across Shelly Kagan, and was turned inside out in ways he could have NEVER prepared for:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm2wShHJ2iA

      You know the history of the Sophists, right? If so, why say something like “I have never seen him lose a debate”, as opposed to: “I have carefully checked each of his arguments, and have found each one of them is both valid and sound”? I have no doubt Shapiro wins most of his debates. Yet I also have no doubt Shapiro uses really bad arguments to win them. Do you recognize the distinction, and why I am making it?

      12. I will respond in the next post – I promise – because I think you are completely wrong on every single point. But can you please tell me how do you think I have a bias relating to the Founding Fathers and where it comes from? Because it is puzzling to me as you continually refer to it. I told you that what I see in federalist papers is extremely convincing and thoughtful.

      I asked you, specifically, about why one would privilege your conception of ‘essential’ rights over any other, and your response was:

      6. (8) Essential = protecting liberty, property and life. That’s the axiom from the inception of the US, shared by all Founding Fathers.

      In this comment, you give NO actual reason for your conception over mine. In fact, your first sentence is a mere re-statement of your axiom, and the second simply makes an appeal to tradition instead of presenting an argument. Yes, you go on to say the Founding Fathers were “brilliant” and you agreed with their ideas, but no ideas were analyzed, and I still have not got a clue as to why- again!- I’d privilege your conception over mine. This is why I call it a ‘bias’. So far, I see judgments and I see fiat, as if you are trying to desperately hold on to something, but nothing really underneath them.

      13. If you think that Marxism with its collective ideology and individualism and free enterprise are on the opposite sides of the spectrum I have to agree. One is absolutely evil and stupid, the other is good and proper.

      No, I did not say they were opposites. I said they are merely warped, fun-house mirror versions of each other. This is because they begin with the same fundamental mistakes about human nature and human motivations, what we are capable of, what we are not, and especially under which parameters these things can be tapped. It matters not that they go on to generate totally different First Principles from the same misunderstanding.

      15. “The most egregious, long-term, attrition-like violence is caused by an inability for a group to shift its revenge needs from the group to an objective mediator who can effectively punish and redress. Sure, part of this could be a lack of access to cops. Yet it could also be an ingrained social dynamic where problems NEED to be handled interpersonally (such as with kids growing up in the streets) at the risk of being a target, yourself.” Interesting. It really shows how we fundamentally differ. To me a society is made of individuals. Individuals commit acts of revenge and crime. I do not think that there is anything like ingrained social dynamic, but I don’t know enough about this at all.

      What do you mean by there not being an ingrained social dynamic? I don’t really understand your objection. Look at my original example- if you are in an environment where you need to show your ability to *personally* avenge disrespect and/or threats in order to survive, this will be your behavior if you wish to be a successful human being. (And keep in mind what ‘success’ means most broadly, as basic, animal need, NOT what it means to you and me in our bubbles and our various options for success.) Yes, you are right, individuals DO commit acts of revenge and crime, but you seem to gloss over the fact that, in the situation I have described, MORE individuals will commit MORE acts of revenge and crime as per the probability space called ‘human behavior’. Just take a few variables out, and watch the numbers change.

      16. Why would you abolish private schools? Why again limit peoples rights? I still think that there is no systemic racism in policing, certainly not in the law. How would you abolish it? What is black-focused work? Some kind of affirmative action for them? If so, I strongly disagree with this.

      Because it is a de facto limit on a far greater number of people’s rights given how the system is set up. Private schools are a scam. They are a scam because they exist due to an easily corrected problem which they almost single-handedly perpetuate: namely, the propagation of shitty and ill-equipped schools which serve, almost exclusively, the poorest communities. Conservatives like to talk about ‘access’ and ‘opportunity’, but if you are a poor child, your sole ‘access’ is usually to a shitty school that is shitty because your family can make only very small tax contributions to your district. By contrast, richer families get better schools simply due to their taxable income- an almost total system of educational apartheid. Rich families in bad districts elect to send their kids to private schools over public schools for this reason, and the richest families send their children to private school pretty much every time, whereas if everyone was in a public school system, everyone would make DAMN sure that every one of these schools was fully functional. I have seen this first-hand since I have both attended and worked in these schools, and can tell you how a school with even a handful of rich parents will quickly turn it into a magnet for great students and private donations. This is also well-known among those who study the phenomenon.

      Yes, I get it, these puts a wee damper on the richest families’ ‘needs’, but the status quo admits virtually everyone else into a system of extreme apartheid that is enforced by pretty much everything around it except the letter of the law. And given that schooling (just like healthcare) is without a doubt responsible for so many life outcomes, this is something too important to leave to an imperfect market, compounded by nearly-irreversible property tax and districting laws. It is far easier and more efficient (oh, you should like this!) to just dissolve the scam altogether. Over time (or quickly, rather) public schools would improve tremendously.

      17. So there is a very complex underlying foundation in criminal legal theory that I simply cannot explain in such short posts. In the US system the concept of actus reus and means rea and degree of separation and adequate consequence are the main principles. So those principles underline the structure of criminal liability. Adding additional agencies externalizes the actions for which a human would be liable, but in most ways to extend liability on such agencies through vacarious liability, would immediately cause people who actually had no mens rea to be liable just by being a part of agency. That’s why many things that cause harm are not crimes, because in US system to willfully sentence a person for a crime without mens rea is contradictory to the foundational principles of the law. Not because “black crime is sexy”. It is just fundamentally a very difficult problem, constantly being adjusted.

      You are getting lost in your own head here. Yes, I get the legal divisions and why- from a purely technical standpoint- things are this way, but you need to look at this as something to really crack, not just accept. Think about it: for all of the fraud we know to have occurred, from so many actors, leading up to the 2008-9 market meltdown, not a single player has been jailed. Obama merely invited the financial executives to the White House, where they rightly expected punishment and planned to admit their guilt by asking for mercy, and he simply extended his hand for ‘compromise’ just when he had them by the balls. Jesus, Tom. Compromise? I would absolutely LOVE to be a criminal manipulating billions and billions the world over, snorting coke, fucking strippers, only to be protected by the entire weight of the state apparatus no matter what I do. Actus reus or actus dei, I don’t give a fuck, this is NOT the result of a functional, equitable justice system. You can’t get ONE person even on ONE charge? The bias is systemic, and yet, I am sure that FOX News during all this was just regurgitating headlines about the black youth in Chicago, as if their actions are comparable to a global meltdown. This is what I mean by ‘sexy’. Perhaps people were angry that one time about the bailouts, but such egregious misdeeds happen on a daily basis and they never make it on the news if you could cover a terrorist act, a rape, or the latest Trump shitstorm.

  86. Tom

    1. You lost me. “What is the functional difference between…” – Functional difference is that obviously we, as a society, are governed by the state regulated by the constitution and other laws. Again, you are trying to needlessly obfuscate a very simple issue with some quasi elaborate false equivalencies. I think Shapiro is perfectly and reasonably entitled to have this view on policy, even though you find it so horrifying.
    2. The philosophical arguments you have presented and referred to are, to my mind, a rather simplistic thought experiments. The “acorn” or “slippery slope” is a very simplistic logic, which can of course be applied the other way as well – like with acknowledging independency of the fetus at earlier and earlier stages due to progress in medicine. Imagine that someone invents a machine that allows to beam the zygote from the belly to a special tank where it will be able to mature. Is there a moral problem? To you, probably not. Mother doesn’t suffer at all, it costs her nothing, her rights are not infringed at all. But what if the zygote came from a rape? We can go on like this forever. You should finally understand that the materialistic worldview does not in fact necessarily produce the best outcomes, even if it’s true. And the other positions are not based on fiat at all! There are truths that are not objectively real, but are nevertheless true. Coming from this perspective, can you imagine for a second that you think the fetus is a person? If so, can you not see how the values to protect life vs coercing the mother to reproduce can be an issue for people like that? If you can, then perhaps there is a dialogue to be had on possibility of a compromise, as outlined before.
    3. My position on the adverse effects in both situations is (be forced to keep the baby vs abort): it is such an incredibly complex, multi variant analysis that I really don’t think we can reasonably analyze this at all. And I can easily defend this position. Going the route you propose – endlessly doing thought experiments and basing views on studies which in my view contain only minuscule element of the entire required data will get us at best to bad answers and at worst to terrible ones. So, please note that I am constantly repeating: to categorically say one way or another is absolutely wrong. We don’t know. And your “it stands to reason” arguments – again they sound instinctually correct. But so is the statement that bilocation is impossible. Until you learn that it is.
    4. Honestly, only lefties do this:) So, California is a paradise with a very strong economy. And every year they are adding at least 100 billion to its debt (currently at 1,46 trillion). The bigger the debt, the bigger the interest. It will never be repaid. It will increase to the point where it will be unsustainable to pay it off. Where do you take the theory that any surplus should not last long? On the side note I find it funny, having read a number of books about economy, that your views sound to me probably as insane as mine sound to you:) Have a look about your sustainability:
    https://californiapolicycenter.org/can-californias-economy-withstand-1-3-trillion-of-government-debt/

    And the last point: surely you are not claiming that debt to gdp ratio is a causal factor of the country being poor/rich?? Not to go too controversial here, but you have only a few constants on the worldwide market, primary one being the banks. The system we have is literally insane.

    I think, the easiest way to quickly summarize this is:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsqGR31zoVA&t=2048s

    5. Very big mistake that you made about the debt: you do not (at state level) take on a debt to produce stuff that other countries want! If that were the case, US would be controlling means of production and it would be a pure socialist country. Demonstrably not true. You take on the debt to pay for everything that government does. (In my world it should do less). So, companies would still be producing stuff and dumping it to developing and emerging markets (duh). And economy would be growing (I argue, at a much faster rate). Debt is a sad reflection of the government overreach.
    6. Cali provides 11%, so I wouldn’t call it “feeding the country”. Without California, other states would simply produce more. It may represent a dream, but that what it is:) And as to providing the technological framework: do you think that there is a magical line that prohibits this framework from crossing states?
    7. On the race thing: “countless instances at systemic level”. If there is ANY present racist behavior you very probably have a legal recourse. Cyclical effects of the old policies – I already admitted that it was the case. Yes, people are born to different circumstances. Some are poor, some are smart, some are tall etc. In my view you cannot address the inequality of the present. I have not owned slaves or instantiated Jim Crowe or redlined anybody. I don’t see how it is my responsibility to fix other people’s problems. I am all for giving them the same rights as I have and let them sort themselves out, with some policies like the ones we agree on (e.g. drugs) and some that we don’t (like much heavier policing). I definitely don’t want to give them welfare because I think it is counterproductive. I think the government should limit its interference, because – and quite literally by your own admission – every time they regulated those groups, they have made it worse! And it was almost always democrats. Also, regarding the “unconscious bias” or whatever – for one what is the sample and what is the exact statistic? Also, do you really want to regulate even peoples’ thoughts?? Where does it bloody end?

    On education – you know this really pisses me off. Because I look at the achievement of black girls – who are doing really well vs black boys – who are doing awfully. And this is not just a US phenomenon. And then some leftie is trying to tell me that it is all the whites’ fault. I disagree vehemently. There is one thing that should be done – give them Peterson’s self-authoring program and watch how it impacts their results. And note one more thing – there was an experiment on poor black community – it cost a lot of dosh by the way – they had a special program for young black poverty-stricken boys. They gave them all the means, access, private tutoring and even bought them vacation with the posh white boys. The only result of this study was – the decrease in behavior and achievements among the white boys (bad influence spreads more easily it seems). If this study is representative (and I think it is, because it was done very carefully), I think that your solutions like banning private schools will only bring the good ones down instead of bringing the bad ones up. So again, be very careful about the policies, because they will cause things you cannot foresee.

    Finally, on illegal immigrants: ok, let’s say my stats are wrong. Let’s think about it for a second. You come to US illegally – what do you have to do to get id, licence, buy a property? You need to commit crimes to obtain false ID’s, lie on every paper etc. So even logically speaking you are bound to commit felonies.
    8. I did address Pakman – he said that the right is stupid, because it does not take into account different brackets. We do, and just as Laffer predicted once you reach a certain level, usually around 40-50% (so in my example up to 60.000) you will notice your projected revenue dropping.
    9. Raegan – re job growth. Unemployment at 7.5% – it was very low, albeit not the lowest. I accept that growth is possible under most tax climates. Your point about taking only one or two variables is well taken.
    10. In my view, it was not the Leviathan that brought us freedom. It was the fear of the XX century atrocities and realization of how thin the ice really is, it was increase in technology in terms of transport and access to information, it was a few amazing inventions and ease of access (computers, internet mostly). The Leviathan was there, egregiously large due to a century of wars (including cold war of course). The wars btw which were caused by large states with too much control over the populace, creating fake dependency, like I see in your mind. It slowly takes over the media and feeds you propaganda. It takes all your rights to privacy and it wants to control you in every way it can and more if it can only fathom. Just to keep its power over you. Soon, as you see in most European countries and in Canada, any speech (even mildly controversial) will be banned as hate speech, you will see a decline in power of the Western culture, slowly being taken over by the Islam. You will see at least 300 million people being impossible to employ in the next 15-20 years, and at least a billion within 50 due to AI and automatization. And they will be first to become new slaves of the state. That’s where Leviathan leads us – to stripping away your thought, dignity, individuality.
    11. NASA – man, I think NASA is awesome. But it is a giant bureaucracy and when it comes to many things it is extremely inefficient. I am giving you clear and simple examples that such big not-profit oriented machines, which are governed by people who are spending someone else’s money, will be much worse at spending than a private entity spending its own money. I mean, sorry to be personal – do you run a business? Have you ever contracted with a government, even local? I mean anyone who has, understands:) And it goes on every level you can imagine. I have had dealings with many countries across the world and ALWAYS officials mean inefficiency, time wasting and a giant inertia. Hence my view – the less you have this kind of administration, the better!
    12. With the statistic on black crime – disparity in crimes. Let’s say I accept that it dropped from 80% to 60%. My question is: how many people in jails committed crimes and how many are there innocently? Let’s say 100% is guilty. No amount of racial bias will convince me that the people are incarcerated unfairly. Sorry. Shapiro always says – the best way to avoid jail is not to commit a crime. And sure, you may cry inequity but I don’t care. I am not after equity at all. I am after freedom to make the right choices.
    13. Sure, I have read some of Haidt’s work. I am really fine with studies about conservatists, why would I have a problem with the data? They are lower in openness, higher in conscientiousness and orderliness than liberals.

    Don’t worry, I don’t think of you as a guru:) I actually picked up on that in previous thread (but didn’t comment) that you called yourself ex-marxist. And it reminded me of what Krauss says: there is nothing better in the world to fundamentally change your mind about something.

    Myself: I was brought up as catholic but it was always white noise to me, definite agnostic since 13 (Grandpa gave me a book about Shroedinger’s cat, which I don’t really understand even today:). Politically: much more conservative on social issues, which changed in the middle and now is coming back. I was actually, for a long period of my adolescence, a racist. I hasten to add that I was brought up in a country without any black people at all, so it was based on a rather superficial look at history and geography. So, on some issues (like drugs) I became libertarian, on some – I used to like the idea of big and powerful government, I always believed in free market and low taxes. So it is really complicated.
    14. Well I think he is sharp as hell. Just looking at his list of achievements, the amount of things he accomplished before he was 22 is very impressive to me. The guy is obviously working his ass off, is extremely driven (look at the amount of things he does!).

    On climate change – it is a difficult subject to me. I come from academically inclined family and they always stress the importance of methodology in multi variant analysis. So, I looked into some of the models, compared them to the past and man, let me tell you, I really think something is wrong. They are really constantly adjusting coefficients next to variables to accommodate data that was completely different to the predicted one. I am no expert, but this does not sound right. Every prediction failed. At the same time you have the analysis of ice cores from Antarctica and it appears that a lot is changing much faster than it used to.

    On God – I think you really should listen more. Have you seen his debate with Sam Harris? Or Jordan Peterson?

    William Lane Craig – I find him so unconvincing and laughable that you can’t imagine. His arguments are really terrible. I saw his debate with Lawrence Krauss and he was killed. His syllogisms are so primitive:) What I like about Shapiro – he acknowledges the necessity of revelation. And it makes him honest to my mind.
    15. Actually I made reference to Federalist Papers – you have all the arguments in the world there with detailed analysis.
    16. Ok, so I can agree that there is a bad social dynamic. I don’t care – I still want the responsibility on the individual and I don’t think the state can really change such dynamic (because it created it in the first place, to have people addicted to welfare, to increase its voters’ poll – another reason I really hate the big government).
    17. OK, so on schools – amazing amount of dosh was spent to improve them by the government. It failed (another stellar example btw). Completely. Because of private schools???? No – because of unions, terrible administration etc. If govt would f*** off – people would actually be able to govern their education much better. And there is another thing – what about trade schools? Why not aim for that, instead of a university which you can get to only via affirmative action and from which you will drop out with a giant debt. There are like 3 million jobs waiting for people TODAY in blue collar sectors. Amazing opportunity for the black community.
    18. Again man, this is complex. But your arguments – do you think I am for bloody bailouts? After everything I said? No! There is no such thing as equitable justice system. Nor will there ever be. I have degrees in law from two countries and I know many other jurisdictions. Forget about equity. It will never happen. Also you don’t have to convince me about criminality of Obama’s administration! Hence, please – smaller govt!

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      1. You lost me. “What is the functional difference between…” – Functional difference is that obviously we, as a society, are governed by the state regulated by the constitution and other laws. Again, you are trying to needlessly obfuscate a very simple issue with some quasi elaborate false equivalencies. I think Shapiro is perfectly and reasonably entitled to have this view on policy, even though you find it so horrifying.

      Yes, the state, constitution, and other laws, which includes the state’s right to levy taxes and to spend those taxes on a public good. Do you not see how you’ve merely returned to the same argument? There is no obfuscation. You either pay ALL taxes as levied OR you- as a tax-payer- either pick and choose your taxes, OR the state is compelled to drop taxes if there is some sort of 50/50 split complaining about ‘ethics’. By Shapiro’s logic, the state ought not have taxed us for the Iraq War (way more controversial than abortion, and with a far better ethical argument against it), plus a million other things until it is de-fanged and can do nothing more.

      2. The philosophical arguments you have presented and referred to are, to my mind, a rather simplistic thought experiments. The “acorn” or “slippery slope” is a very simplistic logic, which can of course be applied the other way as well – like with acknowledging independency of the fetus at earlier and earlier stages due to progress in medicine.

      Yet we are not merely using the independence of a fetus for the argument. It can, at best, be a part of a more comprehensive argument, but has nothing to do with personhood in and of itself. Nine states allow you to abort until pretty much the fetus’s due date. There is something much more than viability going on here.

      Imagine that someone invents a machine that allows to beam the zygote from the belly to a special tank where it will be able to mature. Is there a moral problem? To you, probably not.

      Beyond personhood, I consider it complete control over one’s genetic material to be important, so, yes, there is a problem if there is no consent.

      Mother doesn’t suffer at all, it costs her nothing, her rights are not infringed at all.

      Except that she does not want her genetic material passed on. That is not nothing. It is also irrelevant to the argument I have been making. You have gone from, ‘the fetus is a person’, to ‘a fetus might not be a person, but since it doesn’t cost her anything, why not just let it live?’ That just does not work since the ‘why not’ is dependent on her in fact HAVING to do something, yet the only scenario where such compulsion can exist is IF we establish personhood, first. Do you not see this?

      You should finally understand that the materialistic worldview does not in fact necessarily produce the best outcomes, even if it’s true. And the other positions are not based on fiat at all! There are truths that are not objectively real, but are nevertheless true. Coming from this perspective, can you imagine for a second that you think the fetus is a person? If so, can you not see how the values to protect life vs coercing the mother to reproduce can be an issue for people like that? If you can, then perhaps there is a dialogue to be had on possibility of a compromise, as outlined before.

      The materialistic worldview may or may not produce the best outcomes, which is why I take things on a case by case basis. Religion is false, but it can be a useful falsehood in many instances, for example. In the case of abortion, the materialistic case is about a thousand times more compelling than any other, and will result in the least damage to society, for reasons already stated. And of course I absolutely understand the ‘fetus is a person’ perspective. I used to be a religious person, even as a teenager, and my stance on abortion was one of the last positions to change- well after I had become an atheist. That said, I still have no clue what this compromise is, what it would look like, and why it ought to be considered given the horrors of forced reproduction.

      3. My position on the adverse effects in both situations is (be forced to keep the baby vs abort): it is such an incredibly complex, multi variant analysis that I really don’t think we can reasonably analyze this at all. And I can easily defend this position. Going the route you propose – endlessly doing thought experiments and basing views on studies which in my view contain only minuscule element of the entire required data will get us at best to bad answers and at worst to terrible ones. So, please note that I am constantly repeating: to categorically say one way or another is absolutely wrong. We don’t know. And your “it stands to reason” arguments – again they sound instinctually correct. But so is the statement that bilocation is impossible. Until you learn that it is.

      What thought experiments? We are now beyond the argument stage of ‘personhood’. We are now discussing the consequences of outlawing abortion, and what forced reproduction would mean for society. I already made my position clear, and it is all based on tangible, logically provable things: more single-parent homes, more poverty, more unwanted children, more unsafe abortions, and the thorny issue of whether or not you, as a human being, have the right to decide whether or not you will pass on your own genetic material. The ‘other’ side is now strictly about the mother’s emotional well-being, and perhaps some other things you’ve not defined, but also neglects the well-being of a would-be mother who really wants to abort, but cannot. There is just no parity here.

      Re: “it stands to reason” arguments. Now this just sounds silly, Tom. Really- they are only “instinctually” correct? Re-read what I wrote. The statements logically follow one another, because abortion is a de facto admission that the child is UNWANTED. How is this even a debate? You abort because you do not wish to be pregnant, for WHATEVER reason. That CANNOT- on average- be good for a kid’s well-being, because the reasons are just so many: lacking a partner to properly help take care of it, extreme youth, a lack of resources, a lack of motherly desire, etc. This is not really a matter of opinion. It’s as close to a mathematical statement as one can get here.

      4. Honestly, only lefties do this:)

      Agreed- only lefties look at evidence, then make deductions from this evidence. 😉

      So, California is a paradise with a very strong economy. And every year they are adding at least 100 billion to its debt (currently at 1,46 trillion). The bigger the debt, the bigger the interest. It will never be repaid. It will increase to the point where it will be unsustainable to pay it off. Where do you take the theory that any surplus should not last long? On the side note I find it funny, having read a number of books about economy, that your views sound to me probably as insane as mine sound to you:)

      Do you not see what you are doing? How is this an argument? You throw around some numbers, which is fine, but then you ASSUME, without making any sort of argument, that it will increase forever until California defaults. And your link- can you link from a real source next time? California Policy Center is a right-wing lobby whose chief goal is tax cuts for the wealthy, not research. Cali’s actual debt is under 500 billion, or 15% debt-to-GDP ratio, although, as I’ve pointed out, even if we take CPC’s numbers at face value, 50% debt-to-GDP is still quite healthy if you actually look at debt numbers around the world now as well as historically. 15% is nothing. The onus is on YOU to prove that 15% or even 50% is a problem, and offer a solution that would not lead to long-term stagnation.

      And the last point: surely you are not claiming that debt to gdp ratio is a causal factor of the country being poor/rich?? Not to go too controversial here, but you have only a few constants on the worldwide market, primary one being the banks. The system we have is literally insane.

      No. I said the exact opposite. I said that we have exceptional as well as terrible economies whose numbers are all over the place. Yet of the two of us, you are the one who is sounding the alarms about these numbers without an argument as to what it all means, other than to say it’s insane. But I’ve already made a long and detailed argument with examples, reflecting how the world economy in fact works and how we can leverage it to our benefit in the future, and you don’t even address it.

      5. Very big mistake that you made about the debt: you do not (at state level) take on a debt to produce stuff that other countries want! If that were the case, US would be controlling means of production and it would be a pure socialist country. Demonstrably not true. You take on the debt to pay for everything that government does. (In my world it should do less). So, companies would still be producing stuff and dumping it to developing and emerging markets (duh). And economy would be growing (I argue, at a much faster rate). Debt is a sad reflection of the government overreach.

      That was an argument about the national debt, since I know you are concerned about that, as well. You then proceed to make an argument as to what companies might do by their lonesome, as per libertarian theory, thus taking yourself out of the real world yet again. As I’ve said in the SpaceX stuff and elsewhere, things just don’t work in the way you want them to. But they work, and that’s fine.

      6. Cali provides 11%, so I wouldn’t call it “feeding the country”. Without California, other states would simply produce more. It may represent a dream, but that what it is:) And as to providing the technological framework: do you think that there is a magical line that prohibits this framework from crossing states?

      They would adapt and produce more homogeneous crops at greater cost, but no one wants that. There is no magical line, save that, despite all the ‘scary’ data on Cali businesses disappearing, they simply do not wish to leave. And so they won’t. And so it will continue to be the world’s premiere tech hub for the foreseeable future. Do you notice a trend here? I am basing my arguments around what is tangible and real, today, not some hypotheticals or wish-fulfillment re: how I subjectively think the world needs to be in order to satisfy some frame of reference, though the evidence all around me suggests otherwise.

      7. On the race thing: “countless instances at systemic level”. If there is ANY present racist behavior you very probably have a legal recourse.

      Yes, and the fact that the DOJ has brought many such lawsuits against the police and others indicates there is a pattern. The fact that we had over 100,000 internal memos on NJ police bias in the 1990s indicates there is a pattern. The anthropological evidence re: ethnicity/race indicates there is a problem. My point was that your initial assumption- that there is no deep, pervasive racism- is just wrong, and your framing of it is deflationary.

      Cyclical effects of the old policies – I already admitted that it was the case. Yes, people are born to different circumstances. Some are poor, some are smart, some are tall etc. In my view you cannot address the inequality of the present.

      That’s just silly. You very well CAN address the inequality of the present, and you OUGHT to address it, too. It might not be so pressing if, say, everyone in America was white, but the fact that some people are black, and that these black people experienced X, Y, or Z that contributed if not outright caused their present condition, and that being ‘black’ is highly visible to others, identity-laden, and breeds resentments, you do NOT want an entire group of people that we can all immediately identify walking around with sub-average life outcomes due to forces they cannot control. This is just terrible for society and social cohesion. It may be a historical accident that it’s black people who were slaves as opposed to, say, just other white people, but since they cannot change their pigmentation, they must walk around with the stigmata as a public reminder and their immediate surroundings as a ball-and-chain. Now imagine 30 million people just like this- how can this lead to a happy outcome, for anyone involved?

      I have not owned slaves or instantiated Jim Crowe or redlined anybody. I don’t see how it is my responsibility to fix other people’s problems.

      Really, I am confused. You have agreed, for example, that of two equally qualified job candidates, study after study shows that the black applicant has a smaller chance of getting the job. Is it not possible YOU (or your parents, who gave you what they had) were once hired due to this innate privilege? Or got a nice apartment somewhere over a minority? Or were simply born to better circumstances on that personal account? It is amusing, to me, that your concept of property goes ONLY as far as what you were BORN with as inherently ‘fair’, yet refuses to look at or even acknowledge differences in acquisition, whether that acquisition was just, and whether or not there are lingering inter-generational effects to this day from these differences. For a big property rights guy, it is, I must admit, a rather limited and limiting view of property. 😉

      I am all for giving them the same rights as I have and let them sort themselves out, with some policies like the ones we agree on (e.g. drugs) and some that we don’t (like much heavier policing). I definitely don’t want to give them welfare because I think it is counterproductive. I think the government should limit its interference, because – and quite literally by your own admission – every time they regulated those groups, they have made it worse! And it was almost always democrats. Also, regarding the “unconscious bias” or whatever – for one what is the sample and what is the exact statistic? Also, do you really want to regulate even peoples’ thoughts?? Where does it bloody end?

      ‘Them’. ‘Them’. ‘Them’. ‘Those groups’. That’s kinda it, isn’t it?

      Re: unconscious bias- you can Google this yourself, since it’s well-studied. People have innate, in-group preferences, and since you, I assume, have not grown up around non-whites and likely did not partake in non-white culture, you- and by ‘you’, I mean in the average sense, not the real you- have a bias towards your own ethnicity. Even if you are not racist, if we take a 1000 versions of you, and make them managers, we will see this preference born out over and over again in tangible ways, including hiring decisions. No, not every one of these 1000 ‘yous’, but even if a couple of hundred of them express bias in that one instance (even if not in many others), there is your one instance on top of countless others in countless other parts of life, which are insidious in part because these are all otherwise normal, kind, tolerant people. The way this gets corrected is if more whites intermix with non-whites, which means no segregated housing, schools, etc., so that, over time, ‘our’ ethnicity no longer has color. Or rather, color may still be in it, but it will take a psychological backseat to other ethnic markers such as behavior or the places where we grow up. And, yes, this has happened before, since Italians were not considered white, nor Russians, nor many others. Look at all the fucking closet Iranians and half-Mexicans these days in the white nationalist movement, as if they wouldn’t have been called dumb fucking niggers a century ago.

      On education – you know this really pisses me off. Because I look at the achievement of black girls – who are doing really well vs black boys – who are doing awfully.

      Yes, because things like violence, etc., are predominantly MALE problems, mostly for biological reasons. The issue in EVERY instance of crime and whatnot, as a *macro* trend, has to do with the men. So if we have significant obstacles to success upon birth (poverty, bad schools, etc.), they will play out predominantly along gender lines, and where women feel that they cannot depend on men for whatever biological imperative/role, they will become more like men in their striving to success while still doffing men’s worst instincts. The opposite is also true, since if you have many, many women and just a few men, those men will become quite pacified and perhaps even effeminate. Look at, for example, that rebellion in China of male peasants who demanded women- it is quite literally a life/death issue, and sex is always distantly related to death even sociologically.

      This is what feminists get wrong, what liberals get wrong about the male/female divide and various achievement gaps, and what you don’t seem to understand, yourself, although it is right in front of you.

      There is one thing that should be done – give them Peterson’s self-authoring program and watch how it impacts their results.

      Lol, they will roll the paper up into a blunt and let that shit burn. Do you not understand this? I used to light their fucking blunts, myself, as a wee lad.

      And note one more thing – there was an experiment on poor black community – it cost a lot of dosh by the way – they had a special program for young black poverty-stricken boys. They gave them all the means, access, private tutoring and even bought them vacation with the posh white boys. The only result of this study was – the decrease in behavior and achievements among the white boys (bad influence spreads more easily it seems). If this study is representative (and I think it is, because it was done very carefully), I think that your solutions like banning private schools will only bring the good ones down instead of bringing the bad ones up. So again, be very careful about the policies, because they will cause things you cannot foresee.

      I’m not surprised about the study (though we have so many others, especially on IQ interventions), but like I said, I’ve worked in these schools, where half the kids are from the local housing projects, and the rest are wealthy or at least upper-class white kids, and it went well- in fact, some quickly became New York City’s best schools despite the number of kids in shelters, and so on. No, it does not help everyone, you cannot compensate for truly terrible home environments, but the AVERAGE improves across the board. Your implication that white kids will start misbehaving only further proves my point- that people being forced to live and interact apart from one another means neither knows what the ‘other’ side is like, and only furthers the disparity when we are loosed together into the world at a time we might be less willing to learn.

      Are you comfortable with the fact that your bottom line, essentially, is that if we keep all the most privileged kids together, they will continue to get better, while everyone else stagnate, if not backslide?

      I did address Pakman – he said that the right is stupid, because it does not take into account different brackets. We do, and just as Laffer predicted once you reach a certain level, usually around 40-50% (so in my example up to 60.000) you will notice your projected revenue dropping.

      That was not his argument, though. You are not addressing the fact that people at different incomes will be taxed differently, where, say, a 90% tax on a billionaire’s 10th billion is not at all the same thing as a 90% tax on a 30-40k earner, and thus only one of those could ever happen. (You are also making a number of indefensible assumptions re: productivity dropping off at this or that arbitrary number, and divorcing it from any contextual discussion as far as what people might get in return for paying a higher tax- it is a net gain, not loss, when done well.) Note, again, that he was not suggesting a tax increase or decrease, and made the video to only address this point.

      In my view, it was not the Leviathan that brought us freedom. It was the fear of the XX century atrocities and realization of how thin the ice really is, it was increase in technology in terms of transport and access to information, it was a few amazing inventions and ease of access (computers, internet mostly).

      Well, it’s really not a matter of your view or mine. Human violence has been declining ever since we had established the first Neolithic settlements, and the further along we get in this timeline, the better things get. Yes, there are hiccups, there is mass murder like the An Lushan rebellion, and so on, but as a trajectory, the pattern is clear. Depending on which authority you cite, prehistoric homicide could be as high as 60%: meaning, in some tribes (some of them still around today), if you were born male, you had a 60% chance of being murdered by the time you hit adulthood. This is the high end, of course. Steven Pinker’s estimates are around 15%, on average, and the lowest rate I’ve seen (at least the lowest rate with true archaeological backing and mathematical models) is around 2.5%. To put this in perspective, the American homicide rate is 0.00006% per year, and most industrialized nations are at less than 1/2 of this. You can say we have reduced violence by literally a thousandfold- almost unthinkable, really, given that our brains are still of our ancestral environment. There is a myth that the 20th century was exceptionally violent, but it actually was the least violent century on record until the 21st century, just as the past millennium was, on average, a lot less violent than the millennium prior, and so on. Nearly a quarter of all Belarusians died in WW2, for example, a third of Jews, etc., but they were an exceptional case if you are to compare to the world at large, and not any more egregious, numerically, than the typical death-by-attrition that many tribes still experience today.

      So, no, it has nothing to do with us taking stock of any horrors. That may have been a big contributing factor to what is now a kind of perpetual peace (relatively speaking), but the trend-line started a long time ago. Further, taking stock also meant realizing that we are all people and must all get along with one another- such as America’s decision to offer mass financial support by way of the Marshall Plan, since they realized that, although no, we are not responsible for the actions of Germany, if we want to avoid the kinds of resentments and evils that traditionally bubble under the surface, this is the best way to avoid any future wars. I’d recommend Pinker’s book on this subject, since he goes through all the reasons why violence might have declined, and presents a convincing argument as to why it was predominantly the state (and the ripple-effects of that state) which reduced it.

      I am not going to quote and address the rest of your comment on this topic. Needless to say, I genuinely hope you start to consider other perspectives more seriously, because your hysteria is on some next shit- like, Alex Jones level next shit.

      11. NASA – man, I think NASA is awesome. But it is a giant bureaucracy and when it comes to many things it is extremely inefficient. I am giving you clear and simple examples that such big not-profit oriented machines, which are governed by people who are spending someone else’s money, will be much worse at spending than a private entity spending its own money. I mean, sorry to be personal – do you run a business? Have you ever contracted with a government, even local? I mean anyone who has, understands:) And it goes on every level you can imagine. I have had dealings with many countries across the world and ALWAYS officials mean inefficiency, time wasting and a giant inertia. Hence my view – the less you have this kind of administration, the better!

      That’s great, but you specifically cited SpaceX as proof, I noted that it was a terrible comparison, you said it was good, I explained why it wasn’t, and you do not answer my objection at all except to get on to other topics. You keep pointing to inefficiency, but again, you DO realize that without NASA, there would be no SpaceX? I mean this literally. NO business, ever, would have said, ‘Let us send a man to the moon by 1969 with little to no return on our investment and great risks’. I mean, why would they? What’s in it for them? Who would raise this capital, and how could they be accountable to their shareholders? It is a massive state and its people coming together to say that they MUST do this, because it is important, it is interesting, it is wise, etc., and we can all shave off a few pennies from our paycheck to contribute to this otherwise unreachable goal. It is inefficient, to you, because you are confusing its goals. But this, in short, is EXACTLY why the state exists! So, I gave you a really specific, bulletproof instance of where a govn’t agency was absolutely needed, and you vaguely go on about the inefficiency of other agencies and govn’t workers in other countries, in the hope that I’d now tackle that. Honestly, if you were in my position, wouldn’t you feel like you are just wasting your time at this point? Please consider, for a second, how I would appreciate being answered, in the same way that I am very carefully answering you, at length, and at depth, and being as fair as possible to your points and your objections.

      12. With the statistic on black crime – disparity in crimes. Let’s say I accept that it dropped from 80% to 60%. My question is: how many people in jails committed crimes and how many are there innocently? Let’s say 100% is guilty. No amount of racial bias will convince me that the people are incarcerated unfairly. Sorry. Shapiro always says – the best way to avoid jail is not to commit a crime. And sure, you may cry inequity but I don’t care. I am not after equity at all. I am after freedom to make the right choices.

      But you are then saying it is OK to have a system where the consequences of identical actions for one group (blacks) are HIGHER than the consequences of identical actions for another group (white). You are then assuming this is somehow just or socially sustainable. They are neither. Who gives a fuck if they’re guilty? No one is saying to let murderers loose because ‘racism’. They are simply asking why one group faces steeper consequences for the same exact misdeeds as another, and pointing out that this will more or less guarantee a permanent underclass.

      Sure, I have read some of Haidt’s work. I am really fine with studies about conservatists, why would I have a problem with the data? They are lower in openness, higher in conscientiousness and orderliness than liberals.

      Well, you said you have a “problem” that “liberals” do this “thing”. I am pointing out that both sides are guilty, and conservatives significantly more so, as per Haidt’s work.

      Myself: I was brought up as catholic but it was always white noise to me, definite agnostic since 13 (Grandpa gave me a book about Shroedinger’s cat, which I don’t really understand even today:). Politically: much more conservative on social issues, which changed in the middle and now is coming back. I was actually, for a long period of my adolescence, a racist. I hasten to add that I was brought up in a country without any black people at all, so it was based on a rather superficial look at history and geography. So, on some issues (like drugs) I became libertarian, on some – I used to like the idea of big and powerful government, I always believed in free market and low taxes. So it is really complicated.

      It seems like everyone was an agnostic before me. It took me until I was 17 to reject religion.

      On climate change – it is a difficult subject to me. I come from academically inclined family and they always stress the importance of methodology in multi variant analysis. So, I looked into some of the models, compared them to the past and man, let me tell you, I really think something is wrong. They are really constantly adjusting coefficients next to variables to accommodate data that was completely different to the predicted one. I am no expert, but this does not sound right. Every prediction failed. At the same time you have the analysis of ice cores from Antarctica and it appears that a lot is changing much faster than it used to.

      No doubt, and I actually think there are legit critiques of climate change science, and that there is a real culture of conformity in the field. I’ve listened to interviews with genuine climate scientists who even agree with the basic conclusions, but have issues with this or that data point being hounded for perfectly reasonable objections. Liberals might hate to hear this, but I accept it, I do not fear it, and I see it as just another example of cognitive bias that does not discredit the tens of thousands of researchers doing important work.

      That said, you do NOT deal with some technical objections by more or less dismissing ALL of the science, and you certainly do NOT make the sorts of arguments Shapiro does in that video. That’s just bullshit. It is the intellectual equivalent of me having all of my objections to feminism, then just running over to the Men’s Rights parasites as a result. But even that is an overstatement of the issues in climate science, which relate more to some technical stuff and the culture of fear I mentioned. It does nothing to the basic conclusions.

      On God – I think you really should listen more. Have you seen his debate with Sam Harris? Or Jordan Peterson?

      No. I listened to a couple dozen of Shapiro’s interviews and lectures, and read whatever I needed to read to write this essay, but no more. Almost everything I saw was misleading, disingenuous, badly argued, badly said, annoying, etc., and unless he has radically changed himself or something, I see zero need to inquire further.

      And I consider all 3 mediocrities. I watched a bunch of Peterson before he was famous, and enjoyed some of his clinical psychology stuff (although not the Joseph Campbell bullshit). But it seems that since liberals developed an irrational hatred of him early on, he did the predictable, pussy-minded thing and just embraced the idiots on the other side instead of trying to be an independent thinker. I doubt, anyway, he could have even ever been a thinker. The only things that stick out for me of late was his conversation with Sam Harris, where despite his self-professed hatred of PoMo, he did the same exact thing they do by attempting to re-define ‘Truth’ as that which does not harm human beings. I mean, what? That was literally a 2 hour conversation. The last I heard of him, he gave some interview where he expressed doubt whether men and women could in fact work together on the job. Then I found a video of him admitting that he’s been accused of sexual harassment a couple of times. Don’t tell me this is the moron you are trying to glean life lessons from.

      Harris is a joke in philosophical circles. You may not see it, Tom, but it’s like you’ve been giving me the TMZ version of ‘deep thinkers on the Right’. Let me guess- you’d put cult-leader Stefan Molyneux in that category, as well? If I were you, I’d disconnect from YouTube for a while and stop paying attention to all these celebrities. These are names that will be cast into oblivion once they are dead. They are the Britney Spears of politics.

      William Lane Craig – I find him so unconvincing and laughable that you can’t imagine. His arguments are really terrible. I saw his debate with Lawrence Krauss and he was killed. His syllogisms are so primitive:) What I like about Shapiro – he acknowledges the necessity of revelation. And it makes him honest to my mind.

      I agree he is unconvincing and laughable, but you are wrong if you say he was ‘killed’. Remember what we are discussing. William Lane Craig wins almost every debate, and loses every argument. This is what I’d say of Shapiro. Good performance, good at getting people on his side, but pretty much every argument sucks if it’s not just downright dishonest. So, both of them are good at what they do, but they are not ‘good’, if you know what I mean. They know there is a niche they can fit into and be celebrated for it, and so they’re there. The good thing about Craig is that he actually debates pretty much anyone, even people who are known bullies, like Dawkins, without fear. But Shapiro? He knows his dick only goes so far. He will never get involved in a serious debate. I cannot respect that since there are so many solid liberal debaters out there who would gladly oblige him a beating.

      15. Actually I made reference to Federalist Papers – you have all the arguments in the world there with detailed analysis.

      I understand, but there is a reason why I want you to tease out specific ideas and discuss them in the context of what we are discussing. You can’t just say, ‘read this’. You are assuming, also, that the ideas in the Federalist Papers can’t be used to justify many of the things I am saying. Your entire definition of the politically ‘essential’, as I’ve shown, is subject to interpretation. Like you, I believe in property rights, and freedom, and the right to life, but I view these things and how to achieve them very differently. And since the Founding Fathers did believe in compromise, in pragmatism over principle, and so on, it is almost too easy to appeal to the ‘spirit’ of the Federalist Papers to justify myself, for all the people that do fetishize tradition.

      16. Ok, so I can agree that there is a bad social dynamic. I don’t care – I still want the responsibility on the individual and I don’t think the state can really change such dynamic (because it created it in the first place, to have people addicted to welfare, to increase its voters’ poll – another reason I really hate the big government).

      But you’re wrong. Of course the state can change human behavior. Like I said, we went from a 15% murder rate to 1 in 20,000. Show me a single case where this has happened without state intervention. Do you suppose we can go preach against wars of attrition to various tribal groups today? Do you think we’d ever be successful? If not, how are you going to moralize away these other macro trends that actually fit very nicely with what we can predict about the kinds of people affected by them?

      If there is ONE thing that liberals and conservatives really ought to do, they NEED to start reading about evolution and psychology and how these things fit into reasonable and unreasonable policy decisions based on what human beings are, as opposed to what they think they are, or should be. We’d have a lot less heartache if people would just stop denying the obvious.

      17. OK, so on schools – amazing amount of dosh was spent to improve them by the government. It failed (another stellar example btw). Completely. Because of private schools???? No – because of unions, terrible administration etc. If govt would f*** off – people would actually be able to govern their education much better. And there is another thing – what about trade schools? Why not aim for that, instead of a university which you can get to only via affirmative action and from which you will drop out with a giant debt. There are like 3 million jobs waiting for people TODAY in blue collar sectors. Amazing opportunity for the black community.

      I am not sure what you mean by this. Schools have ‘failed’? Really? America is one of the most educated places on earth. American kids know more today than they did 30 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago. I had some GREAT public schools in my life, and have taught at some of them too. And I have been at really bad ones, as well. Yet I am certain that I would have turned out differently if I had been at private school, and I am extremely happy my family never forced me into such. I was able to glimpse what the real world was like, and for a hyper-curious kid, like me, there’s no way I would have left with the same imagination had I been pushed through some cherry-picked existence.

      18. Again man, this is complex. But your arguments – do you think I am for bloody bailouts? After everything I said? No! There is no such thing as equitable justice system. Nor will there ever be. I have degrees in law from two countries and I know many other jurisdictions. Forget about equity. It will never happen. Also you don’t have to convince me about criminality of Obama’s administration! Hence, please – smaller govt!

      I didn’t say you were for the bailouts. I am merely pointing out that wrongdoing at the highest levels tends to be protected at the highest levels. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are. It matters that the effects are huge, more so than that of petty criminality, and are still overwhelmingly protected.

  87. Tom

    1. Ok, either I am too stupid to understand your point or vice versa. We are moving in circles. I really want to comprehend what you are trying to say here but to me it is pure gibberish.
    2. On abortion: I would discuss whether someone’s right to life supersedes your right to control your genetic material. Especially since you have no real influence where your genetic material will end up after a very short time (literally one generation). I don’t think it is a good argument at all.
    3. The compromise that was reached in Poland on the matter of abortion (where the population is split similarly to the US in terms of pro and anti choice) works very well. It leaves both groups unhappy but most people understand the value of such compromise. As mentioned the compromise is: abortion is permissible after rape, in the event of endangerment of life of a mother and some instances of fetus illnesses.
    4. Could you point me to this long and detailed argument of yours regarding the world’s economy? I will address it.
    5. On race/racism there are couple of points: As a preamble I think that humanities (including anthropology and sociology) have become extremely corrupted by the SJW leftism. I think it can be demonstrated (but if I am not mistaken, you take a similar stance on this issue, please correct me if I am wrong). 80% of papers coming from humanities are not cited once. Which means they are worthless. What follows is that peer review is almost non-existent. To proceed with the point: I am extremely suspicious of anthropological evidence which indicates a race problem, because I think it is very often made to reach certain sets of conclusions and the methodology is usually insufficient to make determinations they are making. I think that a lot of your worldview comes from literal propaganda. I will grant you this – there may very well exist a problem with the police, like with 100,000 internal memos on bias. I think that there is a very high level of awareness today, police is being very careful because of extreme ease they can be persecuted (in the court of public opinion) for being racist and have their lives destroyed. This will lead inevitably to decrease in their numbers. So, can I hear your thoughts on this matter? Let’s grant you that systemic racism exists in the police force and racist police officers are persecuting poor black communities and murdering them. What would you do?

    I want to make another point: do you agree that black cops are more likely to shoot a black person than white cops? This is a real statistic. So, are the black cops also racist? Or stop and frisk – if black and white cops are doing the more frequent searches on blacks, is it also caused by racism? In my view, not in the slightest.

    You never stated it directly, but your comment on suboptimal outcomes sounds dangerously close like you want equality of outcome. Is that the case? Or do you think that there is simply inequality of opportunity which produces inequality of outcome, and you would choose to make a number of policies to increase the opportunities? I, for one, believe that everyone have the same rights and that is sufficient (bearing in mind policies I mentioned, which I think would increase the number of opportunities available to black community). I also think that change must come from within the community, and certainly not in the way it is being done (as a oppressed group), but with a new narrative, emphasizing individual responsibility and individuality.
    6. It’s indeed the case that out of 2 equally qualified candidates the black applicant will have a smaller chance of getting a job. I honestly ask: does it have to be due to race? Prima facie it seems obvious, but it is not. Let’s take my example. I run a business, get two CVs and they are the same. Ok, as a white guy from white country I admit I have less experience in dealing with black people – and there is a giant difference, because of leftist narrative. So, hiring a black person, there is a chance that his English will be less comprehensible to me (it is a cultural thing they idiotically propagate). Furthermore, I have to consider that a new employee will suck and will have to be fired. If I fire a black guy there is always a possibility he will sue on grounds of racism (no joy for the white guy). Furthermore, what happens if one of my other employees says something stupid, like a race-based joke. Instant HR problems. And so on and so forth. So, being a non racist – I think a black person is 100% equal human being to myself, I would not employ him AT ALL. He would have to be MUCH better than the white applicant. Please note that all those fears I have mentioned (and there are thousands more), have been caused by the stupid narrative from the left showing how the poor black people are oppressed. As always, the cost of such policy is what it is. Do you finally start to understand, how little it has to do with race and how much with pragmatism?

    I am absolutely sure that to a certain extent I am where I am due to innate privilege. Every person on earth is. I know the left wants to adjust reality. Yes, I was born to better circumstances than some and worse than some. It can literally be said about everyone. I acknowledge differences in opportunities. For instance if I was born a Jew, I would probably be much richer than I am today (due to the way they cooperate with each other). If I was born black, I would be likely poorer than I am today. OF COURSE. Whether the acquisition was just (I see your Marxist leftovers here) – every acquisition that is based on consensual exchange is just. Period. It is fair. Period. There has been no system in the history of the world that tried to undermine those principles and worked and literally hundreds of millions were killed and billions were impoverished in trying to address the perceived inequality or injustice of life.

    In my business – I don’t have opportunities to contract with everyone, sadly. If a guy like Shapiro would be running it he would be making a lot more money, because a lot more people want to contract with him. This is perfectly fair to me, because it is based on free market and freedom and not socialist wet dreams. Correspondingly, a black guy can open a business. He will probably have a different strata of people to work with. But he has the right to do it, to employ only blacks and do whatever he can to better his life. Maybe it will take him longer to achieve certain levels, but he CAN do it in the US.
    7. Them, them them comment – YES. But it was caused by the evil theory of intersectionality which caused the left to identify them as the oppressed, which was picked up by certain groups. They have created the “they narrative”. I am happy to treat everyone as an individual.

    Unconscious bias: terrible leftist propaganda. Please look at this, without prejudice:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhA08CUjImU

    I see your point about intermixing. I think that the biggest obstacle is this narrative you also believe in (blacks as the oppressed). UK is a very good example of much more efficient assimilation of black communities (and much less efficient when it comes to Muslims interestingly enough). I believe it was partly due to the fact that there was much less intersectional differentiation. You cannot cry wolf and say that evil white people oppress blacks and then force them to mix. It will inevitably cause increase in social tensions.

    8. I think there is something in men/women observations you made, albeit it is incredibly simplistic. Of course, I understand those points. My point is, as always – that it is demonstrably not caused by race but by specific culture.

    I really don’t understand your point about rolling paper into blunt. My point was to use psychological tools which have already been proven to have remarkable effects. What the hell is wrong with that?

    In principle I am not for destroying someone prosperous in the name of an increase in the AVERAGE. I think it is evil.
    9. Laffer – come on, I literally stated it was a model, to simplify my point. Data shows clearly that wherever you place the brackets relative to income, at a level upward of 50% you will lose a lot comparing to keeping it under.
    10. Your comment about XX century left me speechless. Please tell me you did not teach history in school. Here’s the argument: murder rate statistics are completely correct and known to me. But how in the world can you disregard the MURDER of hundreds of millions of people by the state in XX century?? Ukraine – millions dead in famine caused by Stallin, millions of political enemies murdered by Lenin, tens of millions killed in Soviet Union (around 20% of the population), tens of millions killed by Mao’s China (between 10-20% of the population), Pol Pot, Korea, Vietnam and so on.

    Furthermore, because the states became so powerful – we had Nazi Germany, Soviets and other regimes. 50-80 Million dead during just one war! Not to mention the cold war, when we were literally 10 seconds away from obliteration (Cuban missile crisis). Also have a look at Cornel Petrov and what he did.

    Do you understand that not only more people were murdered in XX century (per 100 000) than anytime before? Do you understand that the only reason we were not completely annihilated was because of incredible luck? US had at one stage 50.000 ballistic missiles!

    The overreach of the state and its power inflated so much during the XX century and we nearly all died. And now they do not want to give all these powers away. As to the taking stock of horrors: this is I think the biggest difference between Europe and the US. Because Europe, both emotionally and intellectually is so scarred that you wouldn’t believe. And much of the leftists are using those scars to reach their political agenda.

    I will read Pinker – but do you mean blank slate, or something else?

    11. On NASA – ok, so maybe there is another tack I can try. I really understand your arguments. Without NASA there would be no SpaceX. We wouldn’t be on the moon. Our knowledge of the cosmos would be severely limited. AGREED. So, NASA has a great, amazing legacy. I am all for them to continue doing it. Where I draw the line TODAY: whenever there is a situation, where a private entity can and wants to do something that NASA wants to do, PLEASE tell NASA not to do it. Because it will be much less efficient, as this is the nature of the beast. So, in a situation where SpaceX is building BFR, NASA SHOULD NOT even consider to be building SLS. Can we at least agree on that??

    And this is literally my entire case – government should not waste money whenever they can avoid it, AND because of bureaucracy they always waste money, they should be as little as possible (if there is a private solution based on free market). If there are goals that are unattainable privately AND that are desirable (like going to the moon) BY ALL MEANS give the state the power to do it!
    12. Again, I am making a caveat that I grant you this for the sake of discussion: blacks suffer more for the same actions than whites. You ask whether it is just. In other words you as me to instantiate equality of outcome. My position is very simple: it is impossible. The world is not a just place. People aren’t perfect. There is only one way to have a perfect equality – to put everyone into a Gulag or enslave them. They will be equal in their misery. By this logic, I personally think it is unfortunate. Luckily the crime rate is dropping, so less and less people will end up in jail, hopefully. So maybe this under-class will not be permanent? And maybe there will be a MLK character who will start a principled movement that will battle the pathologies in the black communities?
    13. On Jordan Peterson – do yourself a favor and study him more. I agree with you that his positions on truth are not convincing. But the wealth of this guy’s knowledge on various topics and some of his theories are quite amazing. Re video on men and women – either you didn’t understand the nuance or you were at this point so prejudiced that you couldn’t listen objectively to what was being said there. He basically stated that men and women have been working for just a few decades together and there are increasing tensions and problems in the work place and WE DON’T KNOW how it works and why it works, so maybe let’s consider various things – like make up in the workplace and ask ourselves what is its impact and how it can correlate with other factors. He was basically thinking out loud, but the left hears a sentence “I don’t know whether men and women can work together” and they immediately cry wolf and shut down their minds. As to accusations of sexual harassment – is it sufficient for you to make your mind about a person because he was ACCUSED?? Professors are accused all the time, that’s even why they advise (at UoT at least) not to have conversations behind closed doors! Imagine the level of pathology that must be going on there. I have listened to a lot JP has to say and I simply don’t believe this harassment BS. If evidence is ever presented I am happy to change my mind. And it does not take away from his advice and methods and tens of thousands of people that his message is helping.

    I am not saying Harris is a brilliant philosopher. But he is intelligent guy who has a lot of interesting things to say. Same with (albeit on different levels) Stefan Molyneux, Peterson, Shapiro or Bill Maher. I find them interesting to listen to, am often convinced by their arguments and see that because of those things I listen to I have a positive result in my life on all fronts. So, I am sure that there are some ultra deep thinkers that I would need years of study to even begin to understand and then their brilliant insights would leave me pondering some abstract metaphysics of creation. I am not that interested. I like to discuss things on a level of principle of course, but from my experience, the more you disconnect from reality into thought exercises, the less real and more abstract your conclusions and the less impactful your solutions.
    14. Given your background in education, what metric are you using to establish that kids know more today than 30, 50 years ago? The statistics I know are that kids don’t read books these days, have problems with reading comprehension, cannot write and their attention span is diminishing every decade (e.g. book “Google generation”). It does not seem conducive to knowing more. In countries I know personally, the level at universities is dropping like crazy, because children come from high schools much less prepared than they were even a decade ago. Knowledge of basic history and geography is atrocious. In my country we use US college textbooks on mathematics in second grade high school. US is I think ranked 37 in education in the world.

    Reply
    1. Silas

      Also, please source this claim with specific studies:

      “So, I looked into some of the models, compared them to the past and man, let me tell you, I really think something is wrong. They are really constantly adjusting coefficients next to variables to accommodate data that was completely different to the predicted one. I am no expert, but this does not sound right. Every prediction failed.”

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hello Tom,

      1. Ok, either I am too stupid to understand your point or vice versa. We are moving in circles. I really want to comprehend what you are trying to say here but to me it is pure gibberish.

      What is there to comprehend? That a state decides to levy a tax which YOU happen to disagree with is not an ethical issue, for all the reasons I’ve outlined. In other words, Shapiro’s judgment is not even false.

      Yes, let’s move on.

      2. On abortion: I would discuss whether someone’s right to life supersedes your right to control your genetic material. Especially since you have no real influence where your genetic material will end up after a very short time (literally one generation). I don’t think it is a good argument at all.

      But now we’re simply back to personhood. I have already shown that the anti-abortionists have never sufficiently proven that a fetus is a “someone” – that is, a person with the same claim to life as any other living person. You have, incidentally, not made the case either, but are alluding to it now as if you had. So why bring it up now, again without proofs?

      3. The compromise that was reached in Poland on the matter of abortion (where the population is split similarly to the US in terms of pro and anti choice) works very well. It leaves both groups unhappy but most people understand the value of such compromise. As mentioned the compromise is: abortion is permissible after rape, in the event of endangerment of life of a mother and some instances of fetus illnesses.

      Sounds awful. A nutball with zero ability to reason says, ‘This is a person, because I said so, and you must obey me.’ Then they default to the nutball and compel women to reproduce because otherwise the nutball is unhappy, and you call it sound policy?

      Tom, for all of the fellating you have done of Ben Shapiro, you seem to miss his most famous adage: “facts don’t care about your feelings.” Yet you have reached peak feels over reals, and don’t seem to give a damn.

      Could you point me to this long and detailed argument of yours regarding the world’s economy? I will address it.

      I have already made the argument re: what debt does, what it can do in the future, and how it is handled the world over, and you have read it. But you have not responded. Nor have you explained what’s wrong with Cali’s debt, or debt more generally, under this or that set of conditions. You seem to be depending on the fact that ‘debt’ sounds bad and other tricks.

      5. On race/racism there are couple of points: As a preamble I think that humanities (including anthropology and sociology) have become extremely corrupted by the SJW leftism.

      I agree, of course, but you are overstating the case. You will find a lot of bullshit in the soft sciences partly due to SJW-type activism, but lots and lots of good, too. Don’t do the PoMo shtick of just throwing everything out due to laziness. Bias is nothing new but the way that people have responded to this bias has simply been an exercise in self-justification.

      I think it can be demonstrated (but if I am not mistaken, you take a similar stance on this issue, please correct me if I am wrong). 80% of papers coming from humanities are not cited once. Which means they are worthless. What follows is that peer review is almost non-existent.

      The vast majority of papers on any subject are either never cited or barely cited, and the vast majority of researchers at any given time will be utterly forgotten. What is your point? You are getting awfully close to PoMo here.

      To proceed with the point: I am extremely suspicious of anthropological evidence which indicates a race problem, because I think it is very often made to reach certain sets of conclusions and the methodology is usually insufficient to make determinations they are making.

      Whoop, there it is! ‘I will not consider the evidence because I believe the whole enterprise is fucked. But, here, let me just leave you this bit of data about incorrigible black children which supports MY argument, since it is not possibly subject to bias.’

      Interestingly, I once really got into it with a feminist post-modernist who completely rejected psychological differences between men and women (and thus differences in behavior, sexual strategy, etc.) because scientific patriarchy runs deep. She erected a perfect, closed, and circular system where no evidence could change her mind, because the countervailing facts were corrupted. Then, without citing any specifics that we could in fact debate, she said something exactly like this:

      I think that a lot of your worldview comes from literal propaganda.

      …for which, obviously, I could not have a ‘logical’ response, because her own system was hermetically sealed. It was also pointless to bring up specifics, since they were ipso facto part of the foregone conclusion.

      It goes without saying, but you are awfully like your claimed intellectual enemy. I hope you can see this and I hope you can correct it, because you strike me as more intelligent than the majority of negative commentators under this article. I mean, you feed me *literal* propaganda from a devoted lobby group, then accuse *me* of swallowing nonsense and being uncritical? And this is precisely why we seem to be going in circles now.

      I will grant you this – there may very well exist a problem with the police, like with 100,000 internal memos on bias. I think that there is a very high level of awareness today, police is being very careful because of extreme ease they can be persecuted (in the court of public opinion) for being racist and have their lives destroyed. This will lead inevitably to decrease in their numbers. So, can I hear your thoughts on this matter? Let’s grant you that systemic racism exists in the police force and racist police officers are persecuting poor black communities and murdering them. What would you do?

      The court of public opinion is a whole lot less damaging than being shot dead without reason, don’t you think? It is, at any rate, LONG overdue. People trust cops blindly, and have done so for a long time. Especially if they themselves are of the ‘right’ demographic and are not subject to abuses. Now that activists are finally able to get SOME people to agree that, hey, maybe cops sometimes (or even often) do wrong, a bunch of selfish twats start to complain? Because your argument (even if it is only for the sake of argument) already conceded wide systemic anti-black bias. If THAT is true (and it IS true for the purposes of your argument), how can you point to a consequence of uncovering the truth (“it will lead to fewer cops”) as an argument AGAINST that truth, or at least against making that truth public? Do you not realize that is the literal definition of political correctness- saying/believing/doing that which is popular and uncontroversial, even if it’s factually wrong?

      If it leads to fewer cops, so be it. If it leads to fewer meatheads joining the force simply so that they could act like meatheads without consequence, so be it. Studies already indicate that those drawn to such professions (at least in America) are often authoritarian in temperament and belief structure, and you think attenuating some of this is bad? You do not seem to realize that it is only bad, TO YOU, who does NOT need to interact with cops on a daily basis. But even just the one case study I cited, FIVE out of twenty-five off-duty law-abiding black officers had a GUN pulled on them by other cops! In what world is that kind of escalation and potential homicide EVER justifiable? Now imagine if, instead of being posh black officers, they were simply black youths who belong to the ‘wrong’ culture- pants sagging, talking slang, hanging out with a bunch of other black guys who ‘look like they are up to no good’. How many guns would THEY have to deal with, simply on account of what they look like? Is the onus on THEM to ‘pick up their pants’ and ‘stop talking slang’ so they don’t get shot?

      I don’t think I need to cite example after example of all the recent shit cops got away with to make my point. Men killed in cold blood, cops not following protocol which directly led to death, undeniable, sadistic torture caught on tape and yet the guy just goes off to the Philippines somewhere, because he can’t show his face in America any longer, and you want me to cry tears for these psychopaths? Give me a break. You will either have a just and well-trusted police force, or not. You seem to be making the argument that we are somehow bleeding dry all of our law enforcement resources because we seek justice, when you and I both know that the best way to get better officers is simply to increase the pay (more talent from all walks of life), change protocols (thus reducing ‘accidents’), increase discipline of bad actors (thus eliminating meatheads and wannabes from the force), and legalize drugs (greatly reduce crime and pay for these changes). So, there’s one solution for you out of many.

      I want to make another point: do you agree that black cops are more likely to shoot a black person than white cops? This is a real statistic. So, are the black cops also racist? Or stop and frisk – if black and white cops are doing the more frequent searches on blacks, is it also caused by racism? In my view, not in the slightest.

      Silas (above) has addressed this. You need to stop swallowing bullshit, Tom. You are simply far too gullible in your citations and your repetition of literal Twitter memes.

      7. Them, them them comment – YES. But it was caused by the evil theory of intersectionality which caused the left to identify them as the oppressed, which was picked up by certain groups. They have created the “they narrative”. I am happy to treat everyone as an individual.

      The left did not have to do anything. Blacks have rioted a-plenty before white academics ever got involved, and almost always it had to do with the police. You think the Rodney King riots were because a bunch of black guys got hold of some technical journals? Honestly, this conversation is just getting weirder and weirder.

      6. It’s indeed the case that out of 2 equally qualified candidates the black applicant will have a smaller chance of getting a job. I honestly ask: does it have to be due to race? Prima facie it seems obvious, but it is not. Let’s take my example. I run a business, get two CVs and they are the same. Ok, as a white guy from white country I admit I have less experience in dealing with black people – and there is a giant difference, because of leftist narrative. So, hiring a black person, there is a chance that his English will be less comprehensible to me (it is a cultural thing they idiotically propagate). Furthermore, I have to consider that a new employee will suck and will have to be fired. If I fire a black guy there is always a possibility he will sue on grounds of racism (no joy for the white guy). Furthermore, what happens if one of my other employees says something stupid, like a race-based joke. Instant HR problems. And so on and so forth. So, being a non racist – I think a black person is 100% equal human being to myself, I would not employ him AT ALL. He would have to be MUCH better than the white applicant. Please note that all those fears I have mentioned (and there are thousands more), have been caused by the stupid narrative from the left showing how the poor black people are oppressed. As always, the cost of such policy is what it is. Do you finally start to understand, how little it has to do with race and how much with pragmatism?

      Lol, are you SURE you are not trolling? Do you honestly not see how poorly you come off in your counter-examples? You get a perfectly qualified candidate for a job, and you feel that it ‘might’ be justified to pass over this person because he MIGHT speak poorly on account of his skin? You fear a black man MIGHT sue you because he is black, and so you don’t hire him to avoid ‘trouble’? And I guess that also means it is not sexist to pass a woman over for a promotion because you likewise ASSUME that extra pressure might fuck with her hormonal balance? The issue is not you, Tom, but that a MILLION other managers think JUST LIKE YOU, and as I’ve pointed out, they DO NOT have to be evil, they DO NOT need to be hateful, they DO NEED even need to be inherently irrational- they just need to justify themselves to themselves in subtle, minute ways (as you have done) over and over again, in this one category of human interaction, until the sum total of their decisions MEANS that Group A is given unjustified preferential treatment over Group B *as an average*. Then, when a billion of these little events accrete and we have a permanent underclass as a result of it, guys like YOU can go tsk-tsk-tsk and blame ‘culture’ for all the reasons you will continue to perpetuate this underclass.

      For shame, Tom. For shame. 😉

      Unconscious bias: terrible leftist propaganda. Please look at this, without prejudice:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhA08CUjImU

      I agree the implicit association test is bullshit, and I never said that it wasn’t. You are taking one poorly constructed, controversial test as a measure of ALL Leftist thinking on this (or rather, all scientific thinking, which is not necessarily leftist).

      Oh, look, another reason why Peterson is a fraud- straw-man after straw-man. As a psychologist, he ought to know better, but as a celebrity, he knows how to get them clicks.

      I see your point about intermixing. I think that the biggest obstacle is this narrative you also believe in (blacks as the oppressed). UK is a very good example of much more efficient assimilation of black communities (and much less efficient when it comes to Muslims interestingly enough). I believe it was partly due to the fact that there was much less intersectional differentiation. You cannot cry wolf and say that evil white people oppress blacks and then force them to mix. It will inevitably cause increase in social tensions.

      Yes, I believe in the narrative that is supported by the evidence. I can’t help the implications. I just need to work with what’s really there.

      And black people (and even white people) don’t necessarily have issues with intermixing, although there is still an in-group bias from both groups towards their in-group. This bias goes down if they are both culturally as well as demographically intermixed. But, if anything, I’ve been kinda shocked ever since I was a kid at how LITTLE racism I have experienced from blacks. History tells me that prejudice goes up with social strife, when people have a ‘target’ to blame (such as white people). I went to a mostly black high school, I grew up in very mixed neighborhoods, and I am pretty much the only white person I ever get to see in my neighborhood now. Yet I can count ON ONE HAND the number of racist incidents I’ve had to experience in my life. Ironically, they mostly came during a short stint in the suburbs, where blacks and whites rarely saw each other. Do you honestly think I would be able to say all this had I been black, and grew up among whites?

      I really don’t understand your point about rolling paper into blunt. My point was to use psychological tools which have already been proven to have remarkable effects. What the hell is wrong with that?

      Because your ‘proven tool’ is to throw a book at people, moralize from the mountaintop, and hope something changes WITHOUT serious government intervention. This has NOT proven to work on a mass scale anywhere to change any macro behavior at any time. I can, by contrast, show you plenty of successful interventions that led to specific, tangible, measurable outcomes, whereas I have to take it as an article of faith, from you, that preaching to ‘these people’ will work.

      I made my ‘blunt’ comment because I grew up in some of these environments, and know what they look like. I was trying to give you anecdotal evidence of the facts because you seem to be so resistant to actual, anthropological evidence.

      You never stated it directly, but your comment on suboptimal outcomes sounds dangerously close like you want equality of outcome. Is that the case? Or do you think that there is simply inequality of opportunity which produces inequality of outcome, and you would choose to make a number of policies to increase the opportunities? I, for one, believe that everyone have the same rights and that is sufficient (bearing in mind policies I mentioned, which I think would increase the number of opportunities available to black community). I also think that change must come from within the community, and certainly not in the way it is being done (as a oppressed group), but with a new narrative, emphasizing individual responsibility and individuality.

      I want TRUE equality of opportunity, and let the outcomes can fall where they may. That said, we will obviously have to adjust for some outcomes in the future regardless. For example, men’s implicit bias for ‘protecting’ women means that women often face 30-50% less prison time for identical crimes. If I were to merely allow things to take their course, as you suggest, then I’d have to argue that this is a just state of affairs, and it’s not. Same goes for taller men getting paid more (all else being equal), and so on. You simply can’t create a permanent underclass of people based on arbitrary factors (race, height, gender) when 1) we have all agreed to the same rules, and are reminded of these rules on a daily basis; 2) you want social cohesion.

      Re: same rights, I reject this weird, ahistorical, legalist conception of the world. It is not enough to have the same legal rights. You are acting as if one can’t point to a million other obstacles that, simply because they are not ‘legally’ imposed, somehow don’t exist or don’t contribute to very real outcomes as if they *were* legally imposed. This is why the law recognizes a separation between de jure and de facto events.

      In principle I am not for destroying someone prosperous in the name of an increase in the AVERAGE. I think it is evil.

      Your bias comes out again, though, in your loaded language and your framing. I have never said anything about ‘destroying’ anyone. You then correctly point out that it’s evil to destroy an innocent person, as if I would really disagree with this sentiment. Are you not a little bit ashamed at these tactics? 😉

      Laffer – come on, I literally stated it was a model, to simplify my point. Data shows clearly that wherever you place the brackets relative to income, at a level upward of 50% you will lose a lot comparing to keeping it under.

      But it doesn’t. As Silas pointed out, a number of models have shown that a tax rate of 50% does not cut into revenue nor suppress growth, and even a ‘true’ progressive tax rate of 70% is doable. I think we can all agree that there is an ideal number, somewhere, but the fact that it is neither 100% nor 0% says nothing. Yet you flippantly said, ‘Look at the Laffer curve’ as if it proved your argument.

      10. Your comment about XX century left me speechless. Please tell me you did not teach history in school. Here’s the argument: murder rate statistics are completely correct and known to me. But how in the world can you disregard the MURDER of hundreds of millions of people by the state in XX century?? Ukraine – millions dead in famine caused by Stallin, millions of political enemies murdered by Lenin, tens of millions killed in Soviet Union (around 20% of the population), tens of millions killed by Mao’s China (between 10-20% of the population), Pol Pot, Korea, Vietnam and so on.

      Tom, you are getting kinda annoying in your utter dismissal of everything I’ve presented. It is A FACT that even if one were to take account ALL deaths from war, the state, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, etc. etc. etc., it is SIGNIFICANTLY lower, on average, than the murder rate of quite a few even relatively peaceful tribes, today. You may be ‘aghast’ at all this, but I cited Steven Pinker, specifically, because he goes through the numbers in detail if you are interested. It is simply not a point of reasonable debate that the 20th century had been the most peaceful time up until then in all of human existence. He may be wrong about SOME numbers (and I think he is), but even the lowest estimates that use legit mathematical models indicate we’ve reduced violence by at least 1-300X, if Pinker’s 1000X is too high. No, you don’t have to believe it, but remember Shapiro’s little adage.

      Here are some graphs on this to put it into perspective: https://ourworldindata.org/ethnographic-and-archaeological-evidence-on-violent-deaths

      Pinker’s newer book is “The Better Angels Of Our Nature”. His other book, “The Blank Slate”, is a great expose of how leftists infected what ought to be hard sciences, but is also kinda dated at this point, not even 20 years after its release, in many of the specific examples he uses (IQ, peer groups, and more). It is still an excellent read regardless.

      His worst book is on the arts: http://alexsheremet.com/review-of-steven-pinkers-the-sense-of-style-the-thinking-persons-guide-to-writing-in-the-21st-century/

      Furthermore, because the states became so powerful – we had Nazi Germany, Soviets and other regimes. 50-80 Million dead during just one war! Not to mention the cold war, when we were literally 10 seconds away from obliteration (Cuban missile crisis). Also have a look at Cornel Petrov and what he did.

      See above. You’d be better off in Stalin’s Russia than a male in Crow Creek. Not even close.

      11. On NASA – ok, so maybe there is another tack I can try. I really understand your arguments. Without NASA there would be no SpaceX. We wouldn’t be on the moon. Our knowledge of the cosmos would be severely limited. AGREED. So, NASA has a great, amazing legacy. I am all for them to continue doing it. Where I draw the line TODAY: whenever there is a situation, where a private entity can and wants to do something that NASA wants to do, PLEASE tell NASA not to do it. Because it will be much less efficient, as this is the nature of the beast. So, in a situation where SpaceX is building BFR, NASA SHOULD NOT even consider to be building SLS. Can we at least agree on that??

      “Where I am today” – careful, because you might be a bit too willing to outsource something NEW that only the state can do and do well, today, to the private sphere, just like prior to this conversation you might have outsourced all of NASA in 1969 to SpaceX because ‘markets’. You need to really distinguish between what is appropriate, and where. Notice that I am not calling for the mass nationalization of a thousand different industries, yet you are calling for mass privatization without even having thought about the implications of your own examples, simply due to a knee-jerk reaction to satisfy some pro-market bias. (And I think you’d grant, at this point, that you had not really thought about the NASA vs. SpaceX thing when you cited it as evidence.)

      And this is literally my entire case – government should not waste money whenever they can avoid it, AND because of bureaucracy they always waste money, they should be as little as possible (if there is a private solution based on free market). If there are goals that are unattainable privately AND that are desirable (like going to the moon) BY ALL MEANS give the state the power to do it!

      Perhaps, although I still do not agree with your framing. Look at your statement – “they always waste money”. Remember that, by YOUR own definition, NASA has “wasted money” simply because its rockets are more expensive. But as I’ve pointed out, the price of their rockets is perfectly appropriate given everything else they have done- namely, infrastructure, and allowing for the conditions to create cheaper rockets in the future. It is thus a contextual question, and you are still letting your biases show by using such exaggerated language.

      12. Again, I am making a caveat that I grant you this for the sake of discussion: blacks suffer more for the same actions than whites. You ask whether it is just. In other words you as me to instantiate equality of outcome. My position is very simple: it is impossible. The world is not a just place. People aren’t perfect. There is only one way to have a perfect equality – to put everyone into a Gulag or enslave them. They will be equal in their misery. By this logic, I personally think it is unfortunate. Luckily the crime rate is dropping, so less and less people will end up in jail, hopefully. So maybe this under-class will not be permanent? And maybe there will be a MLK character who will start a principled movement that will battle the pathologies in the black communities?

      Then we just have a fundamental philosophical disagreement, I guess. You believe that it’s OK that black people suffer more punishment for the same crimes that white people commit. By contrast, I believe it’s not OK.

      I swear, Tom- try framing things the way I just did, strip away all those hoops and verbiage, and look at how laughable and silly and selfish your entire worldview comes across. You will neither win hearts nor minds by such intellectual crassness.

      13. On Jordan Peterson – do yourself a favor and study him more. I agree with you that his positions on truth are not convincing. But the wealth of this guy’s knowledge on various topics and some of his theories are quite amazing. Re video on men and women – either you didn’t understand the nuance or you were at this point so prejudiced that you couldn’t listen objectively to what was being said there. He basically stated that men and women have been working for just a few decades together and there are increasing tensions and problems in the work place and WE DON’T KNOW how it works and why it works, so maybe let’s consider various things – like make up in the workplace and ask ourselves what is its impact and how it can correlate with other factors. He was basically thinking out loud, but the left hears a sentence “I don’t know whether men and women can work together” and they immediately cry wolf and shut down their minds.

      No, I will not “study” him. You study him, and you die with him, because I actually wish to make a functional contribution to the world, and have only so much time in between these comments and my own reading and my own writing and making a living. In your comments to me, you have literally listed the most famous celebrities of the Right (Crowder, Shapiro, Peterson, Harris, Stefan, etc.) as if they are genuine thinkers. Tom- what are the chances that the most famous people at any given time, in any given niche are the best or the most talented or even have anything worthwhile to say? If it doesn’t work in music, it’s also not going to work here, hence my Britney Spears reference. Do you see me throwing names like Cenk or Trevor Noah or Kyle Kulinski at you and instructing you to ‘study’ these twerps? If not, why the fuck are you inundating me with celebrities on the Right? You are just ONE degree removed from telling me to tune into Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham, but I know that you won’t, and that you look down on those morons because ‘real’ intellectual types listen to Peterson, or whatever-the-fuck flavor of the month has recently come along. Honestly, just get off of YouTube for a while and detox from this shit because it’s rotting your thinking from the inside out.

      And I heard what Peterson said. I know what the context was- AND IT DOESN’T MAKE IT ANY BETTER. Yes, men and women have been in the same workforce for only a few decades now, but who gives a shit? Are you so ill-socialized that you think the world is crumbling to pieces because of it or can’t imagine a falsification scenario where it won’t? I have had hundreds of colleagues all over the place in different settings, and I have NEVER had to deal with any gender-based conflict, just bad workers and general morons. I may be an exception, sure, but I do NOT see any evidence that men’s and women’s productivity is taking a hit or that we are unable to work towards the same goals in a professional setting. There’s just NO evidence of it, so WHY are you or Peterson asking me to ‘seriously’ consider it? That Peterson throws this complete garbage out there to “think out loud”, then by his own admission without having fully thought about it previously, has his fans jump down other people’s throats because they are pointing out how DUMB the statement is, indicates to me that they are merely parroting him. And you ARE parroting him, Tom- he LITERALLY says, all the time, that he is just “thinking out loud”, and you are just repeating it to excuse what is SO demonstrably stupid! Maybe, just maybe, he ought to shut the fuck up for a second, gather his thoughts, and THEN say what he needs to say in a way that actually makes sense? But, no, the onus is on ME to give HIM the benefit of the doubt when he is guilty of the same manipulation tactics as Shapiro?

      As to accusations of sexual harassment – is it sufficient for you to make your mind about a person because he was ACCUSED?? Professors are accused all the time, that’s even why they advise (at UoT at least) not to have conversations behind closed doors! Imagine the level of pathology that must be going on there. I have listened to a lot JP has to say and I simply don’t believe this harassment BS. If evidence is ever presented I am happy to change my mind. And it does not take away from his advice and methods and tens of thousands of people that his message is helping.

      Of course it’s not sufficient. But if a guy outright SAYS that he wonders whether men and women can even work together, and THEN says he was accused by those same women of sexual harassment, don’t you think that’s, at the very least, a touch coincidental? Don’t you think it’s at least POSSIBLE that the two are somehow related? Can you just imagine all the potential narratives here? And few of them would likely reflect well on Peterson, given the context of his admission, and his utter refusal to actually give evidence for his position. Sounds kinda emotional, to me.

      US is I think ranked 37 in education in the world.

      It was ranked 7th on different lists recently, too. The problem is that while you doubt public education and ‘throwing money at it’, all these other places that rank higher than us are either strict, almost authoritarian public education systems, like in Asia, or highly liberal public education systems with novel, non-punitive approaches, like Finland. Few of them seem to follow this free market model, but that is still your default because it is your default.

  88. Silas

    Tom, there have been several economic studies attempting to figure out the tax that would maximize revenue. Many of them have concluded that the optimal tax would be around 70%. One study did conclude that an optimal tax of 50% would produce the maximum revenue, but it’s irrational to factually declare that any tax above a 50% would result in a “lot of” revenue loss.

    Also, your fascination with Peterson is amusing. His academic work is substantive and enlightening. His social commentary and interviews, on the other hand, are comical and meant to “wow” idiotic millennials. You’ve spectacularly strawmanned the left – or anyone intelligent on the left – in this case, so good on you.

    This article goes through a few reasons why Peterson is a joke: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2018/03/the-intellectual-we-deserve

    Also, if you’re going to cite statistics, please make sure that they’re accurate. Much of what you’ve been claiming here is either unproven or blatantly false.

    For instance, it is not true that black cops are more likely to shoot black suspects than white cops: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/black-police-officers-likely-kill-black-people/

    And you cite Maher and Molyneux as intelligent commentators. Holy shit. I agree with much of Maher’s political positions and even I think the guy is a fucking moron who has zero idea how to properly argue out a point.

    Reply
    1. Tom

      Hi Silas
      Thanks for addressing some of the issues. First of all, do you mind linking the studies you are referring to?
      Now, let me explain the “fascination” with Peterson’s work and my approach in general to the people I listen to. I came across his work on bill C16 issue. As a lawyer I found his argument concise and, upon checking some of the information he presented, I concluded that he might be right. I was impressed by his eloquence and I also had my first “wow” moment. It happens, whenever someone points out to something that I considered to be obvious and taken for granted and goes in somewhat different direction. In this case, Peterson said that free speech is not a right, but a more fundamental tool that makes our society work. I thought – that’s really interesting to me, because in all my years of legal education, the tutors referred to it as just another right, albeit important. So, then I started thinking about restrictions on free speech, like we have in Europe (e.g. you can’t promote communism or Nazis). I always thought that those restrictions were appropriate, given the historical background. But then, JP made another argument: if you restrict someone’s speech, they will hide in the dark and you will never know where they are brewing. He said he prefers to know who such people are, because only then he can address and destroy them. I thought about it for a long time and found the argument convincing (there were other reasons of course, but I want to simplify this reply, just to give you a gist of why I like to listen to the guy). In other words, I adjusted my thinking which is something I am always thankful for to the person who caused it:)
      I then went on to one of his biblical lectures. I come from a catholic country and had religion during my primary and secondary education (1 hour a week at least). As an agnostic since 13, having read a lot of books like God Delusion, I always had this stance of derision toward the stories. Yeah, 6 days to create the world. Sure, Adam from dirt and Eve from a rib. Ridiculous. And yet those stories were pumped to us by mediocre minds and preaching was predicated upon absolute faith. So, JP – who is a well-read guy and an admirer of Jung – gave me a second “wow” moment with his detailed and multi-level analysis of Kain and Abel story. He said – “I can tell you this story in 30 seconds, but I will need at least two hours to unpack it”. And he proceeded to explain how he views the people in a pre-scientific age. How different they must have been from us in their perception of the world and how the archetypes that are really amazingly similar all around the world could form a part of the Jungian collective unconsciousness. Furthermore, he made references to various biological systems and discussed how they may have contributed to evolution of our perception of reality (hierarchy in lobsters or theory relating to limits of our visual perception and its reasons). I thought – that is a really interesting approach, I have not heard about it before. So, maybe, those guys who wrote the bible were not just ignorant bronze age sheepherders who thought that the earth was flat and under a dome. Maybe there is some kind of collective wisdom in those stories, which were grasped very slowly over millenia by the people who saw the world fundamentally differently than us. I then thought – thanks JP for opening this world of possibilities. I then had a realization that I finally got why the Jewish theologians could spend thousands of years trying to interpret those strange books – I always found some of the remarks really weird (it seemed like a mental gymnastics). So, again, I adjusted my thinking a little. Furthermore, JP has this interesting mix of experiences as a clinician (20 000 hours of conversations) and behaviorist. Some of his insights come from experience, some come from analysis of the philosophers. He certainly has a lot of expertise. I decided to listen more.
      I will not bore you with details of other examples. Suffice it to say that when he spoke on my favourite books (Master and Margarita, Crime and Punishment, Gulag Archipelago and so on), his insights helped me to better understand and adjust my thinking. He gave me some insights into SJW crowd. Thanks to him I read a book about postmodernism (by Hicks). Essentially, it is my belief that he expanded my thinking.

      Here’s something that you and our good host Sheremet do not understand. I can listen to JP for 1 hour and find things he says for 45 minutes to be a stretch or improbable. For instance, during his conversations with Sam Harris or Bret Weintstein I found that his core concept of truth is incomprehensible to me (although he made me think about meta truth in more detail). I also don’t find him convincing on host of other topics. I don’t understand people’s approach, that if you find a hole in someone’s reasoning (by your standard) you get to call them frauds, jokes, intellectually deficient and deride their audience for everything else they say.

      To put things in some perspective: I don’t agree with what Sheremet says (obviously) on most points, but throughout our exchange he made a few good points, that I have not come across before. In my view, it makes it worth my while to go through what I perceive to be a lot of BS to find those views that I find may be convincing.

      To close my argument: Maher wonderfully rips PC and religion (as a comedian), especially scientology. Thanks to Shapiro I have a much better understanding of federal government vs state government, some better insight into Jewish orthodoxy. He caused me to re-examine completely what I thought about the second amendment. He has a lot of cool insights into federalist papers and history of US. And it is hilarious how he sometimes reacts to the left. Molyneux: I learned about different perspective on Gandhi (my wow moment:). I like to listen to some of his views on history – like on Mandela or Islam.

      In my world, it is a great gift to have one’s mind changed, and I respect those people (and many others) because I think they honestly try to bring forth another perspective, which is often completely alien to me. I don’t have to agree with everything, I don’t have to even agree with most of it like most people seem to require. I find them intelligent and witty and often very engaging, which is sufficient to spend time on their content.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Tom,

      Your comment is for Silas, but let me just respond to this point:

      Here’s something that you and our good host Sheremet do not understand. I can listen to JP for 1 hour and find things he says for 45 minutes to be a stretch or improbable. For instance, during his conversations with Sam Harris or Bret Weintstein I found that his core concept of truth is incomprehensible to me (although he made me think about meta truth in more detail). I also don’t find him convincing on host of other topics. I don’t understand people’s approach, that if you find a hole in someone’s reasoning (by your standard) you get to call them frauds, jokes, intellectually deficient and deride their audience for everything else they say.

      But I actually do understand this perspective, because I share it. I’ve already said that there are many I disagree with, but nonetheless respect, because they are clearly intelligent people acting in good faith. Yet just look at the chronology of events here. YOU brought up Jordan Peterson, to which I listed my objections. To your credit, you did not attempt to defend him on his hypocritical, post-modernist concept of Truth, but when it came down to other nonsense, you did defend him- and not just defended him, but regurgitated, pretty much verbatim, his own self-justifications (“I’m just talking out loud!”) whenever he’s in the hot seat over something self-inflicted. That is NOT the behavior of a thinking, critical person. Then, in your one opportunity to prove to me that Peterson has something worthwhile to say, you dig up a misleading video on the implicit bias test, where he straw-mans the anthropological consensus on in-group/out-group bias despite knowing, as a psychiatrist, the actual research on the topic. He then manipulates YOU into believing it, you do not realize this because you uncritically accept what he is saying, and then- after blowing it 2 for 2- you think *I* am the one being unfair to him? I mean, you had your chance, Tom, and you- and only you- failed to make your case with the evidence you- and only you- decided to present. Are you sure YOU are not the one being unfair to ME?

      Is there ANYTHING good about Peterson? Sure- his early psych stuff was more or less accurate, and reflects the science of his field; he gave one of the few fair interviews to James Damore; he was clearly being bullied by his university, and Canada’s fucked up system of free speech, and decided to fight back. Yet you don’t seem to get that there are tens of thousands of academics just like him- educated guys and gals with all sorts of pet theories (most of them silly), and a desire to broadcast them to the world. The only difference between Peterson and everyone else is that Peterson lucked out- had his Uni not threatened him over something already quite controversial, no one would have given a shit about his videos. Do you not understand this? I can find you a million left-wing dopes who say the same crap from the other side of the aisle, but since so many young white virginal males the world over feel lost and are now looking for a guru, they will simply gravitate towards the Petersons (the first right-wing academic celebrity on the Internet) and not the Slavoj Zizeks (who is part of an already long line of commies offering the same failure as before). And had you been a left-winger writing to me, no doubt you’d be pushing Zizek as you do Peterson while hiding behind a veil of plausible deniability by pointing out that, yes, on occasion both guys get something right, and thus I should not be so ‘hard’ on them and more ‘tolerant’ and ‘understanding’.

      Yet I am still waiting to hear why I ought to gloss over so much bullshit just to get a nugget of wisdom they have come upon by pure happenstance.

  89. Tom

    Hi Alex
    I see we are talking more directly on various matters, but due to the nature of our back and forth it seems slightly disjointed, so if you don’t mind I suggest slightly different format. We have now: economy debt, GDP, issue, big govt issues, abortion, race.

    On economy – debt issue.
    Here are some points that I consider to be facts, and the argument that follows will be predicated upon them.
    1. Federal Reserves is a privately-owned cartel (unlike any central bank in the world) with the power to create currency.
    2. Government operates to a large extent on debt by issuing bonds and other financial instruments to fund their various endeavors.
    3. Almost 100% of those bonds are bought by Federal Reserves, who pay for them by essentially printing money. In the past more than 90% of the bonds were bought by third parties NOT from the printed money, but from their acquired (under normal market conditions) wealth.
    4. The more money you print, the more it looses its value due to inflation.
    5. Government employs people, paying them directly from the printed money. Unlike in the private sector, compensation of governmental employees increases GDP.
    6. Because a huge portion of GDP (some say it is 50%) is artificially inflated due to government expenditures and they are paid for with the printed money it causes a rise of real inflation and makes third parties unwilling to purchase governmental bonds (hence it has to all be bought by the Fed).
    7. Almost all oil transactions in the world are USD based, which is heavily enforced by US foreign policy. Since 1971 dollar is not backed by gold, but by “FAITH in the US government”. Forcibly maintaining USD in oil transactions is one of the very few objective standards for the US currency. Furthermore USD/EUR currency fluctuations have enormous impact on emerging economies, as they usually have less stable currencies themselves.
    The above situation creates a loop of ever increasing amount of debt which logically cannot be repaid. The currency looses its value and in my view there will be a point similar, but much worse to 2008 subprime crisis, when someone will finally ask – how much dollar is actually worth. And, in my view there will be a great upheaval, hyperinflation and tremendous loss to the US and world’s economy.
    US has therefore artificially inflated GDP, inflation artificially kept at bay by globalization and ever increasing amounts due to a few private citizens who own the FED. Unbelievably complex tax system has been created not to better the economy, but to obfuscate this situation and things like income tax, introduced as a temporary measure, were only meant as instruments to engineer society, remove inequality and force political opponents to cower (last example: Obama using IRS to destroy his political enemies) and give exemptions to friends. It is a system that is essentially so corrupt that it is not sustainable. It is also a system which would never be possible under a small government.
    On artificial inflation of GDP, here is excerpt that I find easy to understand, from http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2013/01/government_purc.html:

    Scenario 1. Tomorrow, ExxonMobil spontaneously hires an unemployed petroleum engineer for $100K per year. She spends a year looking for new oil, finds nothing.

    Scenario 2. Tomorrow, the federal government spontaneously hires an unemployed petroleum engineer for the same $100K. She spends a year looking for new oil, finds nothing.

    So, how do these two alternative scenarios impact the official GDP figures?

    Scenario 1 has zero impact on GDP: No oil to sell=no extra consumer purchases=no extra GDP. As the Bureau of Economic Analysis says, “Personal consumption expenditures…is goods and services purchased by persons…”

    Scenario 2 raises GDP by $100K. As BEA says, “Government consumption expenditures…consists of…compensation of employees…”.

    Race
    You ask about the level of citations. Simple fact in scientific circles is, that if the data is useful it will be used. Zero citations on a scientific paper usually mean it is completely worthless, does not make a proper argument, methodology is wrong or has other deficiencies. I like the example of STEM field papers that talk about creation and those that talk about evolution:)
    I think you make a good argument on my selective approach to statistics. I am actually, in many datapoints, entertaining the possibility that I may be wrong. But I have not yet been convinced, hence my comment regarding to “literal propaganda”. I don’t think it is circular, because I am open to changing my mind, I have outlined why I think the statistics are usually methodologically flawed and why.
    On cops (again, caveat is that I am granting you systemic racism for the sake of discussion): “court of public opinion is less damaging than being shot”. Sure. And it is also WRONG. There is a reason why we live in societies where due process and assumption of innocence are paramount. To condemn a person before you have all the information (and you almost never do) is to allow the system to deteriorate. To allow your emotions create your narrative is to decrease social cohesion (BLM movement). In the cases I know about, the ones media went most crazy over, there were instances of racism, but much more often I felt the cops were completely justified. Non-compliance to commands, escape attempts and reaching for cop’s gun is in my view 100% justification for a shooting. Of course, there are plenty of examples where they are not justified and it has to be decided on a case by case basis what happened and why it happened and what was the intent of a person and then, if appropriate, punish them accordingly. And as to your cultural remark – if the way I dress or speak would put me in danger OF COURSE I would change that.

    The fault is in my view on both sides. I again don’t really believe that there is overwhelming amount of racist cops (although I see your point about statistical traits of people attracted to such professions). If I go to a neighborhood where there are only whites and some 10% of them have red bands on their arms, and I know from statistics that those guys are more likely to shoot me than those without, I would most certainly be quicker to draw on them. Not because they are white, but because they are statistically more dangerous to me.

    As to policy – generally I agree on all points, but those on protocols and increasing discipline are so general, that it is difficult to address. They are constantly improving protocols and trying to better the discipline. They are sort of “duh” points:)
    Of course, blacks rioted before. But I think it is demonstrable the identity politics are propagated by the left. I think that the left sees political capital in it. And, with regard to certain ideas, it is not a matter of reading technical journals on intersectionality. As with all powerful ideas, they tend to seep in the society, given by politicians to the masses in small doses. Do you think most morons who run with the bloody communist flag have read the Manifesto, or Lenin? People are stupid and easily manipulated.
    Now to my shameful trolling about not hiring a black guy. Or a woman. So, from the outset: the left often tries this tactic, I think it is rather silly and does not work on me. Arguing from the standpoint of moral indignation and moral superiority. How dare you to even consider your self-interest? How dare you to even think about your success, when there is inequality in the world? You have a moral obligation to bring justice to the world. And so it goes. Whenever sufficient amount of people believing in their absolute moral superiority achieve power, you have gulags and tragedy. I myself believe in a doctrine of self-interest. I want to conduct my business, to the best of my ability, to take care of my family and my employees as well as I can. If you want to institute policies that would force me to hire someone I don’t want to hire or provide services I don’t want to provide under threat of a gun – I think it is you who is evil, because how dare you tell me how to tell my life? This is fundamental nature of the divide between collectivists, who believe they know what’s best for society and individualists who just want to be left alone.
    There are plenty of left leaning companies like Google who agree with you on paper (albeit in reality I think it is much more PR related and it really is self-interest) and do everything in their power to secure “quotas” for black, women, transgenders etc. They can do whatever they like.
    I daresay that I know the legal intricacies of my business and my situation better than you. I gave you some reasons that are important to me. You may find them unconvincing, fair enough. To my mind, your arguments are divorced from reality. For instance, your example with regard to women. I actually work with women, but place them in such positions in my organization that when they almost inevitably shift their focus to their family life, I am not likely to lose out. You call it shameful, I call it good business practice. I also absolutely don’t agree with your point about justification – because it is predicated upon the idea that I feel guilty for not employing someone based on rational ideas. I don’t.
    With regard to unconscious bias and Peterson’s stance – I am curious about one thing. After he spoke about the implicit association test, he then proceeded to comment on various policies implemented in companies (for which he said there is zero evidence they work) and other programs/courses that are meant to teach you how to deal with this phenomenon (again, he said zero evidence for positive effect). I admit ignorance, because it has become apparent that you have studied some sociological issues in more detail than myself, so please take a view on this. As I understand it, unconsciouss bias is not even a thoughtcrime (because I don’t realize I am thinking it) but some kind of vague stance whereby I assign certain values based on some inherent beliefs I don’t know I have. If someone claims that (and I would need to see a mountain of evidence) AND he claims that he knows how to address that through policy (and I would need to see a MOUNTAIN of evidence for that, given that we have no bloody idea what consciousness even is), I would even then be extremely skeptical that any such solutions could ever work, because as always, it comes down to equality of outcome, of which I am really suspicious. That’s why I find Peterson’s comment on this convincing.
    On your experience growing up – It might be a good idea for an article, to describe your experience. I would read it gladly if you were able to somehow present most of the experiences in an unbiased way (with regard to your narrative) and then, in the second part, make your case:)
    Rolling paper into blunt – I am not saying throw books at them. I am saying, force them to take 1 hour of their life to complete something that has apparently produced astonishing effects.

    On same rights/equality of opportunity – we have a fundamental philosophical difference. In my view, callous as you may perceive it, it is absolutely impossible to have true equality of opportunity, because, and you HAVE TO concede this – people are born to different circumstances. I am 5’9, so I will never play in NBA. I am too stupid to be an applied mathematics professor (or would be a lousy one). Tall people get paid more, but it is usually because they are more powerful physically, thus more likely to be more disagreeable (that’s why I think women tend to be less disagreeable), thus more likely to get paid more. Women get lower sentences because of the fact that they are less dangerous than men.

    I sense that I am trying to get my point across in a rather poor way, especially because of your rather barbed comment later on about how “laughable, silly and selfish my worldview comes across”. In order to get your “true equality of opportunity” in the real world you would have to pass tens of thousands different laws addressing every minutiae of human interaction. It has been tried in a great number of ways in XX century. It failed for the same reason why Bizantine legal system could not account for every human interaction (they tried to create a legal “form” of sorts for every conceivable event. They did their best but didn’t even scratch a surface of possibilities). You have often stated that my bias clouds my judgment. Yet, I believe I can say with reasonable objectivity, that if you try to pass regulations for EVERYTHING to get a true equality of opportunity, you will be faced with terrible consequences. Let’s take our earlier example – it could be mandated that you cannot put race on your CV. Then, that you cannot pay more to a white person for the same job that a black person does. Then, that you cannot pay a taller person more for the same job. And about million other factors down the intersectionality lane. So, as a businessman I know all those laws and try to apply them. There will have to be innumerable inspections to check where I failed (and I will fail). There will be lawsuits against me all the time, because such amount of regulations will make it impossible to adhere to them.

    Furthermore, I have not even begun to address the most important issue of “the same job”. Let’s say I hire blindly a black person (because of the state law). He is a salesperson, but we are doing a project in a very racist little town. He will fail, because of prejudice (same can be reversed by the way!) so he will lose me money I would have earned if I could send whoever I wanted to. Same with tall negotiators – they will produce more for me, because people feel intimidated. My point is, to all of your claims of “true equality of opportunity” – you cannot change reality. My actions reflect reality, because if they don’t I am out of business, dead in a ditch. Hence, the best I can do is to allow people to enter into consensual legal relationships without any interference from the government. I think this approach can and should win hearts and minds, even yours if we are lucky:) I recommend Scheidel: The Great Leveler as a good book on some aspect of our conversation.

    NASA
    You are being facetious in my view. I clearly stated: give to the private entity everything they CAN and WANT to do. In 1969 it was not feasible to build rockets privately. It has become more feasible only quite recently. (as a side note, famous Musk’s comment on how to make a small fortune in space: “you have to start with a big fortune:). The CAN and WANT of the