Ideological Turing Test (mainstream liberal democrat edition)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideological_Turing_Test

The Ideological Turing Test is a concept invented by American economist Bryan Caplan to test whether a political or ideological partisan correctly understands the arguments of his or her intellectual adversaries: the partisan is invited to answer questions or write an essay posing as his opposite number. If neutral judges cannot tell the difference between the partisan's answers and the answers of the opposite number, the candidate is judged to correctly understand the opposing side. The ideological Turing test is so named because of its similarity with the Turing test, a test whereby a machine is required to fool a neutral judge into thinking that it is human.

The idea was first mooted by Caplan in 2011 in response to Paul Krugman's claim that, in the context of US politics, liberals understand conservatives (and libertarians) better than conservatives (and libertarians) understand liberals. Borrowing the idea of the Turing test used to judge whether machines can pass themselves off as human, Caplan suggested the ideological Turing test as a way to impartially test Krugman's claim: whichever side understands the other better would perform better on an ideological Turing test. He also offered to take the test himself and offered to bet that libertarians could more easily pass themselves off as liberal than liberals could pass themselves off as libertarian.

Caplan's post was praised by Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy blog.

The Ideological Turing test is important because it lets us disambiguate two different cases:

1) my opponent does not agree with position X because he is too stupid / ignorant / confused to understand position X

2) my opponent does not agree with position X because he has considered it and found it wanting.

Today we've secretly replaced your regular Clark with Folger's Clark; let's see if you notice the difference.

Please ask me anything about politics, religion, culture, economics, the family, gay marriage, the Obama scandals, immigration, the Republican party, libertarians, etc. I will answer it as a mainstream liberal US Democrat. Then you may judge how well I do.

Last 5 posts by Clark

Comments

  1. Ken Mencher says

    So, Folger's Clark, why is it important to strongly prosecute government leaks?

  2. Martin says

    Love the idea. Back in high school when I did speech and debate, one of the most useful skills I had to acquire was the ability to support both sides of an issue with equal facility. Best of luck to you, sir!

    And now, my question: what is the case in support of taxing the general populace to provide welfare support to those in (putative) need?

  3. says

    Ken Mencher:

    why is it important to strongly prosecute government leaks?

    Well, some of the recent news that you allude to is troubling, and I've got to admit that I'm not entirely at ease with it, but there are a few things that are important to remember:

    First, this so-called "scandal" about the administration prosecuting leaks is largely a Republican ploy. The Republicans are hypocrites on this (as they are on so many things – I note in passing the "pro-family" policies pushed by Reagan, Gingrinch, and a lot of other men on their second or third trophy wives). Republicans have targetted whistleblowers, but now suddenly the administration isn't allowed to go after actual leakers of sensitive information?

    Sub-point: who benefits from this? If you buy into the Republican talking points and give this hiccup more attention than it deserves, you're taking valuable air away from the important issues: rolling out Obamacare and patching any small problems in it, getting an amnesty passed so that undocumented workers can come out of the shadows and be full proud Americans, etc.

    Second major point: we all agree that a government needs some secrecy to function. In the same way that NASA keeps the transcripts of chats with astronauts secret, so as to encourage honesty, we need some privacy within government so that people have the right incentives to get their jobs done. If every debate, decision, and minor hiccup inside the government is fair game to leak to the press and use as a political football, then the hardworking men and women inside the government are going to be paralyzed in fear of a witchhunt and will be unable to get the nation's work done. Tolerating leaks sounds nice, but the end result is that things will grind to a halt, educational policy won't be made, imporant ecological rules won't be enforced, etc.

    So, it's a bit difficult, and I can't say that I entirely agree with the administration, but we do have to prosecute leaks to some degree – and even the Republicans agree with me on that.

  4. mrspkr says

    Let me grab some popcorn, a six pack and a lawn chair. This here's about to be a fine, fine spectator sport.

    And for my question, Folger's Clark: why should the federal government continue to require implementation of CAFE standards in the automotive industry? Won't the private sector meet demand for more fuel efficient vehicles even without such standards?

  5. jb says

    So, Folger's Clark, I believe that as we add layers of bureaucracy, administrative paperwork and approvals to our "infrastructure", we're making it that much harder for new businesses to start and thrive, which cuts back on growth and tax revenue, and makes life worse for everyone. Why am I wrong.

    Second question – Historically, one of the dangers of price controls is shortages and a reduction in innovation. In the context of the ACA, how do we avoid those dangers?

    Third question – there's a lot of evidence that people are easily fooled, misled and confused, and aren't good at evaluating risks and rewards rationally. This is generally seen as a reason to use government experts to make decisions, removing that responsibility from the common folk But it seems to me that government experts are just humans, and subject to the same weaknesses as everyone else. How do you protect against such an issue, or is it not a problem because of something I don't understand?

  6. says

    Martin:

    what is the case in support of taxing the general populace to provide welfare support to those in (putative) need?

    Look, we saw what happens to the poor in the 1980s when the government safety net is slashed. During the decade of greed the homelessness population exploded, drug use expanded, and our most vulnerable citizens ended up with nowhere to turn.

    Ghandi once said that "The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members".

    So every ethical person agrees that government needs to look out for its vulnerable, and provide some minimal level of support to them. The Republicans try to distract you with phrases like "welfare queens" and talk about black mothers with a dozen kids by different fathers, but not only does this show their inherent racism, but it also distracts from the issue. Government assistance isn't just for inner-city blacks, as they'd have you believe. The veteran with medical problems, the laid-off factory worker, the family where the bread winner took off and can't be found, those who find it hard to get employment because of tragic life events or unplanned problems – all these people need help. And importantly, lots of these people look like you or me.

    Once we're agreed that government is going to look out for its vulnerable, what other option is there to pay for these programs than to tax the general populace?

    Now, it would be nice if we could reform the tax system – right now the rich don't pay remotely their fair share – but for whatever reason, that's not happening. So who can we tax? The middle class needs to pay a bit too. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said that "taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society", and personally I'm happy to pay my taxes. Compared to Europe we're undertaxed, so the minimal tax burden we have here isn't painful at all.

    Anyway, what's the alternative? Radical libertarianism, where the poor die in the street?

  7. Austin says

    What a wonderful exercise. My friends all endure me dragging out the J.S. Mills quote: "He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that," — you framed it in a far better way.

    Extra points for putting your money where your mouth is.

  8. Jack says

    Which sort of modern liberal are you playing? Would you answer questions about drone warfare and targeted assassination programs as an Obama defender type or as a Glenn Greenwald puritan type?

  9. says

    @jb:

    as we add layers of bureaucracy, administrative paperwork and approvals to our "infrastructure", we're making it that much harder for new businesses to start and thrive, which cuts back on growth and tax revenue, and makes life worse for everyone. Why am I wrong.

    You're confused. A lot of the "bureacracy" that you talk about (and I hate that term – it's demeaning to the hard-working men and women who serve the public) is actually designed to help small businesses. Of course we've got the Small Business Administration program which gives people expert advice and help in getting businesses started, but there are lots of other programs: green energy programs, grants, programs for women-owned firms and firms owned by people of color.

    If we got rid of these programs you'd see that it'd be even harder to start firms.

    Look back at the 1700s – without a government that helped build jobs you had mostly subsistence level farming and very little innovation or employment.

    Now, maybe you're talking about different things, like regulations about sustainable harvesting of wood, or employee reporting requirements, etc.

    If you listen to the propaganda of rich business owners, a few forms once or twice a year are some massive headache…but (a) you've got to discount their exaggerations, and (b) you've got to think about what the alternatives to these programs would be.

    If we got rid of employee reporting requirements, for example, we'd see firms discriminating against women, people of color, etc. So a little bit of paperwork has a huge benefit: a more fair society.

    Regarding sustainable harvesting of wood and other ecological requirements, if we didn't have these, sure, business might run a little easier in the near term, but five or ten years from now when all the tropical hardwoods had been harvested, above and beyond the ecological catastrophe, you'd see these industries collapse. Regulation helps businesses and helps employment in the medium and long term.

  10. says

    @jb:

    Second question – Historically, one of the dangers of price controls is shortages and a reduction in innovation. In the context of the ACA, how do we avoid those dangers?

    "one of the dangers of price controls is shortages and a reduction in innovation" ?

    I'm going to stop you right there. I know that Rand and Mises and Hayek are all the rage in some extremist circles, but you've got to grow up a little.

    The market is a good thing, but it can't be left unchecked. Now, prices floating up and down might make sense in some areas, but if we didn't step in and adjust prices in other areas there'd be chaos that would lead to human suffering.

    For example, it's a good and wise program to set a floor for the price of milk. If we didn't do that big agricultural producers could overproduce milk and gang up and shut down smaller family farms. That would lead to more unemployment.

    For another example, it's good and wise to set a ceiling for the price of apartments in New York City (and we might want to look into doing this in more city cores to stop people from getting displaced by gentrification – but that's another topic). Setting maximum prices contributes to social harmony and stops the priveleged from taking advantage of the vulnerable. Would you want your mother to be forced out of her home when a greedy landlord tripled the rent?

    Price controls aren't always perfect, but when there's a real problem created by a market failure, it does make sense for the people's representatives to step in and adjust things a bit in the interest of fairness and equity.

    Finally, I don't accept your premise that price controls results in a reduction in innovation. Even if this was true, it's more than compensated for by innovation grants, funding for basic R&D, funding of the universities, and more. But it's not true. If regulation hurt innovation, then why does Silicon Valley – the center of innovation in America – donate so heavily to Democrats?

  11. AlphaCentauri says

    How about explaining why people who have felony convictions but completed their sentences should be allowed to vote in Florida?

  12. Todd S. says

    Folger's Clark, there's always something that's bothered me about my Austrian friends when they go off on one of their rants. Why was the Wiemar Republic hyperinflation considered a bad thing? Isn't it GOOD when a central bank prints a lot of money when poor economic conditions are present?

  13. says

    Folgers Clark, as a mainstream liberal U.S. Democrat, I assume you generally support the feminist idea that women should be empowered to take control of their own lives, and this extends especially to matters regarding their own bodies, such as birth control and abortion. Doesn't that mean that women should be free to work as prostitutes? It's their body, right?

  14. Mike D. says

    Clark:

    Regarding the government leaks question, while that's a very good answer, I'm not convinced that wasn't a trick question. Most of the opprobrium I've seen over the prosecution of leaks has been from media organs and pundits, i.e. those whose living depends on getting leaks, than from Republicans.

    This is not to say Republicans have been silent, but I'm not convinced Republican complaints are much more than piling on yet another anti-Obama (really anti-whatever Democratic administration is there) bandwagon.

    I'd love to discuss it further, but I'm not familiar with the mainstream liberal stance on the eventual declassification of secret information. Also, my job (defense industry) prevents impartiality.

    Regarding th taxation question, you skipped a step: between "Once we're agreed that government is going to look out for its vulnerable" and "what other option is there to pay for these programs than to tax the general populace?" you should probably address the issue of debt financing (which I like to turn around and call "allowing private individuals and groups to invest in the United States"). Taxation means taking the money out of the economy to pay these costs now, while debt financing would allow us to turn that into an installment plan, which affords the opportunity (and motivation) to improve these worse-off individuals into contributing taxpayers and not simply write them off as money sinks.

    Granted, it doesn't seem to work out that way, since the national debt is one big lumped number and you can't distinguish a dollar that fed the poor from a dollar that overpaid for an F-35 flight control computer once the check is cashed.

    Finally, I'm not sure a mainstream liberal is going to digress like this, but if you're going to discuss relative taxation levels with Europe, you have to acknowledge that a significant chunk of their taxes pays for health care, so to more fairly compare theirs with ours, you would need to add what we pay for health care insurance to our taxes. At that point, we don't look as cheap any more (and the inefficiency of our healthcare system, Obamacare or not, becomes more apparent).

    All in all, your answers are really good! Thanks for the exercise.

  15. says

    @jb:

    Third question – there's a lot of evidence that people are easily fooled, misled and confused, and aren't good at evaluating risks and rewards rationally.

    Absolutely agreed.

    This is generally seen as a reason to use government experts to make decisions, removing that responsibility from the common folk But it seems to me that government experts are just humans, and subject to the same weaknesses as everyone else. How do you protect against such an issue, or is it not a problem because of something I don't understand?

    My first point is a bit delicate, so let's keep this between me and you. We both know that the people in government aren't the same as the people outside of government. The average level of education is higher and they vote Democrat a lot more often than the population as a whole, so we're talking about people who are a bit more intelligent, a bit more kind, and a bit more moral than average. I mean, heck, they're in the field of public service. So right there they've got motivations that are good and reasonable.

    But aside from that, why does a government made up of people not suffer from the same problems of human fallibility that a market made up out of people suffers from?

    Two reasons.

    First, intent: the government is designed and has the purpose of making good decisions and helping people. Market mechanisms are a good tool for generating wealth, but the market is a bit like a shark. It's perfectly designed for one thing, and one thing only, and the fact that it's really good at that one thing doesn't mean that it's good at other things. A corporation in the business of making guitars is going to be pushed by competitive pressures to make really good guitars. Or, scratch that – it's going to be really good at generating profits for its shareholders. But is it going to make the right decisions about the environment, or paying a living wage? No. And the populace isn't going to catch them making these bad decisions either. Not only are the folks inside the corporation possibly venal, but the people outside the corporation will be misled by slick advertising campaigns.

    Second, input: if a guitar manufacturer or a company producing cookies has a bad policy, you probably won't hear about it. But even if you do, what are your options? Say that we find out that Oreos uses some sort of tropical oil is generated by cutting down rainforests. Oreos are a monopoly. Thanks to our trademark system and so on, there's only one place to buy Oreos. So how can we possibly hope to get them to change? Now, there are some promising things in shareholder activism, but it doesn't tend to work all that well.

    Back in the 1990s there was a case where a bunch of brave activist nuns petitioned a semiconductor company to have a more socially representative board of directors. The CEO, in a display of white male privilege, not only ignored them but ridiculed them in public. My point is, shareholder activism sounds like a good idea, but it doesn't work.

    Government, on the other hand, is responsive to the voters. So if we get a bad batch of people in government, we can clean house.

  16. Martin says

    You're certainly somewhere withing the central 2 sigma of the distribution on almost all the discussion (well done!). The points that give you away: 1) "And importantly, lots of these people look like you or me." The "importantly" and "look like" in that statement ring false. The mainstream Democrat would never wittingly say it was important what people looked like, because that sounds mighty racist ("So if they look different from me, that's not a reason to support them? How Republican of you."). Maybe something like: "Any one of us could need help in the future. These people are just like you or me, only less fortunate." 2) You reference radical libertarianism. The mainstream population (D and R alike) doesn't even think about libertarianism as a potential solution to the problem space–either to be supported or disagreed with–so they wouldn't frame the alternative in those terms ("And what the heck is a 'radical' libertarian? Aren't they all radicals like that Ayn Rand that Paul Ryan reads?"). This seems more the sort of thing a message-board Democrat (who has been exposed to the disproportionately-online-vocal 5% Libertarian population) might say.

  17. says

    @Windypundit

    you generally support the feminist idea that women should be empowered to take control of their own lives, and this extends especially to matters regarding their own bodies, such as birth control and abortion. Doesn't that mean that women should be free to work as prostitutes? It's their body, right?

    That's a superficially appealing idea, but

    1) Decisions aren't made in a vacuum. What sort of economic coercion exists that might push a woman into prostitution? Before we say "it's your body, go ahead and do whatever you want", we have to see if this is really what women want, or if it's the lack of adequate education and a decent social net that's forcing them in this direction. By the way, I know that there are some pro-sex sex-workers on my side of the political divide, and I don't want to say anything that might make them feel awkward or bad. It's important to listen to their voices too. But, in the end, the economic question is complicated.

    2) We have to be careful of the message we send to society. Every economic law is also a political and social act. If we legalize prostitution we're saying to young girls "society values you for your body". Shouldn't society really value women for their minds? Maybe after 51% of the physics PhDs, 51% of the chemical engineers, and 51% of the CEOs are women we can talk about legalizing prostitution…but right now it risks reenforcing victorian attitudes that women belong either in the home or on the street, but not in the workplace.

  18. says

    @Todd S.

    Folger's Clark, there's always something that's bothered me about my Austrian friends when they go off on one of their rants. Why was the Wiemar Republic hyperinflation considered a bad thing? Isn't it GOOD when a central bank prints a lot of money when poor economic conditions are present?

    "Austrian"? I'm a bit confused. Austria is part of the EU and has the same monetary policy as the rest of Europe, no?

    Anyway, your point is silly. Paul Krugman has covered this in his famous babysitting co-op article. A little inflation is a good thing, but just because a bit is good doesn't mean that more is better.

  19. different Jess says

    Folger's Clark, imagine a hypothetical situation in which IRS agents run roughshod over private citizens for decades, exemplifying every well-known LEO vice: dishonesty, favoritism, entrapment, self-dealing, cruelty, disdain for the law, etc., with no adverse consequences for said agents. Then imagine that IRS agents make the terrible error of targeting one segment of the tax-evading political class for enforcement more than some other segment. Imagine further that agents are disciplined, fired, or even (I know i'm stretching here) prosecuted for this error of uneven emphasis. What long-term effect on the enforcement priorities of the IRS would Folger's Clark predict from this set of circumstances? Does Folger's Clark expect political groups ever to be investigated again?

  20. Colin says

    Folgers Clark, you are doing a pitch-perfect job! I find myself wanting to argue back with you, rather than ask a question.

    Anyway, here's my question: Could you square the circle of racial preferences vis-a-vis racial discrimination? Given that preferences and discrimination are nearly exactly the same, differing only from the viewpoint of the observer, how does the evil of discrimination not permeate preferences?

  21. says

    @AlphaCentauri:

    How about explaining why people who have felony convictions but completed their sentences should be allowed to vote in Florida?

    Why shouldn't felons be allowed to vote?

    First, jail is supposed to punish, deter, and rehabilitate. Removing the franchise does none of these things.

    Second, I'm suspicious of overwhelmingly white Republicans who are so eager to remove the vote from a largely black male population of felons. It smells suspicious.

    Third, as with the Republicans opportunistic pushes for voter ID laws, forbidding now rehabilitated members of society vote is clearly a partisan bit of electoral engineering.

    Fourth, it's important that rehabilitated members of society vote, on a symbolic level if nothing else. The best way to tell someone that society accepts them is to show that the government accepts them.

  22. says

    Colin:

    Folgers Clark, you are doing a pitch-perfect job!

    I'm not sure what you mean. I've always been a registered Democrat. But…thanks? I guess?

    here's my question: Could you square the circle of racial preferences vis-a-vis racial discrimination? Given that preferences and discrimination are nearly exactly the same, differing only from the viewpoint of the observer, how does the evil of discrimination not permeate preferences?

    I don't quite understand? Could you rephrase, or give an example?

  23. Martin says

    @Colin not sure someone who wants to argue with the positions Bizarro Clark is espousing is the ideal judge of how pitch-perfect he is. All that proves is he's meeting your stereotype of how the other side thinks and argues….

  24. Void says

    "I mean, heck, they're in the field of public service. So right there they've got motivations that are good and reasonable."

    If Democrats trusted everyone on the basis that they were in the field of public service they wouldn't have any issues with the Republicans. Just saying.

  25. Artanis says

    This exercise is certainly interesting, though it strikes me that the neutral judge must completely understand all positions involved. Otherwise, I believe this leads to a possible vulnerability in which one or more ideologies engages in pervasive subterfuge; at sufficient dishonesty, it may become impossible for a member of an opposing ideology to differentiate himself from someone who has pierced this subterfuge from someone who appears to understand a straw man.

  26. says

    different Jess:

    Folger's Clark, imagine a hypothetical situation in which IRS agents run roughshod over private citizens for decades, exemplifying every well-known LEO vice: dishonesty, favoritism, entrapment, self-dealing, cruelty, disdain for the law, etc., with no adverse consequences for said agents.

    A few points, before we go any further:

    First, don't buy into Republican talking points. The recent IRS stuff was a few lone agents and it only goes back a year or two, not decades. We're not looking at a structural problem in the government.

    Second, Republican administrations have done worse – much worse – than this recent tempest in a teapot. In the Nixon administration orders came from the top to target political opponents. That's not remotely the same thing as a well-meaning but slightly overreaching attempt to verify that 501(c) "charitable" organizations weren't really political organizations in disguise.

    Third, the "LEO vices" you list certainly apply to some of the corrupt deep-south states (you leave out racial profiling, which is huge), but I don't see what they have to do with the IRS.

    What long-term effect on the enforcement priorities of the IRS would Folger's Clark predict from this set of circumstances? Does Folger's Clark expect political groups ever to be investigated again?

    We need to stop attacking hard working government employees who screwed up and focus on the real problem here: money in politics.

    I'm not sure, given the regretable Citizens United decision, what can be done, but if it wasn't for the wealthy trying to overturn the results of legitimate elections through astro-turfing donations to "independent" groups, we wouldn't have this tea party phenomena and this whole mess.

  27. says

    Void:

    "I mean, heck, they're in the field of public service. So right there they've got motivations that are good and reasonable."

    If Democrats trusted everyone on the basis that they were in the field of public service they wouldn't have any issues with the Republicans. Just saying.

    I'm talking about the people who volunteer for government service. Working for the government despite the lower wages and scorn they get from half the population is proof that our civil servants are in it for the good they do and not for personal benefit.

  28. says

    @Martin:

    The mainstream population (D and R alike) doesn't even think about libertarianism as a potential solution to the problem space–either to be supported or disagreed with–so they wouldn't frame the alternative in those terms

    I can't speak to Republicans, but as a Democrat, I read the New York Times, Slate and Salon with my morning coffee every day, and all three mention libertarianism with some regularity. As an informed member of the public, I'm well aware of the danger of radical libertarianism. It might not be one of the major political parties, but it is a force that's trying to undo all the progress we've made over the last 100 years.

    Read some Ezra Klein. He'll alert you to the danger.

  29. says

    Jack:

    Which sort of modern liberal are you playing? Would you answer questions about drone warfare and targeted assassination programs as an Obama defender type or as a Glenn Greenwald puritan type?

    I voted for Obama twice (proudly!). I stopped reading Glenn Greenwald a while back; he got too shrill.

  30. says

    mrspkr:

    why should the federal government continue to require implementation of CAFE standards in the automotive industry? Won't the private sector meet demand for more fuel efficient vehicles even without such standards?

    What evidence is there that the private sector has ever gotten ahead of a social issue with out some prodding?

    We'd certainly get green-washing: with out government standards, cars would come with stickers bragging about how environmentally wonderful they were. But true substantive change? I doubt it.

    Cars are special, in two ways:

    First, there are so many of them on the road that even a small change (0.5 MPG) results in HUGE effects.

    Second, by setting standards we create a technological push, resulting in breakthroughs. Consumers might not care enough to spend an extra $1,000 per car to get some new innovation, but if we mandate the standards, then this innovation will happen. This is yet another case where government regulation can overcome a market failure.

  31. Wick Deer says

    @Clark

    I'm enjoying your exercise very much. Thanks for doing it.

    That said, I think your answer to jb's question two about the ACA misses the mark badly. I think the general liberal position isn't that price controls or floors are a good thing. I submit that the belief is that free market cost-benefit analysis of the issue of health care is fraught with problems.

    First, the health care market is incredibly opaque. Pricing information is difficult to ferret out. Comparing provider quality is difficult. Conflicts of interest and fee splitting are pervasive.

    Secondly, the consumer of the health care product is rarely a willing buyer. Combined with a disparity in expertise, this makes negotiation both rare and difficult.

    Thirdly, there is much about the field that is resistant to economic analysis due to valuation problems. What is the value of a human life? What is the value of extending a human life by 5 years? Does that value change between 35 – 40 and 85 – 90?

    I'm sure there is a fourth and fifth point, but I think I've covered the basics.

  32. Luke says

    I think Fogler Clark could appear on a talk show and convincingly play the part of a liberal bloviator. Feels more like repetition of talking points and reframing than actual understanding. Though that's what does seem to pass for most political discourse these days.

  33. stamford says

    Folgers Clark,

    President Obama (for whom you voted twice!) claims that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force signed after 9/11 allows him to conduct drone strikes anywhere in the battlefield of the war on terror (although we don't call it that anymore). His administration has killed not only multiple American citizens via drone strike but hundreds of Muslims, including women and children.
    Do you support the president in this policy? If so, do you think that power should be institutionalized? Are you comfortable having a Republican president with that power? Or should only President Obama be trusted with this power?

  34. Ken Mencher says

    My first point is a bit delicate, so let's keep this between me and you. We both know that the people in government aren't the same as the people outside of government. The average level of education is higher and they vote Democrat a lot more often than the population as a whole, so we're talking about people who are a bit more intelligent, a bit more kind, and a bit more moral than average. I mean, heck, they're in the field of public service. So right there they've got motivations that are good and reasonable.

    See…here's where you're letting your Republicanism show. Government workers aren't any different than everyone else…they may be more community-minded, but aren't necessarily more "moral" or "intelligent" than anyone else.

    Perhaps you need to read more Kevin Drum…

    And, along those lines, can you state a case for not having Government involved in our daily lives?

  35. says

    Luke:

    I think Fogler Clark could appear on a talk show and convincingly play the part of a liberal bloviator.

    "Bloviator"? Really?

    Your descent to name-calling suggests that you don't have anything substantive to say.

    Feels more like repetition of talking points and reframing than actual understanding.

    More insults.

    I assure you, I do understand the issues and have thought about them long and hard.

    If I end up reaching some of the same opinions as others (say, Krugman, etc.), that's just proof that we're both intelligent and willing to follow whatever the facts say.

    If you think that I don't understand my own opinions, ask me a question. But you won't, will you?

  36. attackamazon says

    What an interesting exercise. I think you're close on a lot of your answers, but there are a few (like your response about public service) that would make me immediately suspicious. The arguments and the way you phrase them sound like you are trying a little too hard to be purposefully naive and verging into mockery.

    So, Folgers Clark, why is it important to have clear distinctions between religion and politics? Do you feel like there is a seat for traditional Christian values in public policy?

  37. Jack (the one with the cat avatar) says

    You're doing pretty well so far, Folger's Clark, but you'd be a more convincing liberal if you spelled Gandhi's name correctly. ;)

    At the risk of having to ask you this again later…
    Do you use a Clark Kent icon here because you identify with the traditional portrayal of Superman as a guardian of "truth, justice and the American way"; as a signifier of 'middle America' values such as a farm-raised Kansan might be expected to have; as a subtle reference to the kind of behavior referenced at superdickery.com; or some other reason or combination of reasons?

    If you'd rather defer your answer until Opposite Day is over, or break character to answer, that's fine. I've actually been wondering for a while, so the fact that this is a "Ask Clark anything" post prompted me to finally ask. I've waited this long, though, and I can keep waiting.

  38. says

    Ken Mencher

    See…here's where you're letting your Republicanism show. Government workers aren't any different than everyone else…they may be more community-minded, but aren't necessarily more "moral" or "intelligent" than anyone else.

    Well, I did say that this was a delicate point, but since you want to drag it out into public:

    Yes, federal workers are more intelligent than your typical American:

    http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/01-30-FedPay.pdf

    33 percent of federal employees work in professional occupations, such as the sciences or engineering, compared with only 18 percent of private-sector employees; in contrast, 26 percent of private-sector employees work in occupations such as retail sales, production, or construction, compared with only 7 percent of federal employees (see Table 1 on page 4). Professional occupations generally require more formal training or experience than do the occupations more common in the private sector…the greater concentration of federal workers in professional occupations also means that they are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree: 51 percent of the federal workforce has at least that much education, compared with 31 percent of the private-sector workforce (see Figure 3 on page 5)

    Now, back to your questions:

    can you state a case for not having Government involved in our daily lives?

    It's a myth that Democrats want government in every aspect of our lives and Republicans want it out.

    Republicans are all too ready to tell you who can you can sleep with, who you can get married to, what sex toys you can buy, what you can read, etc.

    We Democrats want to keep moralists from meddling in your freedoms, that's why we are against censorship, enforcing sexual morality, etc.

  39. says

    Jack (the one with the cat avatar):

    you'd be a more convincing liberal if you spelled Gandhi's name correctly.

    Eek. I'm quite embarrassed. Sorry.

    Do you use a Clark Kent icon here because you identify with the traditional portrayal of Superman as a guardian of "truth, justice and the American way"; as a signifier of 'middle America' values such as a farm-raised Kansan might be expected to have; as a subtle reference to the kind of behavior referenced at superdickery.com; or some other reason or combination of reasons?

    I use it because Ken, a good friend of mine and a former government employee (although now he's gone over to the dark side), thought that the "Clark Kent" persona would be funny.

    Who knows why Ken does things?

  40. says

    @stamford

    President Obama (for whom you voted twice!) claims that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force signed after 9/11 allows him to conduct drone strikes anywhere in the battlefield of the war on terror (although we don't call it that anymore). His administration has killed not only multiple American citizens via drone strike but hundreds of Muslims, including women and children.

    Do you support the president in this policy? If so, do you think that power should be institutionalized?

    This is a difficult question. I'm not privy to the conversations that go on inside the White House, but I assume that threats are real and decent decisions are being made.

    Are you comfortable having a Republican president with that power?

    Certainly not.

    Or should only President Obama be trusted with this power?

    This is a tricky question and I've got to think about it further.

  41. Void says

    See the problem is you're ignoring the heart of the exercise. The ideal is to present the viewpoints in your own voice as if you held them yourself, not to present a characterization of your perceived viewpoint of those opinions. The excessive wordiness, the my good chum posting, its all how a democrat is presented in a right wing blog. Rather than posting as someone else you need to write as yourself in your own voice. The complete departure from your own personality is the exact opposite of what the test is encouraging you to do.

  42. stamford says

    Ha! That's exactly what my liberal friends say. Total faith in the current administration but unwilling to commit to the drone strikes as a general power.

  43. says

    @Void:

    the problem is you're ignoring the heart of the exercise. The ideal is to present the viewpoints in your own voice

    Says who?

    as if you held them yourself, not to present a characterization of your perceived viewpoint of those opinions. The excessive wordiness

    So you're saying that my previous posts were clipped and short?

    Wow – I think this may be the first time I've been accused of not being verbose-as-a-matter-of-course!

    The complete departure your own personality is the exact opposite of what the test is encouraging you to do.

    We disagree; I assert that the test is designed to show intellectual comprehension of the opposing side.

  44. steffan thomas says

    Folgers Clark,
    where would you place the blame for the unfunded liabilities of government pension systems, and how would you fix them in the medium term (5-10 years)? in the long term (10-30 years)?

  45. says

    Continuing my response to @void:

    Two points:

    1) when defending an opposing point of view, I think that a sane measured tone is probably a good thing. An angry, clipped tone would leave one open to objections that one is merely parodying the opposing point of view.

    2) tone is inextricably wrapped up in political stance and extremism. A moderate NYT Democrat like me has arrived at my views through intellectual open-mindedness, and that's reflected in our tone. Republicans and libertarians, who are more excitable and less reflective by nature are the ones who are likely to fly off the handle and have an autistic I'm-right-you're-wrong tone.

  46. Jack (the one with the cat avatar) says

    So you didn't choose your avatar at all, and it's all on Ken? Hm. I guess I'll have to ask him, then.

    (Don't be too embarrassed by the Gandhi misspelling; it's quite common among native English speakers not of South Asian nationality, largely because English elsewhere frequently uses 'gh' but 'dh' is rarely seen. Incidentally, the reason 'dh' is used in Indian English and in romanization of South Asian languages is that it's an attempt to render a consonant — the retroflex D — which is not found in most varieties of English at all. But I digress; this is not a linguistics blog.)

    I have two questions for you now.

    1. What issues do you think liberals and conservatives have the best chance for achieving compromise on, and why?

    2. Please explain your position regarding transgender people, and how you feel they should be treated by society at large and government in particular; and please contrast this position with your position regarding people with intersex conditions. (Okay, not phrased as a question. Please don't sue me.)

  47. says

    steffan thomas:

    where would you place the blame for the unfunded liabilities of government pension systems, and how would you fix them in the medium term (5-10 years)? in the long term (10-30 years)?

    First, there's no such thing as "unfunded". The US government always spends out of current revenue. National budgets do not work like family budgets, and it's a bit of small minded Republican trickery to assert that they do.

    The social security system is a perfect example: from the very first day it was created some people paid in and some people withdrew. Government pensions work the same way.

    Regarding the assertions of actuarial short falls: a lot of this can be solved by getting the economy growing again. Right now, due to Republican mismanagement and Bush's stupid insistance into tricking us into an unnecessary war in Iraq, the economy has taken some deep hits. Thankfully there have been green shoots, and the economy is going to come roaring back in Obama's second term. Once it does, there'll be more than enough money to fund all the pensions.

    The important thing is to not wreck the recovery before it gets started, and this is one thing that Republicans are dead-set on doing. They want austerity, which will cut spending on all sorts of things that prime the pump: education, veteran's benefits, etc. If the Republicans manage to grab the wheel and steer our economy into a ditch, then it will stop growing and then we'll have a pension crisis. Right now, though, everything is under control.

  48. ngvrnd says

    Narrator who introduced Folger's Clark:

    Don't actual liberals, such as the good folk at Crooked Timber, need to be the ones who judge whether Folger's Clark's responses are to canon?

  49. Martin says

    @Clark I would never dream of suggesting that your *ahem* fellow Democrats are unaware that libertarianism exists or that they don't read about it; I merely suggest that they don't think about it as a position from which to discuss addressing social problems (just like you are probably are aware of John Rawls' body of work but almost certainly wouldn't refer to your [Bizarro-Clark] positions as Rawlsian, even though many of them are). My parents are both Catholics and registered Democrats who do, in fact, read the NYT daily (and Slate and Salon occasionally). Both of them have PhDs in non-fluffy fields (including one with a minor in philosophy–so they're on the tails of the distribution not in the center), and I promise that neither of them would discuss tax policy or welfare in terms of libertarians (either "Libertarian Party" or the main corpus of apartisan US libertarians). Essentially none of my Republican friends would do so either unless I brought it up first. All my libertarian friends, on the other hand, do so all the time.

  50. Folger's Ken in NH says

    Folger's Clark,

    I am having a difficult time arguing with my "Fox News friends" regarding the Affordable Care Act. They keep pointing out to me that even though I strongly believe that the decision to terminate a pregnancy (or not and suffer the consequences) is personal, private and should solely remain between the woman and her doctor that I also strongly support the ACA which requires the IRS to be privy to vast amounts of our health data. I know in my heart that the government needs this data to be able to bend the cost of healthcare down and make the best decisions for us, but I cannot seem to square that with keeping some decisions private.

  51. Jack (the one with the cat avatar) says

    an autistic I'm-right-you're-wrong tone.

    As someone with autism, I object to this use of the term 'autistic'. I'm sick of alltistic people conflating autism with all sorts of at-best peripherally-correlated behavior (cf. Adam Lanza hysteria).

    (No offense meant to persons with uteruses.)

  52. Mike says

    My review is that you show a decent understanding of most liberal points, but there's still something.. off about the arguments. It's the same problem Somin ran into, in that you are still working from a different frame of reference than the average liberal. So this is what Clark would say if he were a liberal, but Clark would never be a liberal, so the phrasing just sounds very… off. You might not think that would matter, but you'd be amazed at how many arguments I have gotten into online with liberals whom I agree with on 90% of the issue at hand because my phrasing and style of argument did not fit their cultural norm.

  53. says

    Jack (the one with the cat avatar):

    So you didn't choose your avatar at all, and it's all on Ken? Hm. I guess I'll have to ask him, then.

    Ken chose a username / persona. I chose an avatar to match that persona.

    1. What issues do you think liberals and conservatives have the best chance for achieving compromise on, and why?

    I think that those areas where there's compromise to be had are those areas that are not in the political realm, because there's nothing to fight about.

    I don't think that the future holds compromise – I think that the future holds Democratic / Progressive victory. On a huge range of issues the demographics are on our side. Young people support gay marriage, racial harmony, spending on education, etc. much more than older people do. Immigrants also tend to vote for Democrats over Republicans by wide margins. The twenty first century belongs to Democrats – there's no need to compromise on anything.

    2. Please explain your position regarding transgender people, and how you feel they should be treated by society at large and government in particular; and please contrast this position with your position regarding people with intersex conditions.

    I've spent about two minutes of my life researching the questions, but what little I know is this:

    Genetics is complicated – we're all just bags of DNA "engineered" by mutation and random selection. We see deaf people, developmentally disabled people, etc. A naive definition of human speaks of "normal" and "abnormal", but there's a huge range of genotypes and phenotypes that pop out of the mix and these are all normal.

    I find MRI and fMRI research fascinating and I read somewhere (I forget where – Slate? Salon?) that MRIs of transgender people show that their brains have a structure and a functioning that is much more in keeping with their internal send of gender than their external bodies.

    So: it's a thing that happens. While I disapprove of cosmetic surgery when it results from social pressures (see Naomi Wolf's "The Beauty Myth" and those great Dove ads!), I think it makes perfect sense for transgender people to fix their bodies to match their brains the same way a deaf person might get a cochlear implant.

    Government, of course, should treat transgender and intersex people as it treats everyone else.

    Further, government should also legislate that private groups may not discriminate.

    There was an interesting case recently where a florist refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding and the Washington State Attorney General is suing the woman. This is a good example: religion that preaches intolerance and hate is unacceptable, and if it takes lawsuits to force people to stop discriminating, then so be it.

  54. Martin says

    @void: Clark's house, Clark's House Rules on how to interpret the parameters of the test and it's objectives. I personally agree with him that this was Krugman's intent, but even if I didn't he can do as he pleases (besides, it's fun to watch…).

  55. says

    @Martin:

    @Clark I would never dream of suggesting that your *ahem* fellow Democrats are unaware that libertarianism exists or that they don't read about it; I merely suggest that they don't think about it as a position from which to discuss addressing social problems (just like you are probably are aware of John Rawls' body of work but almost certainly wouldn't refer to your [Bizarro-Clark] positions as Rawlsian, even though many of them are). My parents are both Catholics and registered Democrats who do, in fact, read the NYT daily (and Slate and Salon occasionally). Both of them have PhDs in non-fluffy fields (including one with a minor in philosophy–so they're on the tails of the distribution not in the center), and I promise that neither of them would discuss tax policy or welfare in terms of libertarians (either "Libertarian Party" or the main corpus of apartisan US libertarians). Essentially none of my Republican friends would do so either unless I brought it up first. All my libertarian friends, on the other hand, do so all the time.

    I suggest that this may be a generational issue – my read is that DC policy wonks in their 30s and 40s are much more engaged with libertarianism as an issue than NYC Democrats or Texas Republicans in their 50s and 60s.

    I think that this probably has something to do with the rise of the internet and the techno-libertarianism it created.

  56. Richard says

    Folgers Clark:

    1) What is the proper way to deal with the apparent surge in public (and especially school) shootings, and why?

    2) At what point in a pregnancy should abortion become illegal, and why?

    3) What steps can be taken to decrease income inequality and increase social mobility? How would this work?

  57. Quantum Mechanic says

    I think the contents of the answers are nicely on-target and so would have a good chance of fooling a tone-deaf judge.

    However, to my "ears" the tone is off. It reads to me like someone who is giving the right answers but in a way calibrated to be mocking the people whose part you are trying to play. Or maybe you're just trying too hard. Anyways, I think if the judge is allowed to take that into account you'd fail pretty easily.

  58. Angstela says

    I do agree with Mike. The answers are off; they read to me more like parody than an actual person who sees things from the left trying to earnestly answer the questions posed.

    If I were put to the question of what's wrong with them, I'd have to say that they lack heart. Reading them, it's difficult for me to believe that the person writing them believes what they're saying (even a little bit), but is instead trying to hit all the very points that annoy them most when they read things with which they disagree.

    But perhaps I'm not a neutral observer for this, so that flavors my reception of Clark's replies.

  59. Quantum Mechanic says

    Yes. Angstela has it right. That's exactly how it comes across to me. I was just unable to describe it so precisely.

  60. Richard says

    I think there's two problems with this test, the way Clark has constructed it: there's no second person to compare it to (except a liberal's internal monologue), and the comparison isn't blind.

    It's like having a black guy and a white guy who is trying to talk "like a black guy" on a tape recorder, and trying to tell the difference. Only you change the test, so that it's just one white guy on stage, who talks to the audience a bit so that you can learn his voice, and then he steps behind a curtain, and puts on a "black man's voice" and you're meant to judge whether he sounds genuinely like a black guy.

    He's always going to sound like a white guy to you, because you know he's a white guy. And you know there isn't a second guy behind the curtain because you recognize the voice.

    That being said, I like this idea. There should be an "IdeologicalTuringTest.com."

  61. Martin says

    @Clark Fair enough. One of the problems with Turing Testing is the very subjectivity of what "feels" human. It seems your experience and my experience of mainstream Democrats feel sufficiently different for it to ring true to you and false to me. For the record, I'm a registered Democrat in my 30s, but ideologically very far from the mainstream with a VERY atypical set of political positions for a registered Democrat. I've got more affinity for the Lockean/Hobbsian social-contractarian positions underlying much of libertarian-spectrum philosophy than for the statism and corporatism of either party (so perhaps I'm not the ideal case to be assessing you either…). In other words, I don't want some idiot using the bludgeon of government power to force me to do stuff that I think is a bad idea (and I'd like to extend that same courtesy to others). Of course, I'm not a filthy anarchist like that OTHER Clark either ;-)

  62. Chocobochicken says

    Entertaining, but I don't think neutral judges are supposed to know the identity/affiliation of the author beforehand. It's like running the original Turing test by saying, "Hi, we want you to chat with our computer program. See if you can guess whether or not it's a computer program."

  63. Mr. Kerley says

    As an apolitical Australian I am of the opinion that you come across as what is referred to as a "Liberal", but a little bland/lacking in passion for the arguments you make.

    Pass. B+

  64. Mikhael says

    It is characteristically unliberal to talk about transgender people in terms of biology. Stuff like

    Genetics is complicated – we're all just bags of DNA "engineered" by mutation and random selection. We see deaf people, developmentally disabled people, etc. A naive definition of human speaks of "normal" and "abnormal", but there's a huge range of genotypes and phenotypes that pop out of the mix and these are all normal.

    , in the context of gender politics, would offend many of my social-justice inclined democratic friends. Apart from that, your understanding is very impressive, but it does seem a little satirical. I wonder what I would think of your comments if I saw them in isolation.

  65. nicole price says

    Honorable F Clark: What's the big to do about the do it your self printed guns movement? Is the backlash by the MEDIA self interest or protectionism?
    Ps, I like your hair.

  66. Jonathan Kaplan says

    Not bad, not bad at all. The comments that the tone of a few of the answers seem slightly off are, I think, right.

    Also… and perhaps more importantly, the answers seem to swing between "center-Democrat" "progressive-left" and "random Obama-fan," or, perhaps, between "answers a progressive might post in response to someone known to be center-right / Republican-leaning" and "answers a progressive might post in response to another progressive."

    So… I think many people on the left think Obama's drone policy is absolutely appalling, and that it makes him a war-criminal. They think, in a just world, he should stand trial for war-crimes in an international court, as should many members of his administration. They believe, of course, that the same holds for Bush, and many members of his administration. But when Republicans complain about the drone-strikes, some of these people on the left get annoyed, because many of the same people now objecting were unwilling to object to Bush's prosecution of the war, and indeed, supported it, and often claimed that anyone opposed to it was a fool or a traitor. So some of the people attacking Obama in other contexts "defend" Obama's positions in that context.

    Now, there are random Obama fans who think he can do no wrong, and there are center-democrats who think a dead "enemy combatant" is worth a couple of dead innocent children. But they would answer some of the other questions differently, too…

  67. Sam says

    While I do find many of Clark's responses to be on the level of parody (at least when compared to my personal brand of liberalism) I'd point out that this in an internet comment section. And while I don't read many of those outside this site, I'm willing to concede that Clark's responses here would be difficult to discern as 'pretending' or 'imitating' in that context.

  68. says

    nicole price

    Ps, I like your hair.

    Thank you. I cut it myself. I have to. Regular scissors won't cut it and I have to use – ahem – special imported ones. (c.f.)

  69. says

    This is fun. From a Scottish perspective, it's amazing how right-wing US 'liberals' sound at the best of times. This is more of a Poe's Law test than a Turing test, when viewed from outside of mainstream US politics.

    That's a fairly trite observation, but specifically: excuses for unethical, oppressive, anti-progressive or warlike behaviour by the government (excused because it happens to be under a Democrat administration) do not sound liberal to me at all. I get the sense that all we are seeing is mockery of political partisanship and ignorance in general and the hypocrisy that goes along with it.

    Are we going to get a mainstream Republican version of Clark next week to compare against?

  70. Jack (the one with the cat avatar) says

    Earlier I said I thought you were doing pretty well, Clark, and you were. (I considered the false-correlation argument about lack of innovation in the 1700s a mere blip, and certainly people of every political bent occasionally make bad arguments even when the vast majority of their argumentation is reasonably logical.) Unfortunately, the quality of your responses — as believable representations of liberal positions — has declined substantially.

    I'm going to leave aside the tone argument, because tone ultimately must be judged subjectively.

    The substance of arguments, however, can be evaluated objectively. And in their substance, Clark, I submit that the majority of your Bızᴀяяo-Clark comments purportedly representing liberal positions and arguments are not, in fact, what well-informed liberals would put forth as reasoned arguments, and in at least some cases are not positions taken by well-informed liberals at all.

    There are, of course, ill-informed people, and people who are just plain bad at logical argument, all along the political spectrum. (It's easy to make fun of people with signs that say, for example, "Government keep your hands off my Medicare!" but claiming that as a reasoned and well-educated position would be disingenuous.) I'm not saying that no one who sincerely believed themselves to be liberal would put forth any of the arguments you have; the idiots outnumber us, and probably always will.

    Thus far, you have not convinced me that you understand either the liberal positions or the arguments underpinning them, I'm afraid.

    In the interest of fairness, I will disclose that, on many (though not all) issues, I am further to the left than the mainstream of American liberals, and that my assessment of your ideological Turing test scores may thus be biased. I have been trying, however, to evaluate your comments on the basis, "Does this sound like a reasonable mainstream-liberal position based on consideration of underlying facts?" rather than, "Is this the position I would take or an argument I would make?"

  71. says

    @scav:

    Are we going to get a mainstream Republican version of Clark next week to compare against?

    Stop reading ahead in the textbook!

    yes.

  72. Mr. Smith says

    Finding more recent comments that are parallel with my conclusions about FC's posts (which is merely anecdotal), I wonder if an exercise which has the subject writing opinions as one with opposing viewpoints would write if attempting to disguise themselves as someone with the same viewpoints that one holds might be more revealing about one's understanding.
    Lacking that, why do all of you liberals want to be able to kill unborn infants and not kill people that have murdered? The two positions seem very at odds with each other.

  73. A Different William says

    So far I think you have failed the test. Unless your goal is impersonating the loud and obnoxious liberals.

    The argument is fairly similar to what is going on in this comic.

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2939#comic

    You are accurately describing the loud assholes. That does not convincingly argue your opposites viewpoints. It just makes a caricature of them.

  74. Sam says

    I'd argue that part of the issue here is that a liberal and a libertarian are going to have differing views on what a "mainstream liberal/libertarian/conservative" looks and sounds like.

  75. anon says

    The way to actually make this work is to have a real liberal also answer the questions and for both of you to do it with throwaway accounts. There's nothing to judge your responses against here, and since everybody already knows you aren't a liberal, hindsight bias will cloud the judgement of anybody trying to decide how believable the responses are.

    Of course, if you're just doing it for kicks rather than seriously, then who cares. But I think doing it seriously would be more interesting.

  76. Todd S. says

    FC, that was a great response to my question-thank you for posting that link! My favorite line was this one:

    "Eventually, of course, the co-op issued too much scrip, leading to different problems …"

    No wonder that dude won a Nobel. He's a genius!

  77. Maxcat says

    Okay Folger’s Clark, how about this question:

    Have you passed the Ideological Turing Test?

    And a second question:

    Is there a difference between Folger’s Clark and Bizarro Clark?

    And a third question:

    Who’s really answering the questions here, Folger’s Clark or Bizzaro Clark?

  78. SirWired says

    Personally, I'm not impressed. Many of the answers sound like what I would expect somebody farther to the right to hold up as straw men to tear into tiny little pieces. (That's not to say that there aren't liberals that hold these viewpoints, but they are hardly mainstream.)

    In any case, this isn't even remotely like a Turing test. To provide something like an actual Turing test, you'd have to recruit an actual Mainstream Liberal Democrat, and have them answer questions at the same time. The audience would then have to vote on which answers came from who.

  79. Keith says

    I have to say, you are failing this test pretty badly. But, assuming you are truly trying to pass, it is informative.

    Your text mostly comes across as a series of straw man arguments. It may seem superficially liberal but it ultimately comes across as if it is being presented in a somewhat ridiculous way to make it easier to attack.

    I'll just go with the first post you made, about leaks, since I don't want to write a book:

    You don't seem to understand the nature of the AP scandal going on right now. You phrase it in ridiculous Democrat vs. Republican terms. Let me tell you, Republican politicians are not very upset about /this/ scandal. Many powerful Republicans (Mitch McConnell, John McCain, John Cornyn) have defended the President here and have criticized him in the past for not doing /enough/ to investigate the leaks in the first place. The president has been getting more flak from within his own party on this scandal, and he has been getting it universally from the media (not surprising there). I think most liberals are actually doing one of two things here: railing /against/ the president or (more likely) simply ignoring it/not talking about it because that's what cognitive dissonance calls for.

    The correct response here was probably a "we don't know the full details, let's wait and see what comes up" dodge.

    In that same post, your claim that military operational secrets (which is what we're talking about in this context) are somehow like an astronaut needing privacy over radio communications to allow frankness is absurd. These leaks were being investigated because the administration claimed that it put American lives at risk by revealing that a spy had infiltrated al Quaeda in Yemen. Are you confusing this issue with wikileaks?

    What I gathered from this post is that you believe liberals view everything as an evil ploy by Republicans and that you don't follow the news much.

  80. Erwin says

    I'm wondering if you're a 'fluffy' liberal or an 'informed' liberal. Many informed liberals have decidedly mixed feelings towards fluffy liberals. So far, you're mostly coming across as a fluffy liberal.*

    So, questions…

    1. How does society benefit from a progressive tax code? How does expected economic output and utility vary based on variations in taxation?
    2. What are the major free market failures of the US medical system…ie…why does the European version provide equivalent (or better) outcomes at a substantially lower cost?
    3. What is the cost/benefit analysis in terms of both societal costs and utility of eliminating unemployment benefits and welfare?
    4. How would hiring practices differ if non-discrimination monitoring for business were eliminated?

    –Erwin
    *Full disclosure…I'm essentially a pragmatic liberal. This means that I have a bias towards maximizing 'long-term' societal utility – and that I'll support laws and regulation that actually moves towards that goal. That said…regulation is inherently costly…so…should be minimized. I also believe that the free market sometimes fails.

  81. Ae Viescas says

    Folger's Clark passes the ideological Turing test about as well as the current crop of robots passes the real one. *eyeroll*

  82. naught_for_naught says

    Folger's Clark, I have two questions:

    First, beyond literacy on the issues, what role do shared fears and neuroses play in the binding of people together in a political cohort?

    Second, what is the best way for a society to resolve the conflicts that arise between the competing interests of two or more groups when each group represents a fundamentally vital interest to society?

  83. Todd S. says

    So I have a question for the people who are saying that Clark has failed this test. If (and only if) you consider yourself a liberal, pick one question and answer it how you would (as a liberal.) I'm curious to see specifics about where you feel the gap exists.

    Thanks in advance.

  84. Caleb says

    @ Todd S.

    You beat me too it. It's one thing to give a general impression of negativity, another to point out precisely what underlies that opinion. I second your motion that Clark's critics lay out exactly where they disagree. That way, we all learn.

  85. mcinsand says

    >>I think that the future holds Democratic / Progressive victory.
    >>…Young people support gay marriage,…

    Hold on there, Bizarro Clark. You said it well in summing up victories for the Democrats, although I have to discount 'progressive' as merely a word used to implicitly dismiss/demean Republicans as being regressive. However, let's be clear in that issues such as gay marriage and marijuana legalization are demonstrating the building appeal for honest small-government, freedom-preserving conservatism. Look, I don't have a dog in either of these fights, I'm straight and I have no interest in marijuana. Dick Cheney did sum up the conservative arguments for gay marriage very well, though. The building movement to legalize marijuana also looks to be victories for conservative philosophies on more than one front. The fight against pot has helped fuel a criminal underground, as is expected when we have a bloated, big-brother style of government tends to do. Given the demonstrated lack of carcinogenicity or other hazards, and given that the mental effects are equal to or lower than a beer (a real beer, not that light beer garbage), keeping marijuana illegal only benefits the criminals and the nannystate. For a conservative victory on this issue, consenting adults should be able to choose whether or not to have this as part of their happiness pursuits … although I will pass.

    So, I hate to burst your bubble, but honest conservatism is showing some promising growth. There are some people that believe in rolling back the government's reach into our lives… which also explains the backlash against the government's gun control proposals.

  86. says

    Todd S:

    So I have a question for the people who are saying that Clark has
    failed this test. If (and only if) you consider yourself a liberal,
    pick one question and answer it how you would (as a liberal.) I'm
    curious to see specifics about where you feel the gap exists.

    Thanks in advance.

    @Caleb

    You beat me too it. It's one thing to give a general impression of negativity, another to point out precisely what underlies that opinion. I second your motion that Clark's critics lay out exactly where they disagree. That way, we all learn.

    Guys,

    Thanks. Both of you.

    It's a bit dispiriting to be told over and over "you're doing it wrong" with out a single explanation of what alleged mistakes are being made.

    It's dispiriting for two reasons:

    first, the point of this exercise is for everyone to learn something (lefties can learn how well libertarians understand them, and libertarians can understand what in ways they need to fine-tune their understanding of lefties)

    second, constructive feedback is annoying but useful, but non constructive feedback is just a jab in the ribs.

  87. says

    mcinsand:

    I hate to burst your bubble, but honest conservatism is showing some promising growth. There are some people that believe in rolling back the government's reach into our lives… which also explains the backlash against the government's gun control proposals.

    The point of all of this is that I am showing my comprehension of current mainstream left perceptions. I think that by saying "the future holds Democratic / Progressive victory…Young people support gay marriage" am I in step with mainstream American left thought.

  88. says

    @Ae Viescas:

    Folger's Clark passes the ideological Turing test about as well as the current crop of robots passes the real one. *eyeroll*

    Thanks for contributing to the high tenor of the conversation. It takes a big man to refuse to debate the merits of something and instead roll his eyes.

  89. Another anonymous NAL says

    *raises hand*

    Okay, I've got a question for Folger's Clark. Earlier you said this:

    I'm talking about the people who volunteer for government service. Working for the government despite the lower wages and scorn they get from half the population is proof that our civil servants are in it for the good they do and not for personal benefit.

    So my question is, having said that, what's your take on the TSA?

  90. Jennifer says

    I second Todd's comment – I want to hear specifically what those objecting would say differently to the same questions.

    F. Clark reads like a vanilla well-educated democrat to me… but he doesn't have the passion of a left-wing activist or the noblesse oblige condescension of a Cambridge intellectual.

    Same content – very fair exposition of foundational premises and logical trains of thought I think – but too emotionless a delivery to sound like a left-wing speaker.

  91. different Jess says

    Well I had a long-winded complaint roughly equivalent to Caleb and Todd's, but fortunately I hit "refresh" before posting it. I do note that Keith had a criticism about the AP wiretapping thing that was substantive in form at least, in that he did suggest something a true liberal would supposedly have said instead. I'm not sure his suggestion jives with what I've heard from putative liberal commentators on the issue, but he made the effort.

    The AP case is interesting because libertarians as a whole (of course there are exceptions) are more "liberally correct" on the issue than liberals as a whole are. (It must be frustrating to be the party in power!) Folger's Clark may have unconsciously shaded his pretend position away from Clark's actual position, and in so doing made it less accurate.

  92. Jennifer says

    (which as he alludes to earlier is intentional… otherwise given the pre-primed audience effect, he'd sound like a caricature even if he cut-and-pasted Salon articles)

  93. Void says

    @Todd, I'd be happy to:

    "President Obama (for whom you voted twice!) claims that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force signed after 9/11 allows him to conduct drone strikes anywhere in the battlefield of the war on terror (although we don't call it that anymore). His administration has killed not only multiple American citizens via drone strike but hundreds of Muslims, including women and children.

    Do you support the president in this policy? If so, do you think that power should be institutionalized?"

    The current administration's stance on drone usage is in no way acceptable. It completely abuses an idea that an "unmanned" delivery vehicle is somehow above the rules and moral restrictions we would place on any other military operation. I have severe doubts as to what attacks are being made on the grounds of reliable intelligence seeing as one of our most recent wars (and a severe drain on our national debt) was framed as a response to actionable intelligence on WMDs. A narrative that, when asked about, the administration outright mocked (Did W. ever find those WMDs in his office?). Even if there *were* instances of concrete evidence of terrorist activity I don't see how putting civilians at risk and further jeopardizing our standing in foreign countries that don't already despise us helps at all. The 9/11 attackers didn't strike from Afghanistan, they struck from a Boston airport after being inside the U.S. for years. If you have intelligence on an individual, keep them under surveillance. If they move to a country with extradition, nail them. If they come to the U.S. to execute a plain, nail them. If they keep chilling in a cave halfway around the world cursing the U.S. and tending their livestock they aren't worth the loss in standing and cost of munition as they are not an active threat.

    That said, the concern about drone usage on American civilians is laughable. Of course I don't support it, but people rail against the use of drones while the police force marches forward with more militarized hardware every year. If you want to oppose anything, attack the silent upgrade the police force has been giving itself for decades as that power will be much more pervasive and harder to reverse than any drone.

  94. Sam says

    As someone who considers himself liberal (but not a Democrat), I find @Void's response much more in line with my thinking on the topic of drone strikes, in particular the reference to the militarization of police forces.

  95. Caleb says

    My main criticism of Clark here is that he was too imprecise in laying out the scope of his ideological identity. "Mainstream democrat" is just too broad. I think the drone issue illustrates this perfectly.

    The fact is, @ Void and @ Sam, that there are plenty of self-identified Democrats and Liberals who have said substantially the words Clark put in their mouths. There are also quite a few persons such as yourself whom disagree.

    Clark isn't wrong, he's merely identifying which side of this schism he places "mainstream Democrats." Considering that the President continues to carry out this policy with the active and passive consent of most the Democrats in power, I can't say he's wrong.

  96. Erwin says

    I mean no disrespect, but didn't find a better way to put this.

    There are a lot of different 'measures' for a person's politics. Some examples include: liberal, conservative, freedom-oriented (libertarian), racist, and idiot.

    My take on Clark's views is that he's providing a fairly good approximation of a liberal idiot.

    However, if you consider the variation between Void and Clark's take on drone usage…that's essentially the variation between a liberal and a liberal idiot.

    Now, I'd challenge this…as it would probably be more productive (if possibly less entertaining…) to replicate the views of a liberal instead of a liberal idiot. Dialog works better with well-supported, logical reasoning.

    –Erwin

  97. C B says

    I've only read the first 4 of Bizarro Clark's comments, but so far you're 4 for 4 in painting the straw man caricature of liberals that right-wing conservative talk show hosts also paint. You're lampooning liberal positions rather than attempting to support them.

    Turing Test fail.

  98. naught_for_naught says

    First, kudos on your willingness to put yourself in the hot seat, Clark. It is a learning game, and a good one. The problem with scoring this kind of exercise would be framing you answers within a context. While Krugman was making a general statement, the fact is that political culture is stratified like the larger culture. So, if you go to the comment section on CNN.com, you're going to find a whole bunch of people who won't be building a rocket anytime soon.

    In other words, the more robotic humans become, the easier it becomes for a robot to appear human.

  99. Dan says

    Well Clark, it sounds like you understand the arguments you're making, but you can't hide your contempt for them. There's a sneering tone to your answers that gives you away.

    Anyway, a fun exercise. I also want to see the one written like Paul Krugman channeling Rand Paul. (Sorry, I'm not up to it.)

  100. Caleb says

    @ Erwin

    So if a liberal supports the President's drone program, that person is an idiot? I have news for a large number of people in D.C…

    @ C B

    Your assertions without details are meaningless.

  101. says

    This is a great read, looking forward to next week's test! (sorry, I read ahead). Also I agree with the person who suggested an ideologicalturingtest.com be created where the exercise could be better controlled for and analyzed.

  102. says

    @Erwin:

    My take on Clark's views is that he's providing a fairly good approximation of a liberal idiot.

    I believe my views are fairly standard for Salon and Slate writers, and better than the quality of comments found in the New York Times.

    Agree / disagree?

  103. Dan Weber says

    This is cute, but I really can tell the difference between Folger's Clark and my progressive friends. You're too over the top.

    If you are having fun, don't let me stop you.

  104. says

    I think your post and the idea behind it was a big success. However, "Liberal Clark" did not pass the Turing test for the following reasons.

    1.) In general tone "Liberal Clark" comes across more like what Liberals would call a "Blue Dog Democrat;" that is, someone from the Clintonite right-wing of the Democratic Party. You sound like you're a little to the left of Joe Lieberman. If you want to sound like a mainstream Liberal Democrat, look towards the kind of answers you'd see from Elizabeth Warren or Al Franken.

    2.) Your position on leaks is way off. Most Liberal Democrats believe the people Obama prosecutes as "leakers" are in fact "whistleblowers" who are entitled to protection under the Whistleblowers Protection Act (or whatever it's called.) There has been considerable debate on this at Daily Kos, for example, and the vast majority of commentators are well to the left of your position. For example, most commentators are appalled by the way the Obama administration is treating Fox News, and outrage on Fox's behalf is absolutely unprecedented.

    3.) Your position on taxes is too far to the right. Most Liberals I know want to see much higher taxes on the rich, and "Liberal Clark" has not taken that position.

    4.) I don't think most Liberal Democrats approve of Obama's drone program; they believe that the potential to kill innocents (bad in itself) and thus lead to major blowback is too high. Liberals are all very disappointed that Obama didn't prosecute Bush administration officials for war crimes.

    5.) Liberal positions on the IRS Scandal are all over the place. However, the majority belief, from what I've seen, is that the Tea Party groups being talked up as "victims" of the scandal are well-financed by the usual right wing players, and it's a scandal that any of them got approved. (One person claimed that ALL of them got approved, but it wasn't backed up by a citation, so I'm a little sceptical.) Most liberals would note that the IRS has historically made it hard for liberal groups, particularly Gay groups, to get any 501(c) status at all.

    6.) The Liberal Democratic feeling about Obama is that he is the lesser of two evils, but generally not much better than Bush. Obama is seen as someone who takes orders from Big Business, particularly the FIRE (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) sectors, someone who didn't get us all the way out of Iraq and Afghanistan, someone who should have prosecuted war criminals and big bankers, someone who is much too tight with Big Oil, someone who should know better than to continue pursuing the War on Some Drugs… etc. Yet somehow he's magically better than Romney or McCain. Your tone regarding Obama is completely off.

    Unlike the other people here, I don't think your tone comes across as mocking. It comes across as facile and lacking depth. You're able to repeat the arguments you think you heard, but you don't have any theoretical background or deep knowledge of the facts/thinkers/ideas which back up those arguments. The poster up-thread who said "Liberal Clark's" positions were the kind of straw-men Conservatives set up to debunk made a very good observation.

    I do think it would be worthwhile to repeat the experiment in the form of A/B testing with a proper liberal, but only if you first spent a couple months someplace like Daily Kos following the cites, reading all the comments, and developing some depth in your understanding of Liberal ideas. It would also be fun to have a Liberal do a Turing test for Conservative ideas.

  105. Marzipan says

    I think this exercise has also done an excellent job in demonstrating why the Ideological Turing Test is a harder one to set up and evaluate than an ordinary Turing Test. Namely, the presupposition of "neutral" is much harder to achieve in the observers for an Ideological Turing Test. In addition to a perceptual neutrality enforced by blinding the observers as to the identities of the participants in this test (a condition which this experiment is doomed to fail from the outset given Clark's posting history – as other commenters have noted), it also presupposes an ideological neutrality of the observers. I'm not sure how that would be achieved in a meaningful, generalizable way. Those who are truly ideologically neutral on one issue (e.g., drone warfare) may not be so on other issues (e.g., taxation to support welfare).

    In this way, "neutrality" is a bipolar construct in the Ideological Turing Test – one cannot be too conservative or too liberal in this exercise as an observer. "Neutrality" in the orthodox Turing Test is essentially a unipolar construct, requiring more and more "blinding" conditions to be considered more and more successful. There may be issues of tone and such that actually apply to both kinds of Turing Tests, but I suspect the ideological version is more sensitive to those kinds of features in the responses. I agree that having an actual liberal provide the comparison text would help, but I fear the problem of defining "actual" liberal runs afoul of the same definitional problems as finding a "neutral" observer.

    Nevertheless, this has made me think about the Ideological Turing Test in a way I hadn't before; kudos to you, Clark, for providing the grist for a meta-analytical mill.

  106. Jennifer says

    Trout – those are good points, I think.

    I don't believe it's a "liberal/liberal idiot" thing – I believe it's an insider/outsider thing. F. Clark sounds like a Washington insider mainstream democrat – particularly one with a pre-68 establishment background.

    As such, I'd expect him to to "my party, right or wrong" on Obama and drone strikes – just as Washington insider Republicans stood beside Bush even when the right-wing base was disgusted with him abandoning core conservative principles. (cf the "I had to destroy the free market in order to save it" bailouts).

    F. Clark is not a foaming at the mouth class warrior, a camera-hungry race baiter, or a scolding Cambridge "sloped forehead people in flyover country" bluenose – any of which are what I'd expect from a right winger straw manning the left.

    If anything, I'd say he's playing things – heh – conservatively.

    Frankly, if he did say the things you see at Kos or HuffPo, he'd come off as a caricature.

    Which is, I think, telling. :)

  107. naught_for_naught says

    I believe my views are fairly standard for Salon and Slate writers, and better than the quality of comments found in the New York Times.

    Agree / disagree?

    Speaking for Slate, it depends on which writer you're talking about. They really range in quality of analysis, most of it is pretty bad as is true for all pundit press.

    In this exercise, you run into the same challenge that the POWs faced in The Great Escape when being asked you for their papers at the train. The more they spoke, the more they risked giving themselves away.

    While most of your points are on target and reflect progressive opinions, bits of your phraseology give you away. Also, the comprehensiveness of your answers is a tell. The attempt to cover every single point isn't natural. You usually see that kind of carpet bombing occur only when one party to an argument gets dropped on his/her ear, so to speak.

  108. repleh says

    I think where you are off in general is that you stay at a fairly high level of abstraction, so that the debate is mainly theoretical. The biggest straw man is that liberals think big government is good as a matter of principle, not as a pragmatic response to individual problems. So the debate tends to stay at the "which is better, indivudal freedom or government control?" level. Just one example from a real liberal: for the response about government bureaucrats knowing better than individual citizens, and being better intentioned than the private sector, I'd just point to the Centers for Disease Control and to the meat inspectors at the Department of Agriculture.

  109. Owen says

    I, too, believe that the two can be easily distinguished from tone. It's true that the content is better than the general comments on the NY Times, but that certainly shouldn't be the point of comparison. I apologize that it may be dispiriting to hear, but I cannot point to more than the general tone of the writing. You've lost the confident tone that comes from a certainty that you're right because you've done the legwork, and you've replaced it with a superficial belief that you're right. You're presenting it in way that makes it clear that you've already picked your conclusion, and you're just backpedaling to find the facts that support it. It comes off as arrogant and snide, not devastatingly thoughtful and well-researched like your normal comments.

    I think it was most clear when you responded regarding government experts, and you're answer was "[t]he average level of education is higher and they vote Democrat a lot more often than the population as a whole, so we're talking about people who are a bit more intelligent, a bit more kind, and a bit more moral than average." This immediately strikes me as a person who is not thoughtful, is not in the habit of engaging with facts, and relies on well-worn logical fallacies to do the work instead. That may be how you view liberals, but that certainly is not true of liberals as a whole.

    You posted that you believed the intention of this exercise was to merely parrot the talking points of liberals (to be fair, you couched it much more fairly, "I assert that the test is designed to show intellectual comprehension of the opposing side"). If that is truly what you feel the point of this exercise is, then it's a waste of time. I have no trouble believing that you can comprehend the opposing narrative, but the question is whether you've thoughtfully engaged with the facts, turned them over in your mind as if they could be true, and emerged with a neutral, rational conclusion. That takes more than flat intellectual comprehension. It takes more to understand what a circle is than to understand pi-r-squared.

    On the other hand, I can't escape the question of whether my analysis is affected by knowing your original self and your positions. Perhaps this would work better with anonymous commentary? I absolutely do think that this is a worthwhile exercise, done correctly and whole heartedly. I commend you for the effort and courage that it takes to do something like this.

  110. Martin says

    "I believe my views are fairly standard for Salon and Slate writers, and better than the quality of comments found in the New York Times.

    "Agree / disagree?"

    Can I vote for "Sometimes"? You were a little uneven.

    It is certainly true that your response to my question was darned good and captured the essence of the argument for a government-supported welfare policy and the consequent taxation needs quite well (kudos!).

    The "less good?" Your discussion on governmental regulation beginning: "My first point is a bit delicate, so let's keep this between me and you. We both know that the people in government aren't the same as the people outside of government…." felt like a caricature–if I missed where someone like Maureen Dowd or Alex Pareene or Rachael Maddow laid out even a shadow of that case, my apologies. I've never met a mainstream Democrat who genuinely believes that people in government are "better" than the general populace by dint of their government service or their voting record, and so it comes across as a pretty cartoonish misrepresentation. What the mainstream Democrat believes (IMO) is that people in government are more likely to make dispassionate decisions for the common good because it's their job (honorable people do their jobs to the best of their abilities), and because (when properly overseen) they don't have a profit motive to make bad decisions. The essence: people often make bad decisions for themselves ("Sure I'll have another Big Mac!") that a dispassionate third party wouldn't make (your doctor would not choose that Big Mac for you if you gave him $5 and asked him to find you lunch). Willpower is in short supply, and it's easier to have willpower for someone else than it is for oneself. Further, the mainstream Democrat believes that experts are better-qualified to make decisions about complex subjects than laypeople are (environmental quality issues, for instance). To the extent that the bureaucracies are staffed with experts or listen heavily to experts, they will make better average decisions than the general populace.

    Hope that helps!

  111. Wick Deer says

    It may have gotten lost in the noise, but I did post a substantive criticism of one of Folger's Clark's answers — the question about the ACA. I don't think that Clark's complaint about "It's a bit dispiriting to be told over and over "you're doing it wrong" with out a single explanation of what alleged mistakes are being made." is correct. Substantive criticism was offered (at least once).

    Just for grins, here's another: Throughout his responses, Clark posited that government regulatory bureaucracy was a good thing. I think it would be more accurate to say that most liberals view bureaucracy as a necessary evil, not something that is inherently good. Most bureaucracy does not exist because someone thought it would be a fun idea to create a bureaucracy. Most are created as an attempt to solve a problem.

  112. Martin says

    The impossible problem facing you is to sort out who's bitching because it's fun to bitch semi-anonymously in comments, and who genuinely feels like something rang false but hasn't done a good job of articulating what.

    For my own part, I would be fascinated to see you summarize (rather than emulate) what you believe to be the core liberal explanation/justification/rationale is on some of these topics. I can't tell whether some of the places where you ring false to my ear are because you think Democrats TALK like that, or because you think Democrats THINK like that.

  113. Dave says

    Hi Clark,

    (First time commenter here, for what it's worth)

    Since you asked for some feedback, my sense is that in replying as a liberal Democrat, you're leaning more heavily on the Democrat than the liberal. This comes across especially in your reluctance to criticize the Obama administration; while the Left has its foibles, an unwillingness to organize into a circular firing squad has hardly been one since 1968.

    Maybe this is what Salon/HuffPo look like, but as someone three standard deviations to the left of the American median, these read purely as Democratic electoral rhetoric, rather than progressive responses.

    re: your 9:43 comment, I'd be happy to try and provide my answers, but not until I'm done my grading early next week (forever in blogging time, I realize), by way of contrast.

    This is a really neat exercise for me to see how I look to others, though; it's like reading a travel guide to America written for non-American tourists! Very illuminating. So thank you.

  114. Richard says

    Okay, I'll take a stab at answering a question as an actual liberal.

    My problem with Clark's answer is that it's trying too hard to pull at the heart-strings of the reader. As if, logically, it makes no sense to help them, but dammit, we have to, because we feel for these people! As if Spock would leave them to die as unproductive members of society, and Bones would say, "Dammit, Jim, these are people we're talking about!" In other words, it's sentimental dribble.

    Martin wrote:

    what is the case in support of taxing the general populace to provide welfare support to those in (putative) need?

    In any human society, there is going to be power inequality. If you start out with a hundred people in a society, with all of them starting out exactly equal, soon enough, you'll find the most charismatic, the most intelligent, the most attractive, and the most industrious, will pull ahead of their peers, and will have power over the others, who will do the more menial tasks for those who distinguish themselves. This, in itself, is not a problem.

    The problem starts to appear when the people who have gained power use the power itself to acquire more power, rather than using the traits for which reasons the power was granted to them originally. They start to use their power to benefit their families and friends, to the detriment of the others. This is where an actual class society develops – not when the exceptional acquire power, but when the exceptional use their power to elevate those who are mundane, but better connected, over those who are less mundane, but not as chummy with those who are in power.

    America is now at the stage where, apart from a few exceptions, the best of those who were born into poverty are denied almost all chance of social mobility, and the absolute worst of those who were born into wealth are treated as if they deserve the better treatment they get for having friends among those who wield the power and control the money.

    Now, back to the question at hand: "Why should we tax those who work, in order to provide welfare for those who don't?" Because it is the first, small step towards getting the great people among the marginalized back into a place where they can make a difference. If we provide welfare, these people can take care of their kids. They can send their kids to school. Implemented properly, it can provide a boost to help break the downward spiral that human society imposes on those who are distanced from power.

    Welfare can allow an unemployed person from becoming homeless. Once you become homeless, it is almost impossible to get a job. Once you're homeless, you're stuck in either a shelter or jail, usually at a higher cost to taxpayers than welfare, because you're generally stuck there for life. But if you can get welfare, and keep/get a place to live, you can possibly get yourself a job. If you can get the job, you can get off welfare, get a better place, get better clothes, get a better job, and get back up onto your own two feet. In addition, it allows the kids to stay with their families, get a decent education, and not get pulled down into the spiral in the first place.

    As to why taxpayers have to fund it: there are three concentrations of money in America. The first is the very wealthy, who have the power and mostly see no need to redistribute it. The second are corporations, who are controlled by the first group, and have a duty to shareholders not to spend the corporation's money on frivilous things. Unless they can get someone imaginative enough to see how to make profit out of raising the poor out of poverty, that's a non-starter. The only remaining option is the government.

    In summary:
    Society promotes inequality.
    Inequality becomes a class system.
    Class systems become entrenched over time.
    Welfare provides a stepping stone to increase social mobility and circumvent the barriers inherent in a class system.
    It needs to be taxpayer funded because, other than "the people" as a whole, the only people with the ability to reverse the trend towards a class system have a vested interest in not doing so.

  115. Trevor says

    Folger's Clark, as you know the US has had long-standing issues with discrimination against racial minority groups. In an attempt to make up for past unfairness, many colleges and universities as well as police and fire departments have set up affirmative action programs favoring those same minority groups.

    Now, some voices, like the voice of the State of Michigan, are saying that using race as a factor in hiring or acceptance decisions is unfair, and that we will not have true racial equality until everyone of every race is actually treated equally.

    How would you, Folger's Clark, come down in this debate? Should we have affirmative action to make up for past racial inequality? Or should race not be a factor at all in hiring and acceptance?

  116. Sam says

    @Caleb:

    The problematic definition of what constitutes 'mainstream' let alone what constitutes a 'liberal' or a 'Democrat' (other than a check box) is what I was getting at in a couple of earlier comments, without delving into social constructionism and revealing my humanities roots. Honestly, I find it more interesting to note what people of various political identifications consider to be 'mainstream' when thinking about their political Others. I'm sure my characterization of a conservative's or very libertarian person's responses would be equally irritating to some despite the fact that I believe I understand their positions quite well.

  117. naught_for_naught says

    Quoting Jennifer,

    I don't believe it's a "liberal/liberal idiot" thing – I believe it's an insider/outsider thing. F. Clark sounds like a Washington insider mainstream democrat – particularly one with a pre-68 establishment background.

    As such, I'd expect him to "my party, right or wrong" on Obama and drone strikes – just as Washington insider Republicans stood beside Bush even when the right-wing base was disgusted with him abandoning core conservative principles. (cf the "I had to destroy the free market in order to save it" bailouts).

    If you look at what Jennifer wrote (I'm sorry to put you in the fishbowl, Jennifer. I just think you argue really well and merit analysis) you see a writing style that's characteristic of well crafted political rhetoric. In particular, there is a way of short-handing points that does a couple of things: it focuses the argument on what she thinks is important while putting the onus on the other side to fight on her terms. This succinctness is a key feature of anyone who really understands a particular POV.

    Clark, you answers move into a layer of verbosity that is not your natural voice, and it's in those long connective passages that a kind of burlesque of liberal opinion shows through, as in this turn of phrase in F. Clark's answer to Martin, "So every ethical person agrees that government needs to look out for its vulnerable, and provide some minimal level of support to them."

  118. Martin says

    @Richard I didn't think he was trying to pull at the heartstrings so much as observe that helping people in need is the moral and ethical thing for society to do (and hey, it could be you who needs help next), and that the only way to raise enough money to accomplish that is through some degree of broad-base taxation. That's a pretty vanilla belief among Democrats, so to my ear he nailed it. I think you represent a pretty hardcore social-activist Democrat position. Talking about wealth and the class system holding people down and the government should be using its its power to overcome that has an almost Marxist tone (note: NOT calling you a Marxist. Don't have nearly enough evidence to have an informed opinion on your belief system).

  119. Luke says

    @Clark
    [quote]I believe my views are fairly standard for Salon and Slate writers, and better than the quality of comments found in the New York Times.

    Agree / disagree?[/quote]

    Definitely agree, which I believe is part of the disconnect I had. When I think of a "mainstream liberal democrat" I'm not thinking of media figures/pundits but of friends, family and coworkers who I consider to be pretty mainstream liberal democrats.

    @Folger Clark
    What are the pros and cons of having a multicultural society versus a "melting pot?"

  120. Erwin says

    @Clark
    Even for Salon or HuffPo, my impression is that you seem to be relying more on qualitative or emotional arguments than the median writer there, and the bar isn't high.

    By contrast (and I suspect this argument is wrong if examined fully), a reasonable liberal argument for raising the minimum wage is that…

    …most studies have shown that modest increases to the minimum wage have insignificant impacts to employment and increase resources available to poor people.

    –Erwin

  121. Daniel Taylor says

    @John Farrier: unfair question, most Liberals (and indeed, most Conservatives) haven't read that far.

  122. Ryan says

    @this concept

    I must say, as an outside observer to US politics (I'm Canadian), I find the exercise interesting but I think Folger's Clark is missing the mark badly – namely, that he has neglected to define where he's aiming to respond. A fictional liberal US Democrat means a number of different things to different people (ongoing bastardization of the term 'liberal' in the United States generally notwithstanding) without some further clarification. What I'm reading suggests an extremely partisan view, and whilst I suspect Clark may be capturing the thoughts of a US Democrat a couple standard deviations away from mainstream, it by no means appears to capture what an outsider typically conceptualizes when hearing the words "liberal US Democrat."

    Disclaimer: I have no idea what Clark's usual politics are as I'm a relatively new reader of popehat.

  123. Flip says

    I'm a far-left leaning Australian who doesn't get CNN or Fox, so to me all of Folger Clark's answers sounded like ridiculous parodies. While I'd like to contribute a more substantial, actual reply to one of the questions for comparison, I'm currently on an iPad… However, my position on one pretty much matches richard's, with the exception that it does lean more towards Marxism than I would like. Clark's replies hit on strawmen and catchphraes

  124. Flip says

    Darn… Somehow pressed enter by accident! … End of sentence is, catchphrases, but not well-thought out liberal concepts. Or maybe I'm just used to less hyperbole from politicians et al than your average American.

  125. Erwin says

    @Caleb
    It may be that I simply do not comprehend all the issues involved.
    But, at first glance, dropping bombs to attempt targeted assassinations without due process – and killing nearby people, children, and, occasionally, American citizens is not consistent with most reasonable ethical or moral frameworks and also not a smart way to benefit the American people. (as there's no better way to stir up trouble than killing the neighbor's teenage kid.) The precedent set, although unlikely to have much meaningful impact, also weakens the rule of law in the US.

    I'm not sure it is a liberal issue so much as a human one.

    In terms of a Turing test, I suppose (without lying) the argument is along the lines of:

    Well, yes, we are murdering innocent people and children. The people we are targeting are dangerous enough that it is worth killing a few extra innocent people. (The subtext here is that: We definitely won't be bombing neighborhoods in Boston, because there are loyal citizens there. On the other hand, disloyal Americans in foreign countries too weak to fight back are fair game – because American lives are more valuable to us than foreign ones.)

    We believe that developing procedures and technology for low-risk targeted assassination of people hostile to America will benefit the nation both by removing short-term threats and by making people afraid to act against America.

    We're in a war against terror – and wars are inherently messy – so targeting declared or suspected enemies will necessarily involve a certain amount of collateral damage.

    Unfortunately, that's the best argument I can make. And there are a lot of holes in it. A more relevant argument is probably…
    …okay…yes we're murdering people and creating future terrorists. But, the policy doesn't kill that many innocent people – and scrapping it would spend a lot of political capital and involves significant political risks. S'not like we've closed Guan… Bay yet either.

    –Erwin

  126. Rafael says

    Once I went trough one of this tests, but as a Marxcist. It was in the university. It went 99/100.

  127. Caleb says

    @ Erwin

    You needn't convince me, I'm with you on this issue. My point is merely skepticism of the proposition that Clark's portrayal of a liberal who backs Obama's drone policy is disingenuous. D.C. in particular is full of them.

  128. Chris Ryan says

    @Clark i think the responses could easily fool a neutral observer if taken each individually. The problem lies (as pointed out in one comment) that its hard to place exactly where is the spectrum a person lies. I grew up labeling myself republican, but finally dropped political affiliations because all to often it was assumed that meant tea-party and that wasn't close to my thoughts

    Good job and I look forward (if it happens) to TeaPartyClark

  129. Erwin says

    @Caleb
    You have a valid point. Clark's responses mostly fit within the mainstream Democratic liberal framework – excepting a few off-kilter remarks – like bureaucracy being good. Liberals do accept bureaucracy as the price of solving problems xyz, but they don't like bureaucracy, on the whole.

    My issue is most likely that 'liberal' contains a broad range of viewpoints – and that I pretty much detest that brand of mainstream liberalism. Eh. Slightly more, probably, than I detest mainstream conservative thought.

    –Erwin

  130. Jay says

    It's interesting how those who tend to agree politically with (real) Clark generally credit him with passing and those who tend to disagree with him aren't convinced. Although I fall into the latter category, I also recognize that a fair amount of confirmation bias is likely at work here for both groups.

    That being said, which group is in a better position to evaluate his performance? The very premise of the exercise is that it's difficult for people to fully understand and articulate beliefs to which they do not subscribe. For a non-"liberal" to proclaim that Clark has passed, they are implicitly claiming to have also passed (i.e., they completely understanding the opposing viewpoint and that is exactly how they would respond to a given question as well). That's not to say their opinions are invalid or worthless, it's just that the nature of the test makes in-group evaluation of Clark's performance difficult.

    Those who don't generally agree with Clark have been less enthusiastic about his performance, and some have provided detailed critiques and counter-responses (with which I generally agree more than Folger's Clark). These have generally been met with the assertion that they are a different kind of liberal than Clark is emulating. Since nobody has thus far said that they agree with Folger's Clark, there are three possibilities.

    First, maybe the type of liberal that Clark is emulating simply doesn't visit Popehat or participate in the comments. The whole point of the exercise was for Clark to receive feedback on how well he's emulating these arguments. Ostensibly, that would mean emulating the arguments of some of his audience. Otherwise, it would be a pointless endeavor. Perhaps Clark misjudged his audience and is emulating the type of liberal he thinks visits Popehat but actually doesn't.

    Second, maybe the type of liberal that Clark is emulating doesn't really exist. This gets into the weeds of labeling exactly what he is trying to emulate and also at how well he is emulating. If the type of liberal he's trying to emulate does exist, but he's emulating that demographic poorly, he will appear to be emulating a nonexistant type, or a different type. He may be doing a great job emulating a non-existant liberal. If he's doing a superb job of imitating an existing type of liberal, then we're either in the first category, or the third.

    Third, the "liberals" here are lying or just wrong about Clark's performance. Maybe they're disinclined to agree with him because they feel like it's a trap of some sort. Maybe they're threatened by someone articulating their beliefs so well when they know that person doesn't really hold those beliefs. Maybe they just want Clark to fail because they disagree with him. Maybe they're being overly critical due to the nature of the test and subjecting his responses to more scrutiny than they otherwise would.

    Ultimately, it's pretty much impossible to say which of these is the case. At any rate, I applaud Clark for going through the exercise. It takes guts to invite criticism. I agree with others who have suggested having some kind of blind comparison of responses to these (or similar) questions.

  131. Richard says

    @Martin:
    The two main arguments that conservatives use to rail against welfare, in my experience, are that:
    1) Helping people in need is charity. Charity should be the role of a private citizen, not a government.
    2) Welfare encourages people not to work, when they should be pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.

    My argument was mainly a response to Clark's argument. Clark, by just using the "These people need our help!" argument, was leaving the argument open to a counter by number 1, and then he could use argument #2 to argue against welfare.

    "Yes, these people need help. But the government is not very good at helping individual people – that's what charities, and the kindness of private citizens, are for. And when government tries to help people through welfare, they actually encourage them not to work. If these people, instead of taking welfare and then sitting around waiting for their dream job to come along, decided to…" etc. etc.

    My point was a pre-emptive counter to #2 – that there are actually barriers preventing the destitute from lifting themselves up by the bootstraps and becoming millionaires just by hard work, innovation, and sheer force of will.

    I guess, by stripping out the compassionate argument, and focusing instead on barriers keeping the destitute from productive life, my case did stray into Marxist territory. It's not the argument I would have made myself, unprovoked (this is why an ideologicalturingtest.com would be awesome), but instead was intended as a contrast to the simplistic government-sponsored-charity argument that Folger's Clark was spouting.

  132. Just a thought says

    This is very interesting, and valuable. I wish more people would try to understand the positions of others. That's completely different to agreeing with them: I can't imagine anything much worse than everyone agreeing on everything. With more of what Clark is trying we might get less of the name calling which doesn't help anyone.

    Having said that, although I think Folger's Clark is doing a pretty good job of espousing the liberal views, he's failing the Turing test. You can tell he's not a liberal at heart. Good effort though.

    I have a question for both Clarks: What practical things do you think could be done to reduce the extreme partisanship of today's politics, or is that something we're stuck with given the echo-chamber effect of the internet and social media?

  133. Caleb says

    @ Martin makes an excellent point:

    Talking about wealth and the class system holding people down and the government should be using its its power to overcome that has an almost Marxist tone

    One common misconception non-(liberal/progressive/Democrat/whatever) have is conflating the loose policy coalition on the "left" with the principles divergent intellectual traditions used to arrive at those positions. (Other idealouges make the same mistake, but this is what we're talking about now.) This can be seen in the laughable "Obama is a socialist" meme. (His policies, at least, are most certainly not socialist.) People on the "left" may all roughly agree on a certain body of policies, but their reasons for doing so are quite different.

    In this context, this means that many "mainstream Democrat" arguments for particular policies ring false or hallow to some of those who identify as "left wing." For example, @ Richard arrives at the desirability of a redistributive policy regime through a rough Marxian class analysis. @ Clark argued for the policy on humanitarian grounds. @ Richard concludes that @ Clark does not understand reasons for the policy, because @ Clark did not use @ Richard's means of getting there.

    @ Richard:

    Like my drone comments argue, I don't think you are right that @ Clark is not accurately miming "mainstream Democrat" arguments for redistribution policies because there are innumerable self-identified Democrats and "liberals" using those precise arguments. Now, whether or not your arguments are stronger than theirs is a separate matter. You obviously think so. But to the degree your arguments don't line up, you must disavow yourself of the label rather than arguing your ownership of it because of policy affiliation rather than ideological agreement.

  134. Carl 'SAI' Mitchell says

    Folgers Clarke,
    Do you support the continued use of extraordinary rendition, torture, assassination, and other similar techniques used by our government without giving the victims access to any sort of trial? Your responses above indicate that you do. If this is in fact the case, what justification do you have for such blatantly unconstitutional acts? The existence of terrorists out to get us is not sufficient justification, as they are sufficiently rare* that stripping such important rights from American citizens can't be justified.

    * The TSA has not caught a single terrorist. All attempts have been caught by police or by citizens on the aircraft in question. Numerous audits have shown that it's quite easy to get weapons onto aircraft. Because of this the sparsity of attacks can't be attributed to better defenses and must indicate a lack of terrorists. Indeed, the one successful large-scale attack since 2001 was the Boston marathon bombing, which was carried out by independent radicals not part of a larger terrorist organization. None of the extremist techniques used by the government would have found them, while traditional police work potentially could have.

  135. Maxcat says

    Since you didn’t answer the questions I previously proposed, I’ll ask another one: What exactly is your point here?

    Seriously, I’m asking because whatever it is, I’m just not getting it.

    I’ll admit that prior to reading this blog post I had not heard of an “Ideological Turing Test” though I had heard of the “Turing Test”. I read the Wikipedia entry and I have to say it seems to me that either the masses who have written the Wikipedia article on the Ideological Turing Test or, possibly Bryan Caplan himself, don’t exactly understand what the Turing test is.

    The Wikipedia entry for the Ideoloogical Turning test has the following line: “The ideological Turing test is so named because of its similarity with the Turing test, a test whereby a machine is required to fool a neutral judge into thinking that it is human.” That completely misstates the Turning Test. The concept of the Turning Test is whether a digital computer can successfully fool a human into thinking the digital computer is a human based on its responses in a conversation. Can the digital computer imitate a human to the satisfaction of a “real” human? There is no “neutral judge.” The only concept of neutrality is that the human judge doesn’t know, at least initially, that the “individual” they are holding a conversation with is a digital computer and not another human. To be truly similar to the Turing Test an Ideological Turing Test would require the “contestant” to fool a “judge” into believing that they hold the same views as the judge.

    Okay, but that doesn’t really matter, people can call things whatever they want.

    So let’s go back to the Wikipedia article on the Ideological Turing Test: “The Ideological Turing Test is a concept invented by American economist Bryan Caplan to test whether a political or ideological partisan correctly understands the arguments of his or her intellectual adversaries… If neutral judges cannot tell the difference between the partisan's answers and the answers of the opposite number, the candidate is judged to correctly understand the opposing side.”

    To be realistic, that short explanation of the Ideological Turing Test should conclude with the words, “to the level that the neutral judges understand the opposing side” (as has been pointed out by others here). But, not being an expert on the Ideological Turing test I can’t say as to whether that was Bryan Caplan’s intent or not.

    Getting back to my issue, somehow you turned the explanation of the Ideological Turing Test into this: “The Ideological Turing test is important because it lets us disambiguate two different cases: 1) my opponent does not agree with position X because he is too stupid / ignorant / confused to understand position X, 2) my opponent does not agree with position X because he has considered it and found it wanting.”

    Your statement and the short explanation of the Ideological Turing Test could be considered similar but they certainly aren’t the same thing. I would interpret your statement as saying you believe there are only two reasons why anyone would disagree with you: They have examined your arguments and found them wanting or they are simply stupid, ignorant or confused. Okay, given the inclusion of the words ignorant and confused, I would find it hard to argue with your belief. I don’t agree with it, but I find it difficult to formulate an argument that you couldn’t just dismiss as ignorant or confused, so I won’t try.

    So, again, what’s your point here?

    The Ideological Turing Test (per the Wikipedia definition) isn’t really all that similar to the Turing Test. What you’re doing here doesn’t really seem to meet the definition of an Ideological Turing Test. And your stated premise only seems to have a peripheral and questionable connection to the Ideological Turing Test.

    So back to my “confusion.” I asked my previous questions because of the use of the term Folger’s Clark and the Bizarro Superman image you have at the top of your post.

    I assume the reference to Folger’s would be a reference to the Folger’s Coffee commercial where someone’s expensive coffee has been replaced with Folger’s Coffee without their knowledge. To me Folger’s Clark would be a substitute for Clark, which looks just like Clark, smells just like Clark, and tastes just like Clark. I could see the connection to the Ideological Turing Test if the idea here was that someone else, with different ideological views, had taken over your post and was posting as if they were the real Clark: Can neutral observers distinguish Folger’s Clark from Real Clark in a conversation. But that isn’t what you are saying is happening; you say you’re trying to imitate a mainstream liberal US Democrat. To what end?

    The Bizarro Superman image seems to me to be somewhat more in line with what you appear to be doing, being an opposite to what you really are. Again, sort of related to the concept of an Ideological Turing test, but not really the same thing. Though I have to admit I’m relatively new to PopeHat having only recently been directed here as a source of information regarding that wonderfully entertaining sideshow known as Prenda Law – so I don’t really know what your personal beliefs are.

    So we come back to my original question: What’s your point here? People ask questions, you write an answer that is sort of peripherally related to the question, people who seem to identify themselves as liberal say your answer is over the top and not reflective of true liberal beliefs, and people who seem to identify themselves as not liberal say you have nailed the imitation exactly.

    Maybe I should rephrase my question this way: You say you’re doing a sort of Ideological Turing Test. I disagree. Do I disagree because I have considered your position and found it wanting or am I simply too stupid/ignorant/confused to understand?

  136. Richard says

    @Caleb
    I'm not trying to say those aren't valid arguments, or commonly used arguments, or even typical arguments, for welfare.

    I'm just trying to say, a liberal person, trying to explain his understanding about the benefits of welfare, wouldn't only focus on the benefits to each person receiving welfare, and the humanitarian focus of it (no more than he'd ignore those facets entirely, as I tried to). I'm not saying his argument was wrong, I'm saying it was a simplistic view of the issue.

    I'm just saying that what rings false about his argument is that most people arguing the benefits of welfare would ascribe it some benefit to society as a whole, as opposed to (what I see as) just pointing to how the lives of the welfare recipients themselves are improved.

  137. James Pollock says

    Alas, the experiment is blown from the beginning. The test requires judging by someone who is unaware of the true nature of the person(s) to be tested. We don't have that here. However, my complaint about the experiment goes deeper than that, in that I think the premise might be flawed, in that it assumes that ideology is a matter of rationality, with rational debate, rather than a matter of emotion, with emotional debate. Thus, while the ability to argue either side of an argument with equal facility DOES demonstrate mastery of the argument, this rule does not apply to politics. This is why you have prominent Republicans arguing with an empty chair on television (and why you got roughly equal demonization of W from Democrats while he was in power.) In many cases, the emotional filtering of facts created by politics obscures, and in some cases obliterates, the ability to sense those facts accurately.

    I submit a counter-test… I suggest that the truest test of understanding of the issues is the ability to detect and bring forth those areas where both* sides substantially agree. When politics is functioning correctly, one side makes a proposal, the other side examines it in detail, detects flaws, and brings forth proposed solutions, recurse as necessary, then synthesize.

    For example, I don't think you'll find too many Democrats who can say with a straight face that the Obama administration hasn't made errors in judgment in carrying out various activities. They'll differ (strongly!) with Republicans about the nature, severity, and most importantly the cause of the errors. The "best" solution would be to examine these errors critically, and improve policies, procedures, and possibly personnel to avoid these errors going forward. At present, I do not see Republicans offering constructive criticism on any of the "big three" current scandals (diplomatic security, oversight of IRS, or investigation of leaks of confidential information.) Rather than attack these problems with logical solutions, the loudest voices feed emotional arguments that primarily question the motivation for the errors, and suggest no solutions at all; the goal is not to improve the functioning of government but to tear down the current leadership. (To a lesser degree, of course, the other side indulges in equally worthless emotional arguments attacking the attackers, this also is not productive if it keeps us from addressing real problems because the messenger who tries to bring it to our attention has been thoroughly discredited.

    *both meaning "substantially all", since few decisions in politics are truly binary, and there's usually more than two opinions on any topic; As we have only two major parties, this usually means that only two opinions get mass support and others are either consumed into one of the two leading opinions or get ignored completely.

    Speaking as a person who usually sides with liberal Democrats (though I actually consider myself a centrist on most issues), I don't recognize Folger's Clark as one of "us". That may be because I am less of a Democrat and more of an anti-Republican, it may be because I objectively know that he is not one of "us", or it may be because his imitation truly rings hollow.

    My question for Folger's Clark:
    The immigration enforcement policy of the Obama administration is substantially the same as the Bush administration's (which was also the Clinton and Bush, Sr. policy) Congress doesn't provide enough resources to ramp up deportation hearings to meet the need for them, so enforcement is focused to prioritize, and we prioritize recent arrivals, repeat offenders, and illegal immigrants who commit crimes while here. The major difference, thus far, has been that the Obama administration publicly admits that illegals who do not fit into these categories will not be pursued. So… is this a clever ploy to force Congress to devote more resources to the due process portion of the enforcement process (the current bottleneck) or is it a clever ploy to force Congress to declare an amnesty?

  138. Martin says

    @Richard
    I've never heard a libertarian or Republican argue that helping those in need is bad. The questions revolve around whether: a) those people are genuinely needy/deserving (q.v. Bizarro-Clark's complaint of the "welfare queen" straw-… er, straw-woman), and b) whether people should be *compelled* to aid the needy. Many Republicans argue a, and most libertarians argue b. The mean Democratic position (IMO) is that it is an appropriate function of government. You can try and recast the cause of action under which the government acts, but you can't really evade the first-principles debate about whether government should be in the business of taking money directly from one person and giving it directly to another without requiring some compensatory good or service in return. So inasmuch as Clark states 1) helping the needy is good and right, and 2) it is an appropriate function of government, I think he nailed what mainstream Democrats truly believe, as opposed to how they might try to articulate things to evade a fruitless first-principles debate.

  139. LJU3 says

    I got a bit bored and sent each of the questions and answers presented so far to six different friends, ranging from far-left to far-right (with a minarchist thrown in for good measure). I asked them to rate the writer, his level of education, and his likely political affiliation.

    I have heard back from five. Four said that he was a mid-level college-educated Democrat (the far-leftist used the phrase "conventional Democrat"). One (a Buckley conservative) thought that it was probably a Yellow Dog who had not thought the issues through particularly deeply. I'll let you know what the last has to say.

    Overall, it would seem to me that, at least on the basis of my very small test, Clark is passing (assuming that a "conventional" Democrat is the same thing as a "mainstream" Democrat).

  140. says

    Dan Weber

    This is cute, but I really can tell the difference between Folger's Clark and my progressive friends. You're too over the top.

    Can you give me an example of something I've said above that is out of keeping with the Slate / Salon / NYT mindset?

  141. says

    naught_for_naught:

    In this exercise, you run into the same challenge that the POWs faced in The Great Escape when being asked you for their papers at the train. The more they spoke, the more they risked giving themselves away.

    Agreed. But the POWs wanted to get on the train. This exercise is about something different – exploring how well we understand oposing viewpoints. For that reason, a bunch of cheats are off the table: short answers, echoing back parts of the question, etc.

    the comprehensiveness of your answers is a tell. The attempt to cover every single point isn't natural… carpet bombing

    The better to explore the space.

    By the way, Nixon carpet bombed Cambodia. ;-)

  142. Martin says

    @Maxcat:

    I think Clark's point was that trying to dismiss the other side by claiming that they "just don't understand" is pretty hollow, since the reality is that they often DO understand (they just don't happen to agree). So the core of the debate that followed is whether Clark genuinely understands the mainstream Democrat position well enough to simulate it. Opinions vary. My read: Clark thinks he does, staunch conservatives generally think he does, libertarians generally think he does, those in the middle are split, and staunch liberals generally think he doesn't. That's not an awful batting average. Several have pointed out that the real problem is that Democrats often agree on the same outcome being good based on VERY different reasons. Clark can't simultaneously offer all of those viewpoints, so he's going to displease someone.

  143. says

    repleh:

    The biggest straw man is that? liberals think big government is good as a matter of principle, not as a pragmatic response to individual problems.

    This is where you're wrong – we liberals do think that big government is better as a matter of principle … but it's not an ideological principle, it's a pragmatic one. We've seen that in pretty much every arena too little government leads to problems. So, yes, after a while it becomes a default rule, but one based on evidence.

    So the debate tends to stay at the "which is better, indivudal freedom or government control?" level.

    I think I've been answering specific questions above and not doing what you say I'm doing.

    I'd just point to the Centers for Disease Control and to the meat inspectors at the Department of Agriculture.

    Two good examples.

  144. says

    Martin:

    I would be fascinated to see you summarize (rather than emulate) what you believe to be the core liberal explanation/justification/rationale is on some of these topics.

    Hilarious: some people say that I'm not a convincing liberal because I talk too much about theory, others complain that I talk too much about details and don't get into theory enough!

    OK, Martin – ask me a theory question and I'll answer it.

  145. Random Encounter says

    @Folgers Clark:
    Pretty well done, I may have missed if someone asked you why you support gun control, however.

  146. naught_for_naught says

    "This is where you're wrong – we liberals do think that big government is better as a matter of principle …"

    Way to stay in character, Mr. Strindberg.

  147. Jacob says

    Since we all know that you are Clark – ie your identity is not blinded – I fail to see the point of this, other than to…what? Tout your own understanding of your ideological opponants? Subtly making digs at liberals by using loaded terms that they never would (eg "amnesty"). Lest you think I am being unneccessarily negative, allow me to propose a small tweak: get a liberal friend or co-blogger on board with this, and both of you answer the same questions – see if people can tell the difference. That would be much more in the spirit of the test.

    All that said, it's an interesting exercise, and I bring up this criticism only because I think it would be genuinely interesting to actually do it

  148. Jennifer says

    I'd have to say that the "democrat that agrees with Obama's drone policy" definitionally exists – since the executive branch is democrat controlled and we're droning people.

    The trick is that both sides are broad alliances – the blue dog union democrat is not the same as the Cantabridgian Elizabeth Warren democrat is not the same as the ghetto Chicago democrat is not the same as the college radical democrat not the same as ….

    But they're all "liberal democrats."
    and any one of which could scream "fake" if you try to emulate "liberal democrat" as one of the other.

    (And yes, you can play exactly the same game on the right)

    Perhaps Clark should try again, but aim for the civil-libertarian/not-quite-marxist / SWPL-culture flavor of philosophy that's more common among the (especially younger/internet age) American left?

    Also- 0-for-0 – thank you! I..um… think? :)

  149. says

    Trevor:

    racial minority groups. In an attempt to make up for past unfairness, many colleges and universities as well as police and fire departments have set up affirmative action programs favoring those same minority groups.

    Now, some voices, like the voice of the State of Michigan, are saying that using race as a factor in hiring or acceptance decisions is unfair, and that we will not have true racial equality until everyone of every race is actually treated equally.

    First, it's simplistic to say racial discrimination is over. Even if most people no longer racially discriminate, there are social structures that perpetuate discrimination. For example, even if every single cop is agnostic on race, the fact that a police department is 100% white might disuade blacks from even applying.

    What we need to do as a society is to level the reset the playing field. Once that's done, we can get rid of modest affirmative action.

    Until then, the advantages to society as a whole are pretty big, and the disadvantages to any individual are pretty small.

    There's a good argument, by the way, that we should start moving away from racial affirmative action to class or income based affirmative action.

  150. naught_for_naught says

    "I'd just point to meat inspectors at the Department of Agriculture."

    Tell me about brother. They've been keeping me from my dream of opening a dirt-floor abattoir for years now. It's oppressive.

  151. says

    Martin:

    @Richard I didn't think he was trying to pull at the heartstrings so much as observe that helping people in need is the moral and ethical thing for society to do (and hey, it could be you who needs help next)

    Exactly. I'm trying to give the ethical underlayment behind the various program ideas so that you can see that these are one unified whole, not just a list of talking points.

  152. says

    Erwin:

    Even for Salon or HuffPo, my impression is that you seem to be relying more on qualitative or emotional arguments than the median writer there, and the bar isn't high.

    By contrast (and I suspect this argument is wrong if examined fully), a reasonable liberal argument for raising the minimum wage is that…

    …most studies have shown that modest increases to the minimum wage have insignificant impacts to employment and increase resources available to poor people.

    You've told me that I'm too emotional … but haven't given me an example.

    Then you've given me an example of how you would answer a question that hasn't been asked and I haven't answered.

    Less apples vs oranges and more Apples vs apples, please!

  153. says

    John Farrier:

    Folger's Clark, please explain the meaning of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

    I've got a libertarian friend and I've had this argument with him.

    He argues that the federal government's powers are delineates in Article I section 8, and that the 10th amendment says that anything that's not crisply in article I section 8 is therefore prohibited to the federal government.

    Shrug.

    The thing that libertarians don't realize is that in article I section 8 there are three important things: 1) congress has the power to provide for the general welfare, 2) congress can regulate commerce between the states, and 3) congress has the power to make all laws which are necessary and proper.

    The exact meanings of these were open questions in the 18th century, but they've been settled by the Supreme Court.

    Given that the Supreme Court says that the government can regulate what a man grows on his own land and feeds to his own cows, and can regulate minimum wages with in a state, etc. the federal government has a lot more powers than libertarians want to admit.

    It doesn't have infinite powers, though. That's what the 10th says. If a law would not provide for the general welfare then the 10th stops the feds from doing it.

  154. says

    Caleb:

    @ Erwin

    You needn't convince me, I'm with you on this issue. My point is merely skepticism of the proposition that Clark's portrayal of a liberal who backs Obama's drone policy is disingenuous. D.C. in particular is full of them.

    Thank you. I talk to other mainstream Democrat friends, and while none of us is utterly thrilled about the drone program, it's certainly not the case that all of us are against drones either.

    Glenn Greenwald is fairly extreme and doesn't speak for all of us.

  155. Martin says

    @Clark I'm on the record as saying you can't win because the represented group is too diverse and the scoring system too subjective. Ultimately, the fact that everyone here knows the truth means they're not judging you objectively. You've done a very decent job with a deck stacked against you.

    So, my question (thanks for being willing, by the way!): What's the mean Democrat theory underpinning the notion that behaviorally coercive taxes on everything from cigarettes to soft drinks is the correct course of action instead of denying the benefits of societal care to those who choose to take actions that harm themselves?

  156. leo marvin says

    I think Clark's and others' criticism of the commenters who simply said "fail" misses an important point. The part of our brain that assesses credibility is complicated. It processes on multiple levels, some primitive, some rational and analytical, and we're unaware of most of it; we just know the result. We may happen to identify inaccuracies in the narrative, but in the final analysis we're relying on a lot more than just an internal fact check. So trying to reduce it to particulars isn't likely to be productive, since no single item of ideology or policy is determinative. For example, as a pro-Israel advocate of high marginal tax rates and single payer health care, I often see various of my views pilloried from both the left the right within the greater liberal tent, but nobody who talks to me very long doubts I'm a mainstream liberal.

    But you want specifics, so here's as specific as I can get. To be convincing, you have to suspend disbelief and inhabit the mind and heart of the person who holds the views you're selling. You seem to have comprehended the meaning of the arguments, but I don't believe you empathize with those who hold them. Why don't I believe it? See above. It's nothing in particular. It just doesn't feel right. Something in my brain is yelling, "I don't buy it." How do you make yourself temporarily believe and feel things you ordinarily oppose? I don't know. In my observation either you can do it or you can't.

  157. says

    Carl 'SAI' Mitchell:

    Do you support the continued use of extraordinary rendition, torture, assassination, and other
    similar techniques used by our government without giving the victims access to any sort of
    trial?

    No. I'm disappointed in Obama here. During the first Bush administration a lot us argued that terrorism was crime and should be treated as such. That opinions has somehow slipped out of the political narrative in the last few years.

    Obama originally said he was going to close Gitmo and give the inmates there trials, and that would have been a good thing. On the other hand, he did try (briefly) but the Republicans blocked him.

  158. says

    @Just a thought:

    This is very interesting, and valuable.

    Thank you!

    What practical things do you think could be done to reduce the extreme partisanship of today's politics, or is that something we're stuck with given the echo-chamber effect of the internet and social media?

    I think the partisanship is mostly on the right. Obama tried to reach across the aisle and govern with both parties, but the Republicans didn't want to be involved in several major initiatives. They could have had a chance to help shape health care reform, but they chose to stay on the outside and just throw stones. They could have helped shape the budget, but again they'd rather score cheap partisan points.

    Until the Republicans show some evidence of actually being interested in governing, I don't know what can be done.

    The good news, though, is that we won the elections and can get things done, even if they're not on board.

  159. James Pollock says

    Way back at 9:42, mcinsand said:
    "So, I hate to burst your bubble, but honest conservatism is showing some promising growth. There are some people that believe in rolling back the government's reach into our lives… which also explains the backlash against the government's gun control proposals."

    You're assuming that "Conservatives", as a whole, actually consistently advance conservative positions, which they do not. Some of the positions are odd, and many are completely inverted. For example, the abortion debate pits Liberals advancing a conservative argument while Conservatives argue for the supremacy of the state over personal freedom and bodily integrity.

    The majority of the "gun control debate" is a challenge over quibbles; I think that most (nearly all!) Americans would agree with the premise that access to guns should be limited for people who are irresponsible (though they'd disagree, possibly quite strongly, on exactly what "irresponsible" means and on how exactly to limit access.) Even people who reflexively oppose any suggestion of limitation on gun possession will concede that there exist some places where people should not possess firearms, categorically if you present them with the proper scenario… and such scenarios do exist for all of the major arguments in favor of freedom of gun possession. Some examples:
    1) guns to protect personal safety.
    Sure, having a gun provides a sense of personal safety, and in some cases can actually improve real personal safety. But one of the places where your personal safety is most threatened is inside a prison. Should prisoners be permitted to carry?
    2) guns to resist government repression.
    Another frequently-cited argument for freedom of gun possession is that the Founding Fathers found it neccessary to fight their government to secure liberty, and it may again be necessary at some point in the future (not too far in the future, either, according to some).
    OK, when making a felony stop, one of the first things police do is to secure all of the weapons carried by the suspect(s) being detained. Sometimes felony stops are incorrectly performed, and the suspect(s) are entirely innocent of any crime. Does this mean that suspects should be allowed to retain their weapons so that they may resist wrongful interference in their liberty?

  160. says

    1) Should minimum wage laws be retained if a basic income amendment is passed?
    2) Instead of passing laws regulating campaign finances, why not pass an amendment setting the maximum size of Congressional Districts to no more than 200,000 people? It would increase accountability to voters and dilute the power of money to influence elections.
    3) The inequality gap in the US is leading to a small number of people having a lion's share of the wealth. Recent surveys show that upward economic mobility has been decreasing in America for decades. It seems clear that the failures of communism in the 20th century and aristocratic monarchies in the 19th century were due to the limited imaginations of the few in power. America now seems to be moving to the same limitation. How would you explain this danger to conservatives in a way they might understand without them screaming "communist!" and "wealth redistribution!"
    4) Unlike parliamentary systems, our system has a fixed election cycle. I think this leads to never-ending campaigns and allows money a greater influence in politics. How might a variable term of office for the House and possibly the Senate work and do you think it could reduce campaign durations and the influence of money?

  161. repleh says

    "This is where you're wrong – we liberals do think that big government is better as a matter of principle … but it's not an ideological principle, it's a pragmatic one. We've seen that in pretty much every arena too little government leads to problems. So, yes, after a while it becomes a default rule, but one based on evidence."

    This vastly overstates liberal interest in governmetn intervention. I think (unlike 40 years ago) there is widespread acceptance that market capitalism is the most efficient way to achieve growth, and that intervention is necessary only to correct for externalities, to proctect those who lose out through no fault of there and and those who can't compete at all, and other areas as many other commenters have pointed out. I recognize that this is a huge "only", but you should recognize that virtually no one on the left wants unlimited government intervention. Also that many of us recognize that not all government intervention is good — a lot of is used to favor those who are already privileged.

    By the way, I came for the Prenda, and stayed for the excellent writing, strong legal analysis and interesting debate.

  162. says

    @Random Encounter:

    why do you support gun control

    What's the alternative? Somalia? Every advanced country has gun control. There are a few exceptions, but the broad correlation is that the more gun control a country has, the less violent crime that happens there, and the less gun control, the more violent crime.

    Even look at the US: Texas, Arkansas, all the other red states are a lot more violent than Oregon, Massachusetts, New York.

  163. Caleb says

    @ Richard

    I'm just saying that what rings false about his argument is that most people arguing the benefits of welfare would ascribe it some benefit to society as a whole, as opposed to (what I see as) just pointing to how the lives of the welfare recipients themselves are improved.

    An interesting assertion. From my own (admittedly anecdotal) experience, the deferential between number of [persons who desire wealth redistribution on humanitarian grounds despite the fact it would have negative overall economic effects] versus [persons who desire wealth distribution because it would have positive overall economic effects] is about 75/25. To me, the dominant rhetoric seems to be more about 'taming the excesses of capitalism' and less about 'priming the pump of capitalism.' Keynesians really only seem popular inside the beltway. Granted, my experience may not be representative.

    @ LJU3

    That's a great idea! I'm doing the same now.

  164. says

    @Kevin Lyda

    1) Should minimum wage laws be retained if a basic income amendment is passed?

    Basic income? Like a negative income tax?

    I think the chance of that ever happening is near zero – it's kind of a hippy 1970's idea, no?

    2) Instead of passing laws regulating campaign finances, why not pass an amendment setting the maximum size of Congressional Districts to no more than 200,000 people?

    I've heard this idea from libertarians at work. It seems crazy. Congress would be three times larger than it already is, and each representative's voice would be cut by 1/3.

    3) The inequality gap in the US is leading to a small number of people having a lion's share of the wealth. Recent surveys show that upward economic mobility has been decreasing in America for decades.

    Absolutely true.

    How would you explain this danger to conservatives in a
    way they might understand without them screaming "communist!" and "wealth redistribution!"

    You'd think that conservatives, with all their rhetoric about "family farmers" and "independent business people" would be more aware of the fact that mobility is decreasing, but they don't seem to care. I think that shows that much of their concern is really just rhetoric for the rubes – they get most of their funding from large corporations and the rich, so why would they even care about decreasing mobility?

    4) Unlike parliamentary systems, our system has a fixed election cycle. I think this leads to never-ending campaigns and allows money a greater influence in politics. How might a variable term of office for the House and possibly the Senate work and do you think it could reduce campaign durations and the influence of money?

    I have no idea. But it's not in the constitution and it's basically impossible to amend the constitution these days.

  165. says

    @LJU3:

    I got a bit bored and sent each of the questions and answers presented so far to six different friends

    Four said that he was a Democrat… One thought that it was probably a Yellow Dog

    Awesome!

  166. Xenocles says

    I won't judge overall since it would be too easy to affirm my stereotypes. But in the parts where you gush about how moral and educated Democrats are you're laying it on a bit thick. To me, the mainstream seems more subtle with those claims.

  167. says

    repleh

    there is widespread acceptance that market capitalism is the most efficient way to achieve growth, and that intervention is necessary only to correct for externalities, to proctect those who lose out

    Yes, this is exactly what I think. Government can't create wealth, it can merely fix up unfairnesses. And, well, to some minor degree is can create wealth by preventing market failures. Sending poor kids to college so that they can be more productive than they would be if they were slotted into manual labor jobs is one example. But I think we're in near perfect agreement.

  168. says

    @Xenocles

    where you gush about how moral and educated Democrats are you're laying it on a bit thick. To me, the mainstream seems more subtle with those claims.

    I thought I was just among other Democrats when I said that. I probably shouldn't have said it in a public forum. But, come on, it is true.

    This has been covered at the Huffington Post, Slate, Salon – it's been everywhere.

    If that's not enough to convince you I can dig up more studies.

  169. James Pollock says

    "2) Instead of passing laws regulating campaign finances, why not pass an amendment setting the maximum size of Congressional Districts to no more than 200,000 people? It would increase accountability to voters and dilute the power of money to influence elections."

    I'll take this one. The INCREDIBLE difficulty in drawing Congressional districts of 200,000 people such that a roughly equal portion of each district is of each party affiliation would keep it from happening, even if each party didn't have a distinct advantage in trying to draw boundaries that favored themselves. This would lead to a situation where only a few seats in Congress were actually contested, while most were "safe" districts where one party would always win. This actually reduces the inducement to work together and therefore increases the tendency in Congress to gridlock. This, then, INCREASES the importance of capturing those districts that are actually in play and will lead to more campaign spending in those districts, the exact opposite goal from what you were trying to achieve.

  170. George William Herbert says

    I know a number of liberal democrats, conservative democrats, serious progressives, etc. A few people who are "Democratic establishment" were aquaintences (spent some time with the kid of a democratic operative / now occasional TV personality).

    I am generally leaning with Troutwaxer's interpretation.

    Let me add the additional complication – We're talking about particular issues and incidents, and not getting much to deep core values here. Democrat / progressive deep core values (of late) are focused on righting longstanding wrongs, lack of respect for big business (though they will work with it neutrally), and using Government to effect change to right those wrongs. They don't actually prefer "big government", they actually want to get on with righting those wrongs, and see Government as the mechanism, necessarily.

    Only political operatives and a few commentators have moved on from the underlying goals enough that they lose track of those in discussions about why big government is important, etc. The vast majority of real people in those camps want to talk about the importance of the end goals (and damage of the longstanding ills), and how other mechanisms have failed.

    IMHO.

  171. Xenocles says

    @James-

    Why not, rather than worry about the ideological, racial, or other makeup of a district, simply mandate that districts be drawn such that they achieve an even division of population with the minimum number of corners? If a district drawn based on geography remains noncompetitive that seems like it would be a natural consequence of the makeup of the constituency. While the surety of the election might not be a good thing with other things being equal, at least it would be a reflection of the will of that area.

  172. Erwin says

    @Clark
    After reading through more responses, I'm thinking I was wrong.

    There were a few comments along the lines of…
    'every ethical person agrees that government needs to look out for its vulnerable, and provide some minimal level of support to them.'
    …that seemed off.

    But, by and large, I've heard similar things from Democrats. (Particularly your later responses…) And, in your defense, there are writers in Salon who are more heavy-handed in their judgment of Republicans.

    OTOH, I'm not sure how effectively you're imitating, eg, the typical liberal who visits this blog – as they're probably closer to left libertarians. It is a bit of a no-win scenario as 80% of liberals will immediately detest the liberal you're imitating.

    –Erwin

  173. Richard says

    @Martin
    Martin wrote

    I've never heard a libertarian or Republican argue that helping those in need is bad. The questions revolve around whether: a) those people are genuinely needy/deserving (q.v. Bizarro-Clark's complaint of the "welfare queen" straw-… er, straw-woman), and b) whether people should be *compelled* to aid the needy.

    Richard wrote:

    @Martin:
    The two main arguments that conservatives use to rail against welfare, in my experience, are that:
    1) Helping people in need is charity. Charity should be the role of a private citizen, not a government.
    2) Welfare encourages people not to work, when they should be pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.

    I think that your two points mostly overlap with my two points: your b is my 1, and your a is my 2. There's a little leeway between the latter, but I think the point is basically the same: that welfare encourages people to be lazy slobs instead of going out looking for work.

    Again, my quibble with Clark's post is not that liberals don't think that way, but that apart from ethical and moral issues, which can be abstract and rather personal, that a liberal, asked to make a post defending welfare, would not stop after "It's going to benefit Carl, and Fred, and all of the other homeless people," but would probably continue to say that it would benefit society as a whole: maybe lower crime rates, fewer teen pregnancies, fewer abortions, maybe an argument that societies with less income inequality are happier ones…

    Again, I'm not saying that the the moral/ethical cases are not arguments that a liberal would make. I'm saying that a liberal, trying to justify his belief to a conservative (because he probably wouldn't need to justify his belief to another liberal), would probably also sell something about how this benefited everybody, including the reader.

    I'm saying that Clark's argument sounds hollow, sounds like it's missing something, having only the basic "because it's the right thing to do" rhetoric.

    Caleb:

    An interesting assertion. From my own (admittedly anecdotal) experience, the deferential between number of [persons who desire wealth redistribution on humanitarian grounds despite the fact it would have negative overall economic effects] versus [persons who desire wealth distribution because it would have positive overall economic effects] is about 75/25. To me, the dominant rhetoric seems to be more about 'taming the excesses of capitalism' and less about 'priming the pump of capitalism.' Keynesians really only seem popular inside the beltway. Granted, my experience may not be representative.

    Whoa. Back up there. I said that a genuine liberal would probably argue that welfare provides benefits to the society as a whole (in addition to the humanitarian benefits to its recipients). I did not specify that these benefits would be economic.

    I've re-read my posts, and still don't see it. Where did that come from?

  174. David says

    I think the lack of anonymity really kills this experiment. It's hard not to read a bit of sarcasm and condescension into his responses. Something like an inverse Poe's Law, perhaps.

  175. James Pollock says

    Xeno:
    Districts that are not competitive don't improve the responsiveness of Congress and leads to entrenched interests.
    IF the goal is to reduce the importance of money to politics (a sideways approach to making sure that the Congress reflects the people rather than the people with money), THEN the ideal structure is one in which all or nearly all of the Congressional districts are continuously in play. A structure in which most districts are safe increases the importance of the few that are not (an effect seen in "battleground states" in the last several Presidential elections) and allows moneyed interests to focus their spending on only a few. I think that the original assumption was that if there were three or four times as many elections to influence, moneyed interests would find it harder to cover them all, but the actual result of smaller districts is to put most of them out of play.
    I live in a state that has 3 out of 36 counties that are blue, about 30 that are red, and three purple. Yet our Congressional delegation is currently 85% Democrats (4/5 Representatives, 2/2 Senators). If you go to smaller, square-ish districts, you'd get several districts that were drawn out of the heavily red parts of the state, several districts that were drawn out of the heavily blue parts of the state, and maybe one that was purple enough to be in play. Our current gerrymandered districts have one drawn in entirely blue territory, one drawn in entirely red territory, and three that encompass both (with a current total registration edge for Democrats… one of which has been hotly contested the last couple of election cycles because of a weak incumbent combined with near parity in voter registrations in the district.)

    I suspect that the REAL source of "campaign finance reform" over the coming decades will not be the government imposing regulations, but societal changes. As people watch fewer and fewer broadcast television programs, and more importantly, watch fewer commercials, the importance of raising money to buy broadcast ads will diminish, as well.
    I know that I HATE campaign season with a passion because every commercial break has campaign ads… usually negative… to the point that I now actively avoid watching any live television (except for football) during every other fall. DVR and DVD viewing make it possible, and both are rising (OK, DVD is fading and Blu-Ray is rising… but watching TV off of boxsets rather than as the individual episodes air is an increasing trend… and Netflix is a significant player, as well.)

  176. Caleb says

    @ Richard

    I said that a genuine liberal would probably argue that welfare provides benefits to the society as a whole (in addition to the humanitarian benefits to its recipients). I did not specify that these benefits would be economic.

    Ah, my bad. I inferred 'economic' from your 'social mobility' argument above. The argument as I see it: 1) Social welfare allows the marginal poor to achieve economic wealth, 2) welfare benefits society as a whole, therefore 3) social welfare brings economic benefits to the whole of society.

    If the benefit is not economic, what is it?

  177. Xenocles says

    @James-

    While I suspect that more competition would result from my plan, and I believe that is a good thing, I hesitate to try and force it. Take an extreme example: Massachusetts. I know there are Republicans there, but the electorate is skewed so blue that I don't believe the sort of gerrymandering you suggest could be done at all, let alone in a way that results in a fair representation of Massachusetts's desires. It would be monstrously unjust to take a 75-25 electorate (made up numbers) and try to force each district into a coin flip. At least with the current gerrymandering the people drawing the lines have to have demonstrated some popularity by winning an election. To me the emphasis should be more on the process than the result, and the fairest process I can think of is a large number of districts made of the simplest shapes possible.

    I'd like to think we're approaching a natural saturation effect with campaign ads that will result in diminishing marginal returns, but I guess we'll see. I don't like the effect money has in campaigns but to me the speech part of it is too important to yield to the appearance of corruption that can result. I don't have a good solution (by which I mean one that is both acceptable to my ethics and would improve the situation) beyond attempting to decentralize power by adding reps.

  178. AlphaCentauri says

    The reason Clark is having trouble convincing liberals is that the entire exercise presupposes there is a single "liberal" position. That comes off as condescending. Conservatives use the term "liberal" like it's an insult. Real liberals hold a wide variety of views and expect to be in disagreement with one another about many of them. They expected first-term Obama to have to make compromises to get something done, and they are infuriated that so many Republicans worked against their own constituents' best interests in order to get Obama to fail.

    The most conservative wing of the Republican party has become so shrill they have been driving large numbers of moderately conservative voters to the Democrats. So when you try to describe the Democratic position, you're going to have difficulty.

    Democrats are often in agreement on very little except that the Republicans will talk about fiscal responsibility while cutting their own personal taxes, starting unnecessary wars, and driving up the deficit. Or that Republicans will scream about big government and the need to leave charity to private organizations while trying to impose their religious beliefs on our bodies, our marriages, and our children's public school curriculum.

  179. Cat says

    Mr. Folgers Switched Clark – What legislative opinion do you hold solely to restrain yourself rather than others?

    (Or, said another way, what law do you support because it will help you stop doing something versus other laws which are strictly for the purpose of imposing your views on others?)

  180. Richard says

    If the benefit is not economic, what is it?

    I've mentioned several.

    In the "Marxist" post, I lamented that the charismatic, hard working, intelligent, and talented among the impoverished were not able to contribute to society. If these people, their parents on welfare, we able to stay in school, get a scholarship, attend university, get good jobs, they could rise through the ranks and take the place of some of the idiotic CEOs currently in charge of big corporations, and we'd probably see more innovation and better competition.

    Poverty is linked with low education, and both of these are in turn linked to teen pregnancy rates, abortion rates, and violent crime rates. Reducing any of these would be a benefit to society as a whole.

    And countries with lower income inequality rates are, as a whole, shown to be happier.

    These are all societal benefits to bringing and/or keeping people out of poverty that I've already mentioned in previous posts.

  181. different Jess says

    Richard, now you've lost me. You envision this great social effort and upheaval to allow poor kids to become… CEOs? That's like supporting feminism so little girls can grow up to be slave traders. If we're smashing the system, let's make sure to smash the bad parts.

  182. naught_for_naught says

    @Alpha Centauri

    Democrats are often in agreement on very little except that the Republicans will talk about fiscal responsibility while cutting their own personal taxes, starting unnecessary wars, and driving up the deficit.

    I struggle with both sides.

    But as it regards the conservative side, perhaps the biggest lie perpetuated since the passing of the Medicare Part(d) drug bill in 2003, is that our enormous national debt was created during and by the Obama administration. The concept of a structured deficit item seems beyond human comprehension, and no one on the right that I'm aware of is willing to acknowledge what any competent auditor would be able to tell you: our deficit problem was created by decisions made well in advance of 2008.

    I remember arguing with friends over dinner in 2006, friends who are now with the Tea Party, about what a disaster it was to raise the debt ceiling to $9 Trillion. They couldn't understand why I was so upset. Cheney himself claimed, deficits don't matter, and Republicans are conservatives after all, not like those tax-and-spend liberals. Seven years later, they still refuse to look at the facts. It's as if their entire world view would implode, sending them into an existential death spiral, to consider that their time honored stereotypes of the Right and the Left could be wrong.

  183. Andrew Timson says

    @Clark

    What we need to do as a society is to level the reset the playing field. Once that's done, we can get rid of modest affirmative action.

    Until then, the advantages to society as a whole are pretty big, and the disadvantages to any individual are pretty small.

    How is preventing someone from earning a livelihood merely "a small disadvantage"?

    Or do you really think that not being able to get into a good college because they let the less competent person of color in instead, or not being considered for a specific job because they have a quota to meet, aren't things that can and do happen under the aegis of reverse discrimination – excuse me, affirmative action?

  184. Watercressed says

    There are a few exceptions, but the broad correlation is that the more gun control a country has, the less violent crime that happens there, and the less gun control, the more violent crime.

    Even look at the US: Texas, Arkansas, all the other red states are a lot more violent than Oregon, Massachusetts, New York.

    Did you get this wrong intentionally?

  185. Mark says

    I would say that Clark passes the Political Turing Test for Democratic Party Flack with flying colors. But Liberal? No.

    I will be specific as requested.

    1) Why is it important to prosecute government leaks?

    A decent liberal answer:
    In the context of the current AP phone records issue, it is not. When weighed against maintaining the freedom of the press, government security interests have the lower priority. All proper steps can and should be taken against any personnel who have violated current law by divulging classified information, but that must not extend to journalist who are providing a service that any democracy relies on to survive.

    Folger's answer (in summation):
    A decent piece of rhetoric in defense of the Democratic party and the current Justice Department.

    —-> I would posit that this is a large part of why respondents here think your answers are "off". The responses track nicely with Democratic Party talking points, but *far* less well with liberal theories and ideas. The two are far from the same.

    2) Why tax the general populace to provide benefits for the poor?

    Liberal answer:
    (Folgers does a okay enough job here with the ethical and/or religious reasons for this, so I will confine myself to the mercenary and practical) In this, many liberals agree with at least one of those which Folgers holds up as our enemy: Hayek. Some sort of social welfare system provides stability to a society by lowering unrest in the form of hunger, a weak and uneducated labor force, and discontent. You don't just help the poor because it is "right". You help the poor because it is dangerous for a nation to ignore them. Hayek was firm on this point, which is one of the reasons he is known as a "Classical Liberal".
    As for the funding of said help this would be my defense of a progressive (in the structural sense) tax system.
    a) A progressive Federal tax helps to balance the overall burden in the face of the regressive taxes – social security, sales, property, fees, etc.
    b) When looked at historically, regressive tax systems – feudalism, monarchy, oligarchy, etc – tend to be less innovative, prosperous, and healthy.
    c) A large part of federal spending benefits the wealthy to a greater extent in a way not easily measured by accounting.
    As an example, who benefits the most from the massive expense of an interstate highway system: a man who cannot afford a car, a man who can afford two cars, or the owner of a nationwide shipping business?

    The Folgers answer focuses heavily on the ethics as opposed to the nuts and bolts which is why it may be seen as "fluffY"

    I think those two specific answers will do for why I believe Folgers fails the test. That said, I also believe he entered this column in good faith – which I did not not think upon reading the starting premise.

    As long as we can avoid the discussion degenerating into this:
    Conservative (posing as Liberal): "You go like this… 'derpderpderp'"
    Liberal (posing as Conservative): "Oh yeah!! Well you go like this 'duhderpduhduhderp."
    then this exercise can be informative to all political persuasions.

    Now. All this talk of Folgers is making me thirsty for proper coffee. Gonna go brew some up.

  186. Matthew says

    I don't read the comments here much, but if you are actually trying to pass the test, the only thing you succeeded at was successfully parodying what republicans think liberals think. I'm not sure if this whole thing is just sarcastic though.

  187. Maxcat says

    Okay, I still don’t get the point of what you’re really trying to accomplish here.

    That aside, and ignoring the question of whether an Ideological Turing Test is really a Turing Test and further ignoring whether what you’re doing here even actually amounts to an Ideological Turing Test at all, I am quite sure you will never admit or even conceive of the idea that you may have failed what you consider to be an Ideological Turing Test. To do so would be admitting that you are “stupid/ignorant/confused.” That’s not my opinion, that’s yours. You started your blog entry with the foolish idea that one has to be able to understand and regurgitate your opponent’s arguments or you are stupid/ignorant/confused. I completely disagree, but that seems to be what you were saying.

    It’s neither here nor there, but personally I believe that people, as a whole, simply do not think critically about issues at all. Their ideological views are created by their lifetime of experiences. When questioned about their views, they generally don’t consider the questions, the issues, the ramifications, or their beliefs themselves critically. Certainly many, possibly most people are capable of thinking critically but by and large they don’t. That doesn’t mean they are stupid, ignorant, or confused. They just haven’t really considered things critically. Actually, in a way, I see your failure to explain your point here, beyond the questionable explanation at the head of your post, as an example of your failure to think critically.

    But of course, none of that matters, so I will just make some observations…

    Initially, for example in your very first answer to a question, you answered a nine word question about prosecuting people who leak government information with around three hundred words that went off on various tangents including “Republicans are hypocrites,” trophy wives, “Obamacare,” amnesty for undocumented workers, NASA, and that government workers are hardworking men and women. Buried in there was an answer to the question, in my opinion, but it was surrounded by a lot of other stuff. That’s why I think some people were initially saying that your answers were over-the-top or caricatures.

    Your later answers are much shorter, and mostly seem to be devoid of an understanding of the point of view and merely seem to parrot what you perceive the point of view is. As an example there was a question on Affirmative Action. You did initially make a statement that tried to justify an argument: “…even if every single cop is agnostic on race, the fact that a police department is 100% white might disuade (sic) blacks from even applying.” But your later statements just restated opinions, with no indication of an understanding of the underlying reasoning: “What we need to do as a society is to level the reset the playing field.” Huh? “Once that's done, we can get rid of modest affirmative action.” Why? “Until then, the advantages to society as a whole are pretty big, and the disadvantages to any individual are pretty small.” What advantages to society? What disadvantages to individuals? Why is one large and the other small? Why do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? “There's a good argument, by the way, that we should start moving away from racial affirmative action to class or income based affirmative action.” Really? What argument?

    This is really odd because you go on in your very next post to say you are “trying to give the ethical underlayment behind the various program ideas so that you can see that these are one unified whole, not just a list of talking points” when, by and large, you’re just giving a list of talking points. However, to be fair the next question does provide much more rational for the stated position, even though about half of it seems to simply be “attacking” the Libertarian point of view.

    I will say that in my opinion many of your answers do accomplish the goal of “I will answer it as a mainstream liberal US Democrat,” which is not to say that you have actually shown many instances of having “considered the position and found it wanting.” You just “sound” like a mainstream liberal US Democrat, albeit, one who like most people (liberal US Democrat or not) doesn’t really think critically about what they say.

    I find your comments and everyone else’s very interesting, but I still don’t see your point. Possibly, you don’t have one.

  188. repleh says

    Folger's Clark stated goal was to imitate/understand the arguments of "a mainstream liberal US Democrat." If that means the average such person, I think he more or less succeeded. But that's because (Sturgeon's law) the average argument on any subject isn't going to be all that good. It would be much more challenging and rewarding to understand the best argument the other side has to offer. I think the liberal commenters here have the better of it — they have made much better arguments for liberalism than you.

  189. says

    Regarding you seeming off. . . My opinion is most people don't try to demonstrate knowledge or understanding, they just mouth sound bites to claim membership. This holds true regardless of the ideology except for small tent libertarians and policy wonks.

    Remember, there is no real reason to understand the issues. Almost everyone around them is a member of the group, so they don't need to understand enough to explain. A few simple phrases or even just a nod of the head is more than enough for most people.

    This explains the reason people go right into attack mode – they cannot have a discussion without displaying their lack of knowledge.

    So rather than you coming across as a member of the group, your explanations place you outside normal political discourse.

    You being off is more of a failure of the test, than in your responses.

    You do a good job of explaining the issues in a way that a liberal might, but any liberal who spent as much time seeking an understanding of the issues as you obviously have, would soon become a former liberal

  190. different Jess says

    If this lengthy performance is the sort of exercise in which one must engage to draw out the better, more intelligent class of opinionated liberal, then bravo to Folger's for the effort, but in that case it isn't exactly a surprise that we don't see much of them on a day-to-day basis.

  191. AlphaCentauri says

    By the way, having recently had a daughter applying to colleges, I have found that one of the biggest issues right now is gender preferences — favoring males. If you are a female applicant, you have a significantly lesser chance of attending a prestigious college. Fewer men are applying to college for various reasons, one of which is probably that blue collar work pays much more than pink collar work. You don't hear much about the issue, because even the female applicants who are facing this discrimination consider a college with a disproportionately female student body less desirable. They understand that a diverse student body enhances their college experience. They accept it and add more safety schools to their list.

    By the same token, racial preferences can make a school more or less desirable to applicants, even those who might have a reduced change of admission because of those same policies. Many people believe that attending a college that has a student body and faculty that is almost entirely white would provide a less valuable education than one that exposes students to a broad cross-section of society. Other people think highly of standardized test scores — especially when they do well on such tests — and they want applicants ranked strictly on their performance on the SAT, even if it results in an extremely homogenous student body that will never challenge one other's preconceptions. In the long term, it can hurt the value of the alumni's degrees if a school sinks into mediocrity while pursuing numerical superiority. In private universities, it's no one's business but the school's board of directors what path they want to take. It's only a question with tax-supported universities, where some tax-paying families will always be disappointed when the acceptance letters go out.

  192. Martin says

    @Richard:

    I believe I understand you and your perspective on this, but we seem to be talking past each other. I see the issue of whether Clark accurately captured how a mainstream Democrat *thinks* about the problem as the most relevant way to assess his overarching thesis–that he understands how liberal Democrats see the world–than whether he sounded pitch-perfect for a Democrat posting about this topic on a message board. And my response comes from this basis You are debating whether he sounds right in a tactically relevant situation (namely the world of blog comment politics). I appreciate your perspective, and certainly respect your right to judge the authenticity of Clark's response for yourself. I happen to feel that the rubric you are applying is less relevant to assessing the success or failure of Clark's true experiment than the rubric I am applying. But of course I don't have a corner on the truth market.

  193. says

    "The Republicans try to distract you with phrases like "welfare queens" and talk about black mothers with a dozen kids by different fathers, but not only does this show their inherent racism"

    Racism in the 2nd reply? PASS!

  194. James Pollock says

    Martin, the question is whether Clark (or anyone else) understands the arguments advanced by an ideology he does not share, well enough to engange them properly. The present thesis is that a person who cannot explain the opposition's arguments isn't really qualified to argue against them. (I do not think that this is a question of intelligence, although a lack of intelligence, if present, would contribute to the problem. Rather, it is a question of whether or not an emotional filter prevents an objective analysis of facts or how they are related. At the far end, you have the people who have advanced the theory that President Obama used weather-control technology to create tornadoes in Oklahoma to distract the country from the current scandals. Scary… right up there with the OTHER conspiracy fans who put forth the theory that W intentionally didn't send enough troops to Iraq so that the war would take longer and the crony capitalists would make more money on no-bid contracts. Now, I can't say that Halliburton is a better or worse boogeyman than HAARP, but I wouldn't want EITHER set of nuts making policy, and I doubt that many of them would pass this ideological Turing test.

    Now, if the goal is to pass one's self off as an "average" Democrat (or an "average" Republican), it's probably not that hard because I would bet that most members of the parties are largely ignorant of the detailed arguments their party makes on most issues… if I had to guess, I'd say that most "average" party members know most of the arguments on a few issues they personally care about, some of the arguments on most issues, and none at all for some issues. Of course, it's also important to remember that many, if not most, party members disagree with their party's position on some issues.
    Thus, a Turing testee who follows the party line all the way down the line rings untrue.
    Now, in contrast to the "average" party member, there are a relatively small number of politically active members, who are actively engaged in policy setting, policy debate, and such matters. This portion of the party (probably less than 10%) is more informed about more issues, including their party's position, the opposition party's position, and the arguments both ways. This subset tends to be the subset that actually sets party positions (although not always). This group tends to A) be better schooled in debate, B) have a higher interest level, C) be better able to articulate the argument(s) in their favor, and D) be more likely to identify the actual argument the opposing party makes.

    I would argue that sometimes, the opposing party is better able to identify biases than is the party actually bringing forth an argument.

  195. James Pollock says

    Whoops. Forgot to tie things together.
    I think that to have any validity at all, an ideological Turing testee needs to successfully pass themselves off as one of the "top 10%" of the opposing viewpoint, rather than the "average" member, and although understanding the emotional judgments and biases that inform the opinions of the average members helps to understand the arguments advanced by the party, it is neither necessary nor sufficient to do so.

  196. fakerepublican says

    This really does come off as a Republican mocking Democrats. I apologize if this comes across as snark, but your answers on the 10th Amendment and government bureaucracy in particular seemed intentionally facile. To me, at least, you're coming across as perhaps a thirteen-year-old Democrat, or a completely uninformed person who's watched some MSNBC, or perhaps a commentator at DailyKos.

    Sorry if this is discouraging; I'll put up how I'd answer some of the questions when I have more time.

  197. Jon says

    Explain the purpose of Copyright assuming that your test is invalid because Alan Turing was Gay. They allow Gay Marriage in California so the test is cannot be applied in Georgia…. . Please reply as a Liberal remembering that Anonymous attacked paypal in 2010. Do not forget to explain — Look at the Monkey

  198. Zem says

    So, Folger's Clark, can a nation born in voilent revolution ever know true peace? And if so would you recommend this course of action to the Indian Nations?

  199. Allen says

    Clark, I think you've carried it off well. I believe it passes the original version of the Turing Test, i.e. would you pass as a liberal democrat. Based on what I hear from that particular stripe in Congress I would say yes.

    I am looking forward to the republican version, it should be funnier.

    As to a question. Do you believe government spending included as a part of GDP skews that metric?

  200. James Pollock says

    Allen's answer above points out an important difference between the Turing test and the Ideological Turing test. The latter requires convincing a "neutral judge", but the former does not… to pass, the artificial intelligence must convince a human being that the AI is another human being. The equivalent would be convincing representatives of the adversarial ideology that the person is of that ideology.
    I suspect that under that criteria, very few would be able to pass.

    I'm disappointed. Folger's Clark never even addressed my question in passing.

  201. Mark says

    Perhaps the answer that rings the most false is when Folgers defends himself from charges that he is too over the top to be a mainstream liberal Democrat by stating the following:

    "Can you give me an example of something I've said above that is out of keeping with the Slate / Salon / NYT mindset?"

    That is a really strange answer. What liberal or Democrat on earth would hold up Slate, Salon, or the NYT as the source of their guiding principles? Troublingly, this answer shows more contempt for a perceived position than understanding of an actual position.

    As a liberal myself, I would probably have shrugged off an accusation that I am not what I claim. Maybe I would have made a counter-accusation that my accuser is close minded and dogmatic. Perhaps I would have cited Hobbes, or the Bible, or the Constitution if I wanted backup. The very last defense I would make is "My views are just like the liberal New York Times and Slate."

    Imagine, for the moment, that you are answering as a mainstream conservative when another conservative accuses you of being a fake conservative. What conservative would *ever* say:

    "Can you give me an example of something I've said above that is out of keeping with the FoxNews / Daily Caller / WSJ mindset?"

    Perhaps in this reply you were breaking character and replying as "real" Clark, not Folgers?

  202. Conster says

    @Allen "Clark, I think you've carried it off well. I believe it passes the original version of the Turing Test, i.e. would you pass as a liberal democrat. Based on what I hear from that particular stripe in Congress I would say yes."
    I'd say Clark can pass as a liberal democrat about as well as Stephen Colbert usually passes as a conservative republican – only as long as it's a dumb one. He can parrot, yes, but he doesn't seem to really understand the arguments, which is the purpose of the test.

  203. Xenocles says

    Perhaps the exercise highlights the Chinese Room objection to the Turing test, which suggests that understanding is not necessary to pass a test based on external appearances.

    Stephen Colbert says the right words that allow him to pass as a conservative to an audience that has an unfavorable view of conservatives. He affirms their prejudices, so they accept his performance.

    At his most successful Clark might have, had he done the experiment under cover, convinced an actual liberal that he was on the team. Further discussion into some issues might have uncovered Clark's lack of understanding of the positions, but by parroting the right buzzwords or sound bites Clark convinces his partner that further discussion is not necessary. This is nothing more than the infiltration of a confidence man. The world of Poe's Law makes this exercise even less fruitful than it was.

    I have come to believe that true understanding of other points of view is a very valuable thing. But perhaps the way to demonstrate it is to avoid the loud asshole segment of your opposition, engage someone rational, and openly outline your perception of his side's position for his critique.

  204. AlphaCentauri says

    I was envisioning one of Mark Twain's characters explaining how things are done, which would conclude with a zinger at the end that shows how absurd it all is.

  205. Jay says

    @Xenocles

    Stephen Colbert actually passes as a conservative to some conservatives as well. I was visiting my folks one day and I flipped the TV to the Colbert Report. My dad (who's quite conservative) was enjoying the show and actually asked at one point if Colbert was "affiliated in any way" with Fox News. I kid you not.

  206. Xenocles says

    Like I said, Poe's Law confuses things. And Colbert does sometimes say things that make it sound like he's advocating real conservative ideas. Sometimes I would watch and agree with some of the character's ideas even as I knew he was mocking them. But all of this comes back down to my objection that assuming an external appearance does not demonstrate intellectual understanding so much as it does an ability to deceive the audience (or affirm their preconceived notions). Colbert's ability to lead people on who aren't in on the joke (as demonstrated by the looks of horror from many of his guests) is entertaining, but is it really useful?

  207. Jay says

    As a window into the conservative world view, Colbert's performance isn't really useful. As a form of entertainment, I think we agree that it's useful (at least to some).

    My intent wasn't to refute the bulk of your point, I just thought you were being a bit unkind to Colbert and his audience is all. "Prejudice" is kind of a loaded word, but I'm sure you meant it in its most literal meaning and apart from the pejorative connotations it can have.

    I think you're spot on that properly deploying the right buzzwords and soundbites can give someone the veneer of holding certain viewpoints, but that veneer would start to peel away under deeper discussion.

  208. Ryan says

    Clark isn't really an obvious candidate for Poe's Law at work, though. This paragraph early on says it all:

    My first point is a bit delicate, so let's keep this between me and you. We both know that the people in government aren't the same as the people outside of government. The average level of education is higher and they vote Democrat a lot more often than the population as a whole, so we're talking about people who are a bit more intelligent, a bit more kind, and a bit more moral than average. I mean, heck, they're in the field of public service. So right there they've got motivations that are good and reasonable.

    This is pretty obviously parody. Once again, I'm an outside observer to US politics and a statement like that originates in the 'conservative' camps when parodying or satirizing their opponents; it is not a statement you would expect to see from someone making a rational argument on the Democrat side of the spectrum (not, at least, until you get a few standard deviations away from the mean).

    I'm a classical liberal in the general political philosophy sense, which lands me as a 'conservative' in Canada, and yet none of what Folger's Clark is posting would convince me he's doing anything other than going through the motions. I don't find his emulation convincing.

  209. Maxcat says

    Comparing whatever Clark is attempting to do here with Stephen Colbert is at best incorrect and at worst dangerous to what I understand Clark’s general purpose of writing on PopeHat is.

    Stephen Colbert, the real person, is a comedian portraying a character that happens to have the name Stephen Colbert. Stephen Colbert, the real person, has no need to respect allegiance to any ideology other than comedy. Thus he is free to have the character Stephen Colbert present any idea or rationale he chooses, whether or not it truly follows conservative principals. The goal is to be funny not to push a conservative agenda. You can argue whether he is successful or not, but you can’t argue his goal.

    This is the same reason why conservatives debating Jon Stewart, objectively, always fail. The Daily Show is not a news show, it is a comedy show. Jon Stewart and his repertory company have no requirement to stay within the lines of objective journalism because they aren’t really journalists, they are comedians. Again, you can argue whether they are successful, but you can’t argue the goal.

    Do both The Colbert Report and The Daily Show push a Liberal agenda? Arguably, yes, after all they are both political satirists; however, remember the television network they are on. They aren’t on Fox News or MSNBC, they are on the Comedy Channel. One can go off on some non-sense rant about “The Liberal Media” but Time-Warner cares more about their ratings than their supposed agenda.

    Whatever Clark is attempting to accomplish here, I hope it isn’t to emulate Stephen Colbert or some other type of parody or satire. If it is, maybe he needs to work on his stand-up and improvisational skills a bit more; he’s got a long way to go before he’s ready to audition for Second City.

  210. Xenocles says

    I meant it in both senses. We all bring preconceived notions to the table and the danger of parody or satire is the trap of relying on them to inform your art. Colbert's act may not have the same historical baggage as a minstrel show, but it's still basically just blackface with an ideological bent rather than a racial one. To those in the audience who aren't very careful – and I assume that's most of the audience simply because I would guess that the effort required to be very careful is an effective deterrent – it's easy to accept the parody as the real thing because it looks like your perception of the real thing.

    What's missing in most of our visible political discourse is the principle of charity. We are very quick to assume the worst of our opponents – that the supporters of immigration restrictions are racists, that opponents of gay marriage hate gay people, that opponents of welfare want poor people to die, that supporters of gun control want to crush everyone under a jackboot. If you talk to most of the people who hold any of the positions I listed you'd find that at the very least their reasons are not the worst-case ones I provided. This is mostly what I mean when I say prejudice – that we have assessed their motives to be evil simply because we disagree with them.

  211. Martin says

    @James Pollock

    So your thesis appears to be that someone with an "emotional filter" could ably articulate all the assertions, premises and implications of an argument and yet be unable to actually engage logically with the argument. I disagree.

    Find me a genuine conspiracy theorist who can articulate a coherent mainstream democrat case for welfare and we'll talk.

  212. Xenocles says

    @Ryan-

    But Poe's Law is not that it's hard to tell the difference between the mainstream and parody, it's that it's hard to tell the difference between a sincere extremist and a parody of the same. As I said earlier I thought that claim of goodness and intellect was laying it on thick for an imitation of the mainstream. However, there are absolutely examples of leftists who really do think like that. It's just that it's dangerous to use them as representatives of anything other than their extremist sector, which is likely very small.

  213. Sini says

    Feedback from Liberal: The answers are off and read like something out of the Onion.

  214. Martin says

    @Xenocles It's the state-it-in-your-own-words bit that demonstrates the understanding. That's why all the teachers ask for that. The Chinese Room thought experiment is addressing a very different problem.

  215. Jay says

    I disagree with your minstrel show analogy entirely. Setting aside the historical baggage of a minstrel show, the idea behind it is to mock people simply for who they are, which is an especially cruel form of entertainment. Parody or satire of political beliefs (political beliefs which people can choose to either embrace or reject) is an entirely different affair.

    I think you make a valid point about being wary of coming to accept parody or satire as the real thing, although I think you overstate the difficulty of avoiding that outcome. In a way, parody and satire can essentially become a straw man, but when it's generally understood to be parody, at least it's flagged as such.

    I agree 100% about the need for more charity in political discourse. Sadly, many important issues are practically impossible to discuss politely because people jump to unfounded assumptions about the underlying motivations of those with opposing views.

  216. Xenocles says

    @Martin-

    Yes, but the point of the Chinese Room is that it may not be possible to tell the difference.

  217. Martin says

    @Xenocles This is why I said that it's addressing a very different problem. The Chinese Room is fundamentally very flawed as an objection to simulations like this, because all it shows is that you can't prove that a system which demonstrates cognition has that cognition existing in all parts of the system. But of you can't. My fingers don't understand English, but that's not an objection to my sufficiency as a thinking entity who's typing this post out.

  218. Martin says

    That was supposed to be "of course you can't." Apparently my fingers really DO suck at English :-)

  219. LJU3 says

    @Clark
    I heard back from the sixth friend to whom I e-mailed Folgers Clark's first several answers, and he thought the author was most likely a college-educated low-level Democratic operative ("perhaps a canvasser or phone-bank operator").

    So, you're six-for-six among my (pretty ideologically diverse) sample, assuming you think a "conventional Democrat", Yellow Dog, and "low-level Democratic operative" all fall somewhere within the spectrum of "mainstream liberal Democrat".

    @Caleb
    Did you receive any results from your own testing on the matter?

  220. Marzipan says

    LJU3, were these free responses from the friends you canvassed, or were they given response options from which to choose? It sounds more like the former in this last post, but in your previous post, I was unsure whether "rate" meant "from a scale of options/descriptors" or "freely describe in your own words".

  221. Conster says

    @Maxcat: "Comparing whatever Clark is attempting to do here with Stephen Colbert is at best incorrect and at worst dangerous to what I understand Clark’s general purpose of writing on PopeHat is."
    Which is not what I meant to do at all. I merely compared the outcome of his attempts with Stephen Colbert's persona – Clark doesn't seem to really understand the liberal viewpoints, so his attempts to emulate them come across as mockery.
    Now, I'm not saying this makes him stupid/confused/whatever – I'm a left-wing European (a continent where liberals are considered right-wing), and I freely admit I don't understand a lot of the viewpoints of American politicians, be they Republican, Democrat or Independent, nor do I understand many of the viewpoints of my country's political parties.

  222. says

    I wish I'd read your responses before I was aware of the experiment, because I believe I would have identified several of your responses herein as essentially mocking strawmen positions of liberal democrats, but I'm not sure if this is because I'm familiar with what you're trying to do. I suspect that my foreknowledge has biased my reactions (Full disclosure here, I tend to fall into the spectrum between fiscally conservative democrat and traditionally liberal libertarian; most conservatives think I'm a liberal and most liberals think I'm a conservative). What I would really love to see would be for you to get multiple responses to a few of these questions form various people pretending to be a liberal and one actual liberal and allow me to try to select the actual liberal out of all of them.

  223. Caleb says

    I lamented that the charismatic, hard working, intelligent, and talented among the impoverished were not able to contribute to society…we'd probably see more innovation and better competition.

    I hope you can see how I'd interpret this as an "economic" benefit. The incidence of benefit from the marginal work done by the uplifted poor falls on society in the form of economic benefit.

    Poverty is linked with low education, and both of these are in turn linked to teen pregnancy rates, abortion rates, and violent crime rates. Reducing any of these would be a benefit to society as a whole.

    Granted, but benefit society how? The harm caused by those ills you identify falls only on the individuals who experience them in the first instance. The persons directly harmed by crime are only those who are victims of crime, the direct sufferers of teen pregnancies are the teen parents and their children, ect. In order to impute secondary negative impacts to the rest of society as a whole, you need to identify what form those impacts take. When a victim suffers a crime, the rest of society does not experience the same harm s/he does. Rather, it suffers from secondary effects such as taxes to hire police officers, maintain the courts, or jail the perpetrator; reduced economic activity in high crime areas, ect. Particularized harm of a given social ill is not transitive.

    And countries with lower income inequality rates are, as a whole, shown to be happier.

    Given that the incidence of happiness is transitive across society (dubious, but I'll skip that): what means happiness? Are you referencing some utilitarian conception which assumes uniformity of type? What weight does higher societal happiness have? Is it supreme, or are there other considerations? If others exist, what is their principled basis?

    These are all societal benefits to bringing and/or keeping people out of poverty that I've already mentioned in previous posts.

    I can only see two societal benefits which apply: economic, and "happiness" (whatever that means). All others are particular and non-transitive, not societal.

    @ Clark

    I emailed the questions and your answers to ~25 people and asked them to identify your ideology. It was a good spread from social conservative to progressives, a few Marxists and a few libertarians.

    In general, the conservatives said 'democrat' or 'liberal.' No more sophisticated identifier. One said: "sounds like most the guys I work with."

    Those on the left generally identified you as a not-so-sophisticated moderate Democrat. They generally bemoaned what they saw as technically correct but shallow arguments. One said: "He says all the right things. But he makes it all sound bad. He probably watches too much Olberman."

    The Marxists and social democrats didn't think much of you. They saw your answers as an example of what is wrong with the Democratic party.

    The libertarians were like the conservatives in their generic labeling, with the exception of one guy who was the closest to catching on. I actually talked with him on the phone, so I don't have his response in text. But he said something like: 'He sounds like me if I were trying to impersonate a liberal.'

    Take that for what you will.

  224. James Pollock says

    "So your thesis appears to be that someone with an "emotional filter" could ably articulate all the assertions, premises and implications of an argument and yet be unable to actually engage logically with the argument."

    No, it's the opposite. The filtering obscures or prevents the person who has it from seeing the actual connections between facts, and conspiracy theorists are the extreme examples of this. Note that this effect is not limited to politics, it's common in sports, as well… a Yankees fan and a Red Sox fan, looking at the same exact pitch, may see a ball or a strike thrown based on how it would affect their team. See also the difference amongst white people and black people on the subject of whether O.J. did it, or if he was framed by LAPD… even though both sides had access to the exact same trial telecast.

  225. princessartemis says

    I haven't read all the comments and don't want to pass any judgment on how Clark is doing as Folger's Clark…just want to say, really, that I've got a lot of respect for someone willing to attempt something like this.

  226. Martin says

    @James Pollock

    Then I will confess myself unsure of the point of your initial post directed at me. If you already agreed with my past posts that the underlying purpose of this exercise was for Clark to demonstrate that he understands how a mainstream liberal Democrat thinks about these topics–and that demonstrating a command of the facts, arguments and premises was sufficient to accomplish this–then what was the objective of the long explanatory post? What did you think that I didn't understand or agree with that you were trying to argue/elucidate?

    c.f. some of my previous posts:

    5/23 2:43PM to Maxcat:
    "I think Clark's point was that trying to dismiss the other side by claiming that they "just don't understand" is pretty hollow, since the reality is that they often DO understand (they just don't happen to agree). So the core of the debate that followed is whether Clark genuinely understands the mainstream Democrat position well enough to simulate it."

    5/23 9:37PM to Richard:
    "I see the issue of whether Clark accurately captured how a mainstream Democrat *thinks* about the problem as the most relevant way to assess his overarching thesis–that he understands how liberal Democrats see the world–than whether he sounded pitch-perfect for a Democrat posting about this topic on a message board."

  227. James Pollock says

    The question is not whether Clark understands what mainstream liberal Democrats think (as if that were a singular entity). The question is whether he understands the arguments presented by them (where the arguments to be confronted are (or should be) the best ones available.) The test is mastery of the arguments. Most arguments are made not by "average" members, but by "elites" (where "elite" really means "people who are really interested and have the time and energy required to make the effort" in this context. The fact is, many "liberal Democrats" are blissfully unaware of the some, many, or even most arguments made in support of their positions (as are many "conservative Republicans" similarly limited, and for the same reason.) so being able to sound like one of them DOES NOT reflect mastery of the arguments. It's skilled mimicry, is all. A parrot can sound like an average "liberal Democrat", and this does not indicate that the parrot is prepared to debate any of the issues. So, praising Clark for being able to "sound like" an "average liberal Democrat" doesn't bear on the original premise… that one should be able to successfully argue both (or all) sides of an argument to demonstrate mastery of the issue.
    To demonstrate mastery of the issues, the test is to be able to construct original arguments from each side, and explain them fully without dismissing those arguments one actually disagrees with.

    I don't think Clark was even attempting to prove that he understands how a "mainstream liberal Democrat" thinks… he was trying to prove that, because he could advance an argument that sounds like it comes from a liberal Democrat even though he himself is ideologically opposed to liberal Democrats, this is proof that he is not blinded by ideology in advancing arguments on these topics.
    Understanding how "X" thinks is neither necessary nor sufficient to counter the arguments advanced by "X", regardless of the value of X.

  228. Mark says

    @James Pollock

    But I thought the point was

    "The Ideological Turing test is important because it lets us disambiguate between two different cases:

    1) my opponent does not agree with position X because he is too stupid / ignorant / confused to understand position X

    2) my opponent does not agree with position X because he has considered it and found it wanting."

    If we take that premise as given, can we say that Clark disagrees with position X (where X="mainstream US liberal Democrat) because he has considered it and found it wanting? Or can we say that he does not truly understand position X?

    If the test is valid (an iffy proposition) then the result is clear. Clark does not understand mainstream US liberal positions. I would say he is clearly trying, though. That is admirable.

    As i understand your counter to this, many who hold position X *also* do not truly understand position X. That may be true, but how does it change Clark's performance on the test in any way?

  229. Erwin says

    @James So, if I understand you…a better test would be to articulate the foundational arguments underlying mainstream liberal policy choices?

    So, a reasonable question might be:
    Why is the ACA a good idea?
    And a reasonable answer might be…

    Well, the free market is just too expensive. Healthcare expenditures are nearly double those in Europe – for care that is typically equivalent or worse than that provided by socialized medicine. Also, uninsured people are expensive when they get sick – but refusing care is problematic because people will kill to get medicines for their loved ones.

    The free market failed in the US because … blah blah blah.

    Of course, the ACA sucks because…but it is still likely to work provide better medical care at lower cost than the prior system.

    Would something along those lines fit the bill?

    –Erwin

  230. Richard says

    I hope you can see how I'd interpret this as an "economic" benefit. The incidence of benefit from the marginal work done by the uplifted poor falls on society in the form of economic benefit.

    I was more thinking of the benefit to society by displacing some of the spoiled rich kids with smart, determined kids who know the meaning of hard work. To wit, an overall improvement in the "next generation of leaders." Not so much that the economy would benefit due to having more people working; I think the cost/benefit ratio on that might be a little too narrow to be convincing.

    Granted, but benefit society how? The harm caused by those ills you identify falls only on the individuals who experience them in the first instance. The persons directly harmed by crime are only those who are victims of crime, the direct sufferers of teen pregnancies are the teen parents and their children, ect. In order to impute secondary negative impacts to the rest of society as a whole, you need to identify what form those impacts take. When a victim suffers a crime, the rest of society does not experience the same harm s/he does. Rather, it suffers from secondary effects such as taxes to hire police officers, maintain the courts, or jail the perpetrator; reduced economic activity in high crime areas, ect. Particularized harm of a given social ill is not transitive

    I… honestly don't know what to say to this. What I'm reading you as saying is that to benefit a society, a change must be (a) tangible, and (b) must measurably benefit most of the people in the society. If that's the case (and I'm going to assume it is, for the remainder of this section of my post, because that's how you're coming across to me), I think we have a disconnect in the way we think about community and society.

    Note: I'm going to use the words "community" and "society" interchangeably from here in, because I see them as essentially the same thing.

    You're asking me to explain why a community where people hurt each other less, where women have fewer unplanned pregnancies (I really should have said "unplanned" pregnancy instead of "teen" pregnancy; I apologize), where they are forced to terminate these pregnancies less often, is a better society than the alternative. The truth of that is so self-evident to me, so intrinsic to my idea of what community and society are, that I don't really have words that can convey it. The short version is: a society, though made of people, is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Quick example: an colour-blind society is better than a racist society, even if 90% of the society is of one race. The fact that the majority of people in a society do not tangibly, measurably benefit from the change does not take away from the fact that the change improves the society as a whole.

    I could write an entire post about what community means to me, but I'm not going to, because that would be going even further off-topic than we already are, and because I possibly might be misunderstanding what you're misunderstanding about what I'm saying.

    Given that the incidence of happiness is transitive across society (dubious, but I'll skip that): what means happiness? Are you referencing some utilitarian conception which assumes uniformity of type? What weight does higher societal happiness have? Is it supreme, or are there other considerations? If others exist, what is their principled basis?

    I'm simply taking the "happier" (or, more precisely "more satisfied") finding from this study:

    We find that income inequality has a negative and significant effect on life satisfaction. This result is robust to changes of regressors and estimation choices and also persists across different income groups and across different types of countries.

    http://ideas.repec.org/p/inq/inqwps/ecineq2010-178.html

  231. says

    One can not double-blind in ones own head, but I'd say that your rendition comes off a little false for extra whif of the "dilettante". The problem is one of stereotypes and the fact that any attempt to portray a stereotype must fail unless the "neutral judge" subscribes to the stereotype itself.

    Now I don't think stereotypes are even "wrong" or "harmful". Every non-proper noun is a stereotype. Teacher. Lawyer. Cop. Good Cop. Bad Cop. Crooked Cop. Pundit. Gardner. Every title and label does itself label nothing other than a stereotype and we, each and every one of us, populate those stereotypes. It's literally how our brains work. Without the stereotype mechanism we would not be able to organize our society at all.

    So here we have a duplication error. The result of photocopying a photocopy. You mince the words with alacrity but your stereotype of _my_ stereotypes — that is your view of my view — when re-told is rotten at its core for a disengenuity (to coin a word perhaps).

    For example your "good and wise" phrasing is a sneer, or reads as such for being the black-face equivalent concentration posibilities that an actual person would probably phrase as "most workable so far" at the most.

    In terms of your Turing Test, you have failed. You have aligned the minute facts reasonably well enough, but you have failed to leaven it with the actual uncertainty that would be behind a truly typical speaker. You cast for the furthest shore and then went somewhere beyond it.

    That is, after all, the dangerous conceit inherent in trying to speak in the voice of another.

    I don't claim I would do any better speaking as you, or even as some imagined "opposite other" of myself. The premise is full of itself. Any self-aware person knows that the opposite other is impossible, it cannot exist. One can be opposed, sure enough, but to imagine there is some linear measure and a point along it that could accurately trace out an opposite is to turn oneself and ones opponents into caricature.

    As a rhetorical device, we reduce our opponents diminison with flagrant regularity. But having done so you cannot step into that and accurately re-inflate it into an accurate semblance of being.

    There's also a lot of crosstalk in your opposite other. The entire price-of-milk argument isn't one I would expect to hear from a democrat so much as a small-farm republican arguing for specific protectionism of near-term social interests. A democrat would, in general argue that point over safety and diversity of the milk and local sourcing rather than pricing minimums industry-wide.

    In short your factual representation of your opposite other was hit and miss, your "colour text" was colourful but pretty far off the mark. I see how well it played to your base — it sounded just like your compatriots stereotypes would desire and envision — but outside that target audience it was wince-inducing in the not-satirical way.

    I wouldn't claim to do better pretending to be you, but then again I wouldn't try. The exercise is flawed.

    IMHO of course.

  232. James Pollock says

    "If we take that premise as given, can we say that Clark disagrees with position X (where X="mainstream US liberal Democrat) because he has considered it and found it wanting? Or can we say that he does not truly understand position X?"

    I do not believe Folger's Clark displayed complete understanding of position X, no… he slipped into stereotype territory a couple of times… but I also don't think that Folger's Clark is an accurate representation of Clark's understanding in toto. Like several commenters already, I think it takes guts to submit to this kind of test, and I suspect that many people, including many people paid to have and share opinions on important issues, could not do it as well (or, in some cases, at all.)
    The first challenge of debate is to earn the respect of the opponent, because without that, no real communication is possible (this is why the "debate" in Washington D.C. is so unproductive.) I think Clark deserves some for subjecting himself to this type of challenge (even if he never came near my question, or several others.)

  233. Ibidem says

    Clark, I say you failed the moment you mentioned "Obamacare" without quotes. That is a term that only a Tea Party member would use, intended to deprecate the Affordable Care Act.

    (Now I dare you to guess where I stand on that.)

  234. says

    As far as the ACA. If we wait to build the emergency rooms until after you — the full-fare participant with your own free-market health insurance — you are going to die. Infrastructure-intense facilities, such as health care, or education, or power generation need to exist and be maintained before the moment of demand. People who don't (want to) pay for health insurance (and who don't want to have a public option) are free-loaders before-the-fact.

    One of the first rules of capitalism is that demand _proceeds_ supply. So in a free-market capitalist health system you would have to lose (e.g. kill off by circumstance) some percentage of each demand spike. Yet, if we have such a spike and people could not find care there would be — and has been — public outcry. Where were the aid workers? Why was my child left to bleed out? How can the emergency rooms be full? And so on.

    If you don't pay into the system _before_ you need it, the system won't be there if or when you do need it.

    Further still, if the system is the libertarian ideal, where you only pay for as much of the system as you actually use, then your predecessors would have done likewise and the system will not be prepared for your particular and specific needs.

    Ask yourself if you have ever actually been in the stock room of a trauma centre… Or if you have ever looked at the background of one of those life-and-death-in-the-ER reality shows. All that stuff has to actually be there for it to do you any good. Not just in town. Not just in the hospital in general. Stacks and stacks of expensive stuff has to be sitting in drawers in the individual rooms or your ass is grass.

    So why isn't the libertarian ideal one of requiring people to pay for the availability of service?

    And if it were to be such an idea, what would you suggest be done with those who don't want to pay? What of those who's bosses don't want to have paid? We gave up stacking the infirm and injured in a pit just outside of town sometime ago. It's not a thing to be gone back to.

    And oddly enough, once you force (yes, force) everyone to pay a very small amount for the infrastructure everyone _may_ need, the total costs drop because the scarcity of delivered resource is minimized. There are more rooms. More doctors. More medicine. More locations. And then you, the willing, don't find yourself stuck out in the cold bleeding to death because the under funded, under staffed, under-sized facility is clogged up with the under-insured when you come in having your stroke or seizure.

    Back when I was a child all health care institutions were not-for-profit. Then Kariser Perminante (spelling?) came along and de-socialized medicine. We could use really stand to undo that forty-year-old mistake and re-socialize our medicine. Get rid of the CEOs and put back the "trustees". There are lots of things that need fixing in the health care arena and the "free market" isn't going to work here because you, the person reading this, likely don't think of yourself as a "big medicine" consumer for the simple fact that you don't happen to be sick right now. This makes you a blind participant and not an active market actor. By the time this matters to you it will be too late and you'll be screwed. You'll even wish for the "Death Panels" once you discover that your "death panel" is a single actuarial you will never meet, working for a company your boss chose, who just stamped your life-saving treatment as "too expensive", and since your boss doesn't want to soak up your $10mil treatment he (the actual customer) isn't going to fight for your liver transplant. You'll look back wistfully at that public option then buck-o…

    So the ACA — or better yet the public option that everyone squashed under some of the worst human reasoning I have _ever_ heard — will (and provably does) make your coverage cheaper and increases the likelihood that you (and your young-adult children) will survive trauma but here you are fighting for your, and their, right to die in the street…

    Lets face it, one of the real functions of government is to force people to pay for things they are too stupid to realize that they need. There is a reason that _I_ (and you) need the roads to be well paved half-a-state away. There's a reason we (yes, you too) need the state to have the power of eminent domain — though it can be and has been miss-used — because without it the utility and transportation networks would be holy hell instead of just the unmitigated heck they are today.

    Any argument to "less government" is an argument to glittering generalities. Any argument to "more government" as it's own goal is non-existent. The argument only makes sense in detail, arguing for more or less on individual topic basis.

  235. Mark says

    @James Pollock

    Agreed.

    As I said earlier, Clark is clearly trying to understand "position X", and that attempt is admirable whether it is totally successful or not. I imagine that if I took a similar test (especially in the context of a comment section) I would have a *very* difficult time avoiding the temptation of snark.

    If nothing else, this thread has avoided a heated debate on the subject of how to spell Folger's/Folgers, which is impressive in itself. Maybe this attempt at understanding is contagious?
    ….or maybe I just fell to the temptress snark.

    Probably both.

  236. James Pollock says

    "if I understand you…a better test would be to articulate the foundational arguments underlying mainstream liberal policy choices?"

    I think the better test is to examine both positions, and identify where there is fundamental agreement between them. I think a common flaw in political debate is thinking "we are right, therefore they are wrong", when in reality quite frequently both the Democrats AND Republicans are at least partly right and at least partly wrong. I think the best results come when each contributes meaningfully, and I think that when everybody in the room agrees with each other you can get groupthink. Having someone else check over your work with the goal of constructive criticism usually provides better results (see, c.f., writers and editors, software engineers and software test engineers, welders and inspectors, etc.)
    In recent politics, I think that Congressional Republicans walked away from this role, to embrace reflexive opposition, to the detriment of A) the Obama administration, B) themselves, and C) the American people. I think they did this because they thought it was what their voters back home wanted, but also out of fear of facing a (well-funded) primary challenge if they didn't. There are some issues where Democrats do the same thing… W's suggestion of reforming Social Security comes to mind, and the last two years' worth of W's running of the war in Iraq… but I don't think it had the same magnitude nor intensity as the R's disinterest in working with Obama on much of anything.
    So, in a perfect world, I'd like to see more D's and especially more R's who can, and will, identify where basic agreements can be found between the D and R positions on things, and, again in a perfect world, I wish the public would ignore those media personalities who trade on outrage, real or imagined, or jockeying for partisan advantage rather than actually trying to improve things, solve problems, or find consensus. Lincoln, I think, said something about divided houses but I think he cribbed it from somewhere else. It's an important message for people who claim to want what's best for America.

  237. James Pollock says

    Robert, your demonization of KP ignores one of the reasons it was widely adopted in the first place.
    KP lowered the cost of delivering medical care to large numbers of people by commoditizing many basic health care services (yes, this included an element of depersonalization as well, but the lowered costs made care available to more people.
    I'm less bothered by hospitals turning for-profit than by health-insurance companies being run for-profit. There seems to be a direct conflict of interest there.
    (Also, KP hospitals are not-for-profit)

    Disclaimer on this topic: After several decades of general good health, I recently (unexpectedly) spent a weekend in cardiac intensive care. No, I did not shop around for the best deal before being transported there. This is why health care needs to be managed differently from other types of goods and services.

  238. says

    Worse than the "shopping around" question is the fact that as a health-care subject, you are usually completely powerless in all manner of selection. When you need it badly, you are often in no position to select it at all.

    About ten years ago I got run over by a car. I was "dressed down" because I was gong into an "industrial club". Greys and tans. Roll that outfit around on the street and you look homeless pretty damn fast. Cop decided was homeless (and pulling a scam). There are two major hospitals right next to eachother in down-town seattle. One is well-funded and one, well not so much. Guess one I would have ended up with if I weren't conscious and able to provide proof of insurance…?

    Now multiply this snap judgement by the fact that as the injured party I'm not really the customer. My insurance company is buying the care and my employer bought that buying-of-care. I'm a target not a market actor in most situations that are not purely elective. When it is purely elective I'm still just a minor player in my own care unless I can afford to pay the uninsured cash price.

    Health care is about as capitalist market driven as the army.

  239. Corkscrew says

    Folger's Clark: An economics question for you. I've been looking at US deficits. Under the last couple of Democrat administrations (Clinton and Carter), deficits tended to fall. Under the last couple of Republican administrations (Bush and Bush), deficits tended to rise.

    So why is it that, now the Republicans are finally on board with deficit reduction, the Democrats just don't want to know? What's special about the current situation? Doesn't the crisis just make it even more urgent to shrink the deficit?

    (This is essentially a test of whether you've read your Krugman, DeLong, Wren-Lewis, etc. I'm pretty much a Krugmanite myself as far as macroeconomics is concerned, so will be in good position to grade your response.)

    Generally impressed with your responses. A couple of criticisms:

    1) In your first response to JB, the reference to the 1700s came across as snarky rather than serious. I can't believe a liberal would actually argue that, given the number of other explanations there are.

    2) In your third response to JB, the bald statement that government employees are morally better than the average bear was totally unbelievable. Even if a liberal genuinely believed it, there's no way they'd actually argue that in mixed company. And they especially wouldn't link all that to "more likely to vote Democrat" unless they were actually at a Democrat fundraiser.

    Finally, a suggestion for if you do this again: Get hold of an actual mainstream liberal with a similar writing style to yourself and pick at random who answers each question. You might also want to split the discussion into two threads: a curated thread for actual questions, answers, counter-questions, etc, and a peanut gallery for the critics.

  240. princessartemis says

    Robert White, for what it is worth, some 14 years ago, when I was just getting out of college and needing to get my own insurance, Kaiser Permanente was by a long shot the only plan I, a young single female individual with a job but not a 9-5 job, could afford. And I mean a long shot. Partly because earlier the same year I had suffered a nasty bout of walking pneumonia that necessitated a pick line and IV antibiotics to get over. All the insurances in the state considered that pre-existing for their purposes and wanted to charge a steep premium to take me on. So did Kaiser, but their premium was significantly lower than the rest.

    Not sure what it would have been like without them existing, maybe there would have been something else I could get. That isn't how it turned out though, and I am glad they were there. I sure did wring out of them every cent of premium I ever paid them too. Kaiser Permanente offers reasonable care to people with run of the mill sicknesses. If you do have them as your insurance, make an effort not to charge down their halls with a pack of zebras.

  241. princessartemis says

    @Corkscrew, I agree that Clark's response re: moral and intellectual superiority of government employees did not ring true. However, offering that Folger's Clark said it thinking that the company was not mixed rings entirely true to me, having been the not-a-liberal in the midst of liberals patting themselves on the back for their moral and intellectual superiority to conservatives. This isn't a common experience, but it is one I have had more than once. It strikes me that there is a simple tribal blindness some people have, that if there is a human in the room, that an unknown human must not be The Other for the simple fact that clearly, they are human. It never occurred to these individuals that I'd be not of their tribe because I was too busy being human in the room with them, so it was OK for them to talk about how studies have indicated they really are the superior example of humanity, then proceed to laugh at and mock those who were conservatives.

  242. Caleb says

    I was more thinking of the benefit to society by displacing some of the spoiled rich kids with smart, determined kids who know the meaning of hard work. To wit, an overall improvement in the "next generation of leaders."

    I get that, but I'm trying to unpack what you mean be "benefit." Whatever positive good you assert comes from replacing persons from group 1 with persons from group 2 must be manifested outside those persons. What form does that manifestation take?

    What I'm reading you as saying is that to benefit a society, a change must be (a) tangible, and (b) must measurably benefit most of the people in the society.

    a) Depends on what you mean by "tangible" If you mean "perceptible by touch", then no. If you mean "objectively verifiable by rational, principled means", then yes.

    b) Not quite, because I interpret your statement as a definition which incorporates some form of ex-post measure. e.g.: "X is not a benefit to society because only 49% of people in the society experience it in its first instance." I'm saying the form must be transitive, in that it could potentially flow, ex-ante, to any persons in the society.

    I think we have a disconnect in the way we think about community and society.

    I think so, because this statement:

    ….a society, though made of people, is greater than the sum of its parts.

    to me is patently absurd. Humans are the sole source of existential value, through their thoughts, words, and actions. Society is merely one of those creations humans make and imbue with value as they see fit. How on earth can the creation overcome in significance the creators? Where does the surplus value come from?

    You're asking me to explain why a community where people hurt each other less, where women have fewer unplanned pregnancies, where they are forced to terminate these pregnancies less often, is a better society than the alternative.

    No, I'm asking you to explain how it is better. All (or at least the vast majority) of people would agree that ceteris paribus between two identical societies, one with more crime and one with less, the one with less is "better" by their standards. But ceteris paribus is a myth, it doesn't happen in the real world. So we have to weigh alternatives and opportunity costs, which involves transaction. And transaction implies the use of an objective standard of measure.

    Quick example: an colour-blind society is better than a racist society, even if 90% of the society is of one race. The fact that the majority of people in a society do not tangibly, measurably benefit from the change does not take away from the fact that the change improves the society as a whole.

    Good example. Now, we both agree that as to between the racist and the color-blind society, the difference (color-blindness) benefits, in the first instance, the 10% minority and not the 90% majority. I say that to constitute a "benefit to society," the difference must (in principle, ex-ante) benefit the 90% majority as well. Otherwise "benefit to society" is an absurd term, and simply means "a benefit to some people in society under certain conditions."

    Now, this is not to say that benefit flows to the 90% from the color-blindness. But we must be precise in identifying what form that benefit is. It is not the same type of benefit experienced by the 10%. So in order to ascribe the benefit of color-blindness the status as a "societal benefit", we must identify the type of benefit which flows to the 90%.

    I'm simply taking the "happier" (or, more precisely "more satisfied") finding from this study:

    I read that study and followed some cites. The question they ask of their subject is:

    All things considered, how satis ed are you with your life as a whole these days?

    I actually laughed out loud when I read that.

    My problem (among many) with this is that it is an empty vessel. It tells us nothing. One person's "satisfied" could mean that they ate today. Another's could mean that they petted a kitten. One person's "dissatisfied" could mean that their entire family was imprisoned, and another's that their boss was mean to them. It's a ridiculous study. Might as well ask "what do you think of the Lakers?" then compare results with PPP GDP. Might get a more meaningful result.

  243. AlphaCentauri says

    @Ibidem, actually, most of the Democrats I know also call it Obamacare — with pride. They fully expect that 50 years from now, the type of people who are saying "keep your hands off my Medicare" will be saying "keep your hands off my Obamacare," and the Republicans will be kicking themselves that they gave a Democrat credit for it.

    "Affordable Care Act" or "ACA" would get a lot of blank stares.

  244. princessartemis says

    Good example. Now, we both agree that as to between the racist and the color-blind society, the difference (color-blindness) benefits, in the first instance, the 10% minority and not the 90% majority. I say that to constitute a "benefit to society," the difference must (in principle, ex-ante) benefit the 90% majority as well. Otherwise "benefit to society" is an absurd term, and simply means "a benefit to some people in society under certain conditions."

    Now, this is not to say that benefit flows to the 90% from the color-blindness. But we must be precise in identifying what form that benefit is. It is not the same type of benefit experienced by the 10%. So in order to ascribe the benefit of color-blindness the status as a "societal benefit", we must identify the type of benefit which flows to the 90%.

    Switch color-blindness and racism to equality between the sexes and sexism, and it is easier (for me at least) to provide tangible examples of how, in a 10% X 90% Y society, equality of sexes is a benefit to Y. For example, in a sexist society, X is always perceived as the mete and proper target of sexual advances and Y the originator of same. Therefor, it is easier to justify in the minds of all that sexual aggression is also mete and proper, flowing from Y to X. When it occurs that a member of X is a victim of sexual aggression by a member of Y, it is difficult for many to understand how this isn't how things ought to be (and therefor there is a very serious problem with aggression against X), but if a Y is ever a victim of sexual aggression, it is virtually impossible to take seriously because…well, how? Y is always the source, Y can never be the target, therefor Y can never be aggressed against–if Y was aggressed against, Y must really be X. In a sexually equal society, it would be recognized that both X and Y can be the targets and originators of sexual advances, that aggression against X is wrong, and that aggression against Y is possible and just as wrong. This is a direct benefit to both X and Y.

  245. Maxcat says

    @Conster: My only intent was attempting to point out that, at its heart, Stephen Colbert’s satire is meant to be funny. Yes, he’s trying to get people to really think about the issues, but he is doing so through comedy. My concern would be that if people were to begin to think Clark is trying to do the same thing, which I don’t believe he is, it could hurt his ability to be taken seriously.

    @Martin: My biggest issue with what Clark is doing is that he has either explained it poorly or doesn’t really know himself. As I said before Wikipedia’s explanation of an Ideological Turing Test doesn’t actually fit with what a real Turing test is; but I admit that’s beside the point. Clark says he’s trying to sound like a mainstream liberal US Democrat – I’ll take him at his word for that. I see the results the same as you appear to: how well one perceives he is doing depends on the readers own ideological viewpoint. But the key point is that, in this case, the closer one is to agreeing with the viewpoint that Clark is trying to imitate the poorer one thinks he is doing.

    I have come to the conclusion that the reason I don’t understand what Clark is attempting to do here is based on several things:

    I don’t agree with the validity of the Wikipedia version of an Ideological Turing Test; how does fooling a neutral judge in any way indicate that you really understand a point of view that, by definition, neither you nor the judge agrees with?

    I don’t agree with Clark’s simplified explanation of the use of an Ideological Turing Test: There are other reasons one could fail to be able to mimic or even understand another’s point of view besides being stupid/ignorant/confused. For example, the one I think is most common: one’s own cultural and ideological values and experiences simply don’t give one the framework necessary to understand the other person’s point of view.

    I think Clark is an intelligent, empathetic person and he would see the above two issues as self-evident.

    Hence my confusion.

    For what it’s worth, personally, I think Clark has failed to mimic a mainstream liberal US Democrat to the satisfaction of mainstream Liberal US Democrats, while he has succeeded to varying levels of satisfaction for those who do not agree with the views of mainstream Liberal US Democrats.

    In the end, will Clark say he passed or failed the Ideological Turing Test?

    Clark, through his own words, transformed the Ideological Turing Test into a method of determining whether one had a true understanding of an opponent’s viewpoints or was simply stupid/ignorant/confused. Admitting failure would mean admitting he doesn’t understand his opponent’s viewpoints and he is stupid/ignorant/confused.

    What I would like to see is Clark provide a better explanation of his goals here.

  246. says

    I imagine the exercise must have been fun for Clark.

    I think we can conclude from the large number of comments, that Clark definitively fails to pass this Ideological Turing Test. While he manages to use some of the same terms and tropes as American liberals, those are put together in random-ish juxtapositions that flow nothing at all like the arguments of advocates of those positions. Of course, there are some issues where I think he actually agrees with the position he is constructing in his mind as image or caricature, and those cases read more convincingly.

    I wonder if some of those commenters who claim Clark's replies are effective as fitting an "American Liberal" discourse are themselves so ideologically blinded by a Libertarian dogma that they cannot tell the difference. Obviously, from a "30,000 foot view" if you cross your eyes a little bit, there is some resemblance between, e.g. Krugman and Faux Clark (I know, terrible mixed metaphor… except one *could* cross one's eyes on a plane too, so it may be consistent).

    Of course, strictly speaking, I suppose it's impossible to judge on samples alone whether a position is one held insincerely or merely one expressed poorly. I used to teach political philosophy (and have a doctorate in that area), and I had certainly read B-student undergrad papers that read something like Clark's replies (and I presume those students were trying to express their own opinions, or at least what they thought those opinions should be).

    FWIW, in a cards-on-table sort of way, I am myself, roughly, a Left-Marxist, but am American enough to also be a free-speech absolutist (far more than was Hugo Black, for example) and other related strong civil-libertarian positions. So there are some things I even agree with Clark about (possibly more than I agree with, e.g. Krugman on).

  247. Matt says

    Very interesting exercise.

    Can you make the case against charter schools? And can you make the case for the $100 billion California bullet train?

  248. MaxZ says

    I'm a card-carrying Liberal (in the American sense). Even my wild Anarchist youth fits me out well for the job, as I now realise how naive I was. If I read these comments I think I would be suspicious, because of the 'straw-man' factor mentioned before, but I wouldn't be sure. An awful lot of Liberals are idiots, and do say things as stupid as some of the comments here. On the other hand, I caught myself nodding along a few times at the sensible nature of your arguments.

    In real life I think I would gently try and correct the obvious stupidities in a comradely manner, and maybe gently hint that you were coming across as a Troll.

    My Facebook friends are all 'Liberal' (while hating the UK Liberal Democrats). They regularly boast of the innate intellectual and moral superiority of Liberals. While, in my heart of hearts I agree with them, I feel that the moral turpitude, learning difficulties and lack of education shown by right-wingers are a tendency rather than a cast iron rule. This is born out by solid peer reviewed studies. But it is lazy thinking, the sort Tories engage in, to mistake causation with correlation. Some right-wingers are intelligent and well-meaning, just wrong.

    That said, I don't think a Liberal would praise all Government employees just because most share our views. Some still possess right-wing views, and therefore are wrong and must be opposed. This is an ongoing battle.

    I do like your exercise though, and will cite it in my ongoing arguments with lefty mates around not all rightists are no-nothing fools (sorry to say they take it for granted that Libertarians are right-wing and assume they are all Te party supporters). Also, I doubt whether most of my political bed-felllows could do as good a job expressing either a Libertarian or Conservative viewpoint. It would do them good to try.

    That said, a good friend goes on the Telegraph comments pages in the guise of a properly fascist retired colonel. His increasingly insane sounding conspiracy theories and bizarre swivel-eyed rants have so far never been questioned. In fact he regularly gets the most likes.

  249. princessartemis says

    I have not chosen to make a judgement on if Clark has passed or failed (haven't read enough of the comments and I'm uncertain of how valid this particular test is), but I will say this: if he states that in his estimations he has failed, I will have no end of respect for him. Ignorance, after all, is not a bad thing and it can be cured. The strength of character to publicly attempt such an exercise and to then judge oneself to have failed would be formidable indeed.

  250. princessartemis says

    @Maxcat, after some thought, I realize I probably misunderstood your comment. I think, though, that a cultural difference or a difference of experience could amount to an ignorance that can be overcome with effort. Most humans are naturally empathic to varying degrees. It is quite true that, for example, Maxcat can never understand as thoroughly as Princess Artemis does Princess Artemis' own views on X, having never lived her life. But with an open mind, respect, and empathy, Maxcat can learn enough about PA's views to call it understanding for all practical purposes. Having not yet done so, saying that Maxcat is ignorant of PA's POV on X is accurate.

  251. Maxcat says

    @Princess Artemis, yes, I think you get my point with possibly one minor correction. I can listen to the history of the difficulties of a dog’s life, I can learn about the difficulties of a dog’s life, I can empathize for the difficulties of a dog’s life, I can respect the difficulties of a dog’s life, I can try to understand the difficulties of a dog’s life, but no matter how hard I try, being a cat, I can never truly understand and know the difficulties of a dog’s life. I will always view dog’s lives through the filter of a cat’s lifetime of experiences. That doesn’t make me stupid, it doesn’t make me ignorant, it doesn’t make me confused, it just makes me a cat.

  252. says

    Matt: The case against charter schools (and school vouchers) is fairly simple; charter schools and voucher systems are bald-faced attempts to redirect public funds into private ideological ventures. [I have to include vouchers here along with charter schools as these are basically the X and Y axis of the same graph.]

    With vouchers the plan is right out in your face. It is the Intelligent Design™ of the system. An attempt to back-door the funding of religious schools by powerful political lobbies. But when the goon-squad of unintended consequences shows up you end up with fiascoes like the state-to-be-named-elsewhere suddenly discovering that along with their Christian fundamentalism, the islamic school down the block was going to get funded as well. The the roaches started to scatter, looking for a way to _not_ have their tax dollars go to an ideology they didn't want to fund.

    Charter schools, on the other axis, are more insidious and socially/economically prurient. The machinacions are built into the charters in a quite devious way. A normal schools is converted into a charter. Once that happens any simple majority of the parents can winnow away whatever and whomever they desire. It's a purge of a thousand cuts. It appeals to parents because here in the U.S. we don't see ourselves as disenfranchised, we see ourselves as "temporarily embarrassed millionaires". That is, we imagine that _we_ will always be in the in-crowd, we will always be the part of the majority.

    So basically the in-crowd, as long at its at least 50.000001% of the parents, can meet in more-or-less secret and vote out the other 49.99999%. But once that happens, the original majority will fall in on each other. Charter schools (potentially) embody the worst elements of the worst Condo Association you have ever heard of with none of the scant checks or balances of such an association. Your kid not living up to academic standards? You not "our sort of folks"? You not a blind supporter of the football program? You a little to swarthy? You a little too working class? Not Protestant enough? Not able to show up for every bake sale and car wash? Well we decided you and your get should leave at once…

    And in some locations we can just undo desegregation one unpleasant darky at a time, amiright?

    In theory vouchers and charter schools are "the best" just like how, on _paper_, communisim would be the perfect system of government… except humans are involved in these systems and cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of all parties with perfect honesty. Humans cannot even agree on which things _are_ the best interest when they are honest.

    So the current education system is boned. We've suffered under decades of the false premise that students are interchangaeable cogs with identical and testable parameters. Then we put a no-child-gets-ahead program where we penalize schools for not finding a way to kick out poor performers. What is the natural outcome? A system where the poor performers _can_ be kicked out by fiat and secret ballot.

    Charter Schools take back with the left hand what standardized testing beat the hell out of with the right hand. They are a natural consequence that is predicated on the mindset that standardized testing "works". But they are unbounded. They create a self-appointed elite, typically made up of hellecopter parent want-to-bees, which are the worst possible actors. They give power over _your_ kids to the people most likely to abuse that power.

    Charter schools bad, um-kay… But you won't see it coming _your_ way until that prissy (explitive deleted) down the street would rather have her mommy-and-me buddy from across town in class with her kids instead you, and your kid ends up getting bussed across town despite you living next door to a school you freaking funded.

    We never imagine _we_ will be the one secretly voted off our own island, but really, _are_ you the popular-kid at the local PTA? (Have you even _been_ to the PTA?)

  253. says

    Matt: is a $100 billion bullet train an effective cost/benefit transaction? That depends on the route.

    First, is $100 billion USD "a lot of money" in transportation terms? Not really. A brand new 787 dreamliner costs $200million to make (though are currently being fire-sold for only about $116M) so the fair dry-weight-cost of the (e.g. ignoring operating expenses) would give us five hundred (500) 787's sitting on a tarmac. Now if we keep going, and factor the cost of the airports and airspace controlers, the cost of the fuel and maintenance and so on, by substituting dry-weight new planes for time in the air etc, we get down to really small numbers really fast. 500 planes becomes 50-or-fewer planes for ten years (to pull numbers straight out of my behind… We don't know routes and flights per day and any number of other variables).

    Likewise, a plane flying from Los Angeles to San Fransisco does exactly _dick_ for Bakersfield. A train passing through (or very near) Bakersfield (with an approprately placed station of course) will do rather a lot for that mid-point city. So the airplane cost-benefit analysis has to change.

    Rail travel is measured in ton-miles-per-gallon. Now a bullet train wont get quite the same mind boggling fuel efficiency as most freight operations. But the numbers are still mind boggling. The US train system moves about four hundred eighty (480) _tons_ one mile per gallon of fuel expended. That's the freight-weight (not counting the weight of the train itself). So in terms of fuel and pollution and the whole overseas-oil thing, staying on the ground is a _huge_ win if the trip is "fast enough" (hence the bullet part of bullet train).

    Depending on the estimated cost(s) used, the total cost of the bullet train would be about 140 days of the combined wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010.

    The Big Dig in Boston's down-town alone is running to $22billion (which _is_ a boondoggle with the overruns). Replacing the cost of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in downtown Seattle is expected to run almost $3billion. In short, all earth-moving-required on-the-ground transportation systems, even simple bridges, cost a heck of a lot of money. You just aren't used to seeing the minute costs of your everyday commute piled up in one lump sum. The number seems big and scary, but it's not.

    So $100billion isn't that much money compared to the various undertakings in transportation and public policy. It also leaves behind a lasting benefit in measurable economic, and geopolitical benefits with expected payouts lasting decades (train tracks don't "go bad" very fast).

    If this were part of a larger initiative costs of scale would decrease and industry and jobs would be directly stimulated.

    As such things are measured, the bullet train programs would be a terrific boon at a pretty bargain price.

    Granted, this isn't a scholarly cost-benefit analysis, but those are out there and they do weigh heavily in favour of the trains. But here we are arguing because people who _don't_ read the analysis can be easily inflamed by a price tag that they never really examined passed some pundit pre-seeded sticker shock.

  254. LJU3 says

    @Marzipan
    When I said "rate", I actually meant in terms of quality rather than politics, which I got at by asking political affiliation. The exact wording of my e-mail was: "Read the following questions posed and the responses to those questions. Let me know what you think about the author's writing ability, his educational attainment, and his likely political affiliation."

    I suspect I'll get similar results when I send the "mainstream conservative Republican" writings to them next week (or whenever Clark does them). I'll be especially interested to see their responses in retrospect when I reveal the whole point of the exercise.

  255. James Pollock says

    Robert, how much will it cost to bridge the Skagit? A bit south, the number to bridge the Columbia has been floated at a bit over $4B, which apparently Olympia doesn't want to kick in for.

  256. princessartemis says

    @Maxcat, I have trouble with that idea because it more than suggests that humans from different cultures and experiences are so different that our common humanity is…not.

  257. Richard says

    I get that, but I'm trying to unpack what you mean be "benefit." Whatever positive good you assert comes from replacing persons from group 1 with persons from group 2 must be manifested outside those persons. What form does that manifestation take?

    Do you really need me to explain how better leaders, providing better leadership, are a boon to society?

    Wait. On second thought, answer that question after you finish reading my thoughts on society further down the post.

    a) Depends on what you mean by "tangible" If you mean "perceptible by touch", then no. If you mean "objectively verifiable by rational, principled means", then yes.

    b) Not quite, because I interpret your statement as a definition which incorporates some form of ex-post measure. e.g.: "X is not a benefit to society because only 49% of people in the society experience it in its first instance." I'm saying the form must be transitive, in that it could potentially flow, ex-ante, to any persons in the society.

    First of all, I take issue with the statement that all benefits are "objectively verifiable." Let's say, for instance, that a company gives its client two weeks of paid vacation each year. The employees are less stressed out because of this vacation time.

    Now can you objectively measure the amount of stress that the employees had before the paid vacation policy is implemented, compared to after. The employees obviously benefit – but how? They probably have less money (due to going away on vacation), they may have a greater chance of injury (depending on the nature of the vacation). By most measurable metrics, they are worse off because they have paid vacation. And yet, I doubt any of them would argue against having said vacation, largely because of benefits that can't easily be quantified.

    No, I'm asking you to explain how it is better. All (or at least the vast majority) of people would agree that ceteris paribus between two identical societies, one with more crime and one with less, the one with less is "better" by their standards. But ceteris paribus is a myth, it doesn't happen in the real world. So we have to weigh alternatives and opportunity costs, which involves transaction. And transaction implies the use of an objective standard of measure.

    Okay, here's how I think about society. It may help explain.

    Let's have a single person, from a small nation called Examplia. Now, if he is the only Examplian, his national identity is basically his self-identity- how he feels about himself, he feels about his nation. However, if there is another Examplian, he is able to think of his nation in the abstract. He is not the nation, they together are the nation. If they are both physically strong, physical strength becomes part of the national identity, etc. He can take pride in the physical strength, not just of himself, but of Examplia!

    That's what I mean that a society is greater than its parts – a person is just a person. A nation is both its people and its combined national identity. A person can be proud of laying straight pieces of wood and metal down as exactly as possible. A nation can be proud of building a railroad.

    Now, as you add more people, things that they generally have in common become part of the identity, and things that they don't have in common become excluded. The Examplians may be all good farmers. At that point, Examplia is a nation of farmers, and those who are farmers can take pride in being good Examplians. However, there then becomes a problem of what happens when an Examplian appears who has skills who aren't generally useful for farming. He's more useful as, say, a doctor.

    The Examplians, as a whole, have four choices at this point.

    1) They can choose to somehow get rid of Doctor Examplian. After all, he, not suited to being a farmer, is not a true Examplian.

    2) They can choose to segregate Doctor Examplian. He's not really one of them, but he's useful, so they'll have contact with him when they need a doctor, but otherwise, he is in Examplia but not of Examplia, so he should be shunned.

    3) They can choose to indoctrinate Doctor Examplian. He's good at being a doctor, but that's not a very Examplian profession, so they'll break him down and rebuild him as a farmer, and then he can be a real Examplian. He may not be any good at it, but, at least he's giving it his best shot as a farmer, in the true Examplian way!

    4) They can change their definition about what it means to be an Examplian. After all, he's not so very different. He takes living things and makes them thrive. That now becomes part of the national identity – Examplians are not just farmers, they're caretakers of all living things!

    Obviously, for people who are "different but good," #4 is the ideal. Societies who mainly choose #1 or #3 when confronted with benign differences become stagnant and weaker over time (I give you, for example, the Catholic Church, who took 250 years longer than the mainstream scholarly world, and 450 years longer than the Protestants, to remove "uses Latin for everyday communication" from their identity [Note: I self-identify as a (lapsed) Catholic. That does not mean I agree with all of their past and present decisions]). In addition, #1 causes a drain of people from the nation, and #3 causes the "different" people to be very unhappy.

    As for option #2, that leads to an inevitable self-loathing creeping into the nation. Their nation is no longer pure – it is no longer made up of Examplians, but rather, both Examplians, and "the other." It is natural for humans to hate the other, so they hate and resent the outsiders for corrupting their nation, and they hate and resent themselves for being unable to rid themselves of the other.

    So that is why a colour-blind society is objectively better than a racist society – The benefit to the 90% is a larger, stronger nation, a more inclusive and more tolerant national identity, and not only have they not lost any purity, they've gained purity. To the racist society, their nation is tainted by the 10% minority; to the colour-blind society, they're all one pure nation, as race does not enter into the national identity.

    Now, #4 only works for benign differences; obviously you don't want to include those who cause harm to members of your society into your national identity. This is why a society with less crime is objectively better – those who commit crimes force themselves out of the national identity (because few people want criminals as part of their nation). So you're either losing people entirely from your nation (option #1), or excluding them from your national identity but keeping them around (option #1), and getting back into the same self-loathing problem.

    The American model of law enforcement doesn't tend to like using option #3 with criminals, which would allow for criminals to exist without weakening the nation, but I will note it seems to work well in Norway.

    So, you now either understand my views of society, and my previous examples are now clear "benefits to society", or I've come across as a raving lunatic. (Given our substantial divide, I'd wager the "lunatic" bit, but I've been known to be wrong.)

    My problem (among many) with this is that it is an empty vessel. It tells us nothing. One person's "satisfied" could mean that they ate today. Another's could mean that they petted a kitten. One person's "dissatisfied" could mean that their entire family was imprisoned, and another's that their boss was mean to them. It's a ridiculous study. Might as well ask "what do you think of the Lakers?" then compare results with PPP GDP. Might get a more meaningful result.

    Finally, your objection to the "happiness" survey is all very well for a single respondent, but surveys generally tend to be more accurate in the aggregate.

    If you ask a single Democrat whether Americans would be better off with government-provided universal healthcare, he'd probably say yes. A Libertarian would almost definitely say no. Neither of these single answers represents the American people very well, but with every additional answer, the survey becomes more accurate.

    And I would argue that the destitute man who ate, having overcome his primary struggle for the time being, may well be happier than the middle-class man whose contentment comes from petting a kitten (but has a deadline to meet tomorrow). Or that the man whose boss was mean to them (Am I going to be fired tomorrow? How will my family survive?) may feel worse than the man whose family is imprisoned (They may be suffering now, but soon they will die martyrs). As a wise man once said, "Our brains just have one scale, and we resize our experiences to fit."

  258. James Pollock says

    "I have trouble with that idea because it more than suggests that humans from different cultures and experiences are so different that our common humanity is…not."

    I agree. "You'll never understand us if you aren't one of us" is a dangerous mindset, as it encourages giving up without ever even trying.

  259. spinetingler says

    "I assert that the test is designed to show intellectual comprehension of the opposing side."

    In which case – Turing fail.

  260. says

    Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as "bad luck." — Robert A. Heinlein

  261. says

    So Todd at Balloon Juice sends greetings and asks your reaction to these:

    1. Aggressive panhandlers who shit on downtown sidewalks are being oppressed if anyone dares to suggest that they are filthy and that the practice should stop;

    2. Mumia is a murderous asshole;

    3. Julian Assange is a cretinous famewhore;

    4. The Armed Forces of the United States should exist;

    5. Meat is good; and

    6. Bradley Manning should not get a place on Mount Rushmore.

  262. Marzipan says

    LJU3, thanks for all the details. I think your efforts to blind the test do a lot to enhance its validity. For all the comments on this site about the test, it's all too easy even for the newbies to become unblinded to Clark's previously posted positions. I'll also be curious to see what your friends make of the experience once they're unblinded – good stuff!

  263. Caleb says

    @ Richard

    First of all, I take issue with the statement that all benefits are "objectively verifiable."

    Me too. But I didn't say that. I said 'all benefits to society are objectively verifiable.' Don't conflate societal benefits with individual subjective preferences.

    Now can you objectively measure the amount of stress that the employees had before the paid vacation policy is implemented, compared to after…. And yet, I doubt any of them would argue against having said vacation, largely because of benefits that can't easily be quantified.

    True enough. Each given employee has a certain preference for time off given his pay rate and his subjective value for leisure. What that preference level is depends on the subjectives of each individual preference. However, anyone outside the heads of these employees cannot know the details of those subjective calculations. All we know is what we see-different preference levels that vary among individual persons and pay grades. Thus, our observation of the preference for vacation is descriptive and not normative. That is, vacation time is dependent on individual preferences and is not an independent source of societal good. To make the mistake of elevating the collective normative observation for a certain preference into a sweeping collectivization of an universal good is to fetishize subjective human preference. That's what I'm arguing against.

    Do you really need me to explain how better leaders, providing better leadership, are a boon to society?

    Well, I have my theories as to how, but it would help to hear yours. But my question goes to your word "better." If we have two groups of potential leaders (rich and undeserving, poor and deserving), your word "better" implies a standard by which we may compare the two and make an assessment. What would that be? Is it the mere fact that one group is poor and the other rich? What if the poor-but-recently-uplifted leaders make the exact same decisions that the rich-but-recently-deposed leaders would have? Are the poor still "better" because society's promotion of them was an inherent good? Are we fetishizing social justice for its own sake, or are we trying to accomplish something else?

    Assume that they make different decisions. We must now decide whether those decisions are "better." What metric do we use here? The accomplishment of the organizations they lead? How do we measure that?

    That's what I mean that a society is greater than its parts – a person is just a person. A nation is both its people and its combined national identity. A person can be proud of laying straight pieces of wood and metal down as exactly as possible. A nation can be proud of building a railroad.

    You've convinced me of the cumulative value of society. (Not that I needed it.) But let's take the beginning of your Examplia hypo:

    However, if there is another Examplian, he is able to think of his nation in the abstract. He is not the nation, they together are the nation.

    I take this to mean that N(nation)=c(citizen)1+c2. For each citizen we add, therefore N = T(total)E(sigma)/c=1
    (Anyone know how to put in mathematical operators?)
    The act of summation does not give us any more qualitative or quantitative substance to say that society is greater than the sum of its parts. Society is everyone in that society, no more.

    Societies who mainly choose #1 or #3 when confronted with benign differences become stagnant and weaker over time

    Become weaker and stagnate how? These are terms of measurement. What are you measuring?

    So that is why a colour-blind society is objectively better than a racist society

    You've covered the why very thoroughly. You need not convince me on the why, because I agree with you there. Remember, I asked about the how.

    The benefit to the 90% is a larger, stronger nation, a more inclusive and more tolerant national identity

    Let's unpack each of these. 1)Is a larger nation better than a smaller nation per se? Or is it better because being a larger nation leads to other good things? What are those things? 2) Stronger how? (Term of measurement, remember.) Is strength (in whatever form you are talking about) better per se or because it leads to other good things? Same thing with inclusiveness and tolerance. Are they self-sufficient virtues, or mere operands which bring about the things we actually wish to accomplish?

    So, you now either understand my views of society, and my previous examples are now clear "benefits to society", or I've come across as a raving lunatic.

    I can't say I understand your views, but understanding is a high standard. I understand very little of anything. That's why I'm doing this! But you are no raving lunatic either. Just someone who thinks differently and is willing to converse-and I'm grateful.

    Finally, your objection to the "happiness" survey is all very well for a single respondent, but surveys generally tend to be more accurate in the aggregate.

    More accurate in relation to what? What are we comparing our measures to that we know we are "accurate?" I have a whole 'nother rant about the uncritical application of statistics, but that's far enough off topic. Suffice it to say, just because someone grabbed a bunch of data, did a regression analysis, and found a significant result does not necessarily imply anything meaningful. Statistics are a powerful tool, but can easily be misapplied.

    And I would argue that the destitute man who ate, having overcome his primary struggle for the time being, may well be happier than the middle-class man whose contentment comes from petting a kitten (but has a deadline to meet tomorrow).

    Precisely. What does that tells us about happiness, and trying to aggregate it? Should we all become starving men who are elated to get a meal, just to experience his level of happiness? Or is there a man behind the curtain?

    @princessartemis

    Touche; that's a very good argument. I'll have to think about your post for a while. I'll respond later.

  264. Scott Ruplin says

    You should write your responses in Bizarro talk – "me hate free speech", etc.!

  265. Xenocles says

    @Robert White-

    "The case against charter schools (and school vouchers) is fairly simple; charter schools and voucher systems are bald-faced attempts to redirect public funds into private ideological ventures."

    If we assume, arguendo, that public schools are little more than the funneling of public (which is to say, formerly private) funds into public ideological ventures, is this a reason to accept or to reject public schools?

  266. James Pollock says

    Sticking my nose in.
    "1)Is a larger nation better than a smaller nation per se? Or is it better because being a larger nation leads to other good things? What are those things?"
    A large, diversified nation is better than a smaller nation because in the event of natural catastrophe, or other disaster, a larger nation is better situated to provide assistance (assuming, of course, you assume that one of the purposes of nationhood is to provide assistance to those who need it.)
    So the part of your nation that is occiasionally beset by "Superstorms" and the part of your nation that is built on the slopes of volcanoes and the part of your nation that is subject to earthquake can assist the part of your nation that just had a wave of devastating tornadoes or a bridge collapse.

  267. says

    Xenocles: One of the reasons we keep religion out of schools as best we can is because school is not _supposed_ to ideological as a venture.

    Is schooling itself ideological? In the sense that the choice of having roads it ideological, I suppose it is. Is "ignorance bad" an ideology? Sure. But since we know from, say, all of history, that given the choice between food that the poor cant afford, and the middle class can barely afford, there is no overage of funds or time that is going to automatically turn into education for the vast majority of folks. Go back to before (mandatory) public schooling and continue onto the land of prehistory and you will find that absent _forcing_ people to pay for public schooling is the only way we end up with a reasonably educated future generations.

    Now I know the whole "but I should choose the use of my money" argument from having heard it before. I both agree and disagree. The part of "your money" that is your money is the part you don't have to pay in taxes. The part of "your money" that isn't yours is the part we charge you for living under the social largess, that part is "our money" and its normally called "taxes".

    I will assume you are somewhat libertarian. In My Humble Opinion (IMHO) the libertarian position is full of fail because it assumes that any one person's belief in their personal ability to "do better" allocating their funds automatically translates to each and every person being best at choosing their funding allocations. The true flaw is that virtually everyone is _terrible_ at allocating their funds in essentially all circumstances.

    Absent the forced common aggregation of funds, which is IMHO the true purpose of government, the world you enjoy today would not exist at all. I'm not talking about things like social entitlements or anything, IF every road were a toll road a box of corn flakes would cost $87.50 (<- not a real number 8-) and driving would be impossible.

    See there is, in systems' theory there is this thing called the law of unintended consequences. What do you suppose the unintended consequences would be if education was completely ad hoc? Look to the 1600's for a clue. If your parents weren't rich you wouldn't have a job anything like the one you've likely got. Apprenticeships would be the order of the day. And god save us all from the flood of people suffering under various religiously inspired versions of medicine and science.

    The super-short version is that we wouldn't have enough engineers and doctors to support our population because higher education would be an unworkable hodgepodge of limited scale and the idea of a "high-school diploma" would be effectively nonexistent toot suite.

    But! you may say, there would be tests and such. But, I would counter, administrated by whom? Who sets the standards and stakes?

    It's deck chairs on the titanic, this pushing left and right for personal domains, calming that each of us is smarter than all of us. Evidence suggests that all of us are smarter than each of us instead.

    The system works because it's under tension. It could work better, this is true of all systems, but that improvement will not come from removing the tension(s) that keep the system honest.

    So yes, public schools is a case where we force people to pay for an economy of scale. It stands in stark contrast to centuries of stratified private education reserved for the elite. If your argument is that general education is bad then your are (almost certainly) arguing against your own present and past benefit. If you are arguing that each parent should be able to define the niche education of each child, you are assuming that society can afford universal fragmentation. The fragmentation has worked okay in the case of limited home schooling but in the case of attempting to universally realign school into privatized micro-domains… it cannot scale. The cash-entropy cost is too high and the system is unworkable.

    The details are far too many to numerous to cover in any depth, but imagine how many people would get priced out or bumped into nullity for trivial reasons when you invoke Ochlocracy as an ideal.

    Charter schools and vouchers are mob rule and the tyranny of the masses is without redress.

  268. Xenocles says

    You went way far afield and glossed over the salient matter. While I'd like to address the hidden assumptions contained throughout, I simply don't have the energy as I prep for a cross-country move.

    Ideological slant is nearly inescapable in education, even if it's as benign as having to leave out some material in favor of other material. There's simply not enough time to cover everything, especially not from primary sources – so educators will rely on third-party distillations of everything. These vehicles are extremely vulnerable to slanting – whether intentional or not – especially in the humanities. As a small example, I was taught that FDR's policies directly ended the Great Depression and that Hoover's policies caused it. Even if you agree with that, you would have to agree that the claim is at least controversial – either supporters or objectors could probably find Nobel laureate economists to back them up. But even the idea that the factors that went in to causing and ending the Depression are much more complicated never came up. And this is the sort of thing that happens all the time in the classroom.

    You can't even pick a textbook without making an ideological choice. There's simply not enough time in the lecture or room in the book to include all the perspectives, so the material selection process is subject to the editor's biases (and as we've seen from this thread it can take significant effort just to understand opposing viewpoints, let alone curate material that showcases them). I could probably find two history books that – without any fabrication – lead the reader to believe that the US has been a moral paragon since its inception or that the US is in the same ethical league as the USSR and Nazi Germany. Like the stereotype of the nuclear lab tech says, "What do you want it to be?"

    If that weren't enough, there's the disciplinary process. Violence of any kind, even imaginary violence against supervillains on the schoolyard, is stigmatized, often with police involvement. Disinterest in the classroom is now considered a disease to be treated with powerful stimulants (rather convenient for the teachers unable to hold their students' attention, I think).

    So yes, like it or not public education is inescapably a process of ideological indoctrination fueled by money taken at gunpoint from – in many cases – people who abhor the ideology being pushed. Parents who object to the state of public education, as I do, face the difficult choice of paying out of pocket for the education they'd prefer while being unable to vote with their money. What if there were a default brand for every product and, while you were free to buy products of any brand, you were required to buy a unit of the default brand every time you did so? I can see at least two things:
    1) Not many people could afford to deviate from the default comfortably, if at all, and
    2) There would be no incentive for the default brand to improve in either performance or price.
    Indeed, public school costs have exploded with no discernible improvement in performance and private education is seen as an option only for the wealthy.
    We homeschool our kids, so there are two seats in our local public schools that are paid for but unused. We buy the materials ourselves and pay the opportunity cost of a second income so my wife can perform what we consider an extremely important service in our kids' development. We are very fortunate to be in the position to have the option and happily choose to do it, but it is galling to pay for services that we not only do not use but reject forcefully.

    So after all that, I'll ask you again: if funding private indoctrination with taxpayer money is unacceptable, why is it acceptable when the government chooses the nature of the indoctrination? I understand the religious objection on Constitutional grounds (though I don't fully accept it; there is no reason to consider it "endorsement" of any particular religion if the vouchers are available to any religion's schools), but I saw more of a moral objection in your original post.

    If nothing else, put the shoe on the other foot. Imagine for a moment a viewpoint that one might not be considered ignorant to hold but to which you object strenuously. Now imagine that your local government has decided to use taxpayer money to teach your children that this viewpoint is correct (sure, they can't make them believe it, but they can put them in the uncomfortable position of choosing between keeping their heads down and receiving bad marks that could sink their college applications). Does that perspective change anything?

  269. James Pollock says

    "There would be no incentive for the default brand to improve in either performance or price."
    Unless, of course, management took directions from a subset of the clientele (assuming that in your model, the children's parents are the true customers of the school, and not the children themselves).
    Granted, you need to come up with a significant number of people who agree with you in order to gain access to one of those seats, but coalition-building and persuasion are part of the process.
    I'm a fan of public education, though I live in a district with many alternative paths… my daughter went to a magnet middle-school program, a standard giant suburban high school, an alternative build-your-own program school (which she bailed out on after one quarter because the majority of the other students were unmotivated.) and finally a program that let her skip the last two years of high school in favor of taking two years of college classes (at the school district's expense).

    P.S. I was taught that overleveraged traders and institutions supporting them created a stock bubble, which burst and triggered the beginning of the Depression (bank failures being the major contributing factor), and later was taught that Hoover's austerity policies kept us in it; and that what got us out was mobilizing the war effort in the run-up to WWII. Both were taught as occurring largely independently of the government, because laissez-faire capitalism is prone to boom and bust cycles. I took college-level economics in high school, and a 200-level sequence in college.

  270. Maxcat says

    @PrincessArtemis: I disagree because the shared experiences are exactly what make what is common. As a cat I don’t know how it feels to be a dog; for example, I’ll never be able to understand that whole drinking out of the toilet thing. But both the dog and I know what it is to be loved by our human companion.

    I’ll put it another way:

    When a conservative Doctorial candidate publicizes his thesis that everyone of Mexican descent is genetically less intelligent than everyone else, when a government employee tells my wife she has to have a naturalization certificate to prove her citizenship because she was born outside the United States despite the fact that her parents and their parents are/were United States citizens by birth, when conservative political candidates talk as if everyone of Mexican descent is in the United States “illegally”, when the state of Arizona passes a law that essentially says the Police are not just allowed but required to ask for “documentation” of anyone that even looks like they might be Mexican, I can’t possibly truly know how my wife feels, but I can be just as angry (or even angrier).

    In some ways you are correct; our common humanity isn’t common. But it is in the trying to understand our differences and accepting that we will always have differences that upon which we build our common humanity. It isn’t our differences that divide us; it is the refusal to accept our differences that causes us to be divided.

  271. Maxcat says

    @James Pollock: Sorry to interject: “…what got us out was mobilizing for the war effort in the run-up to WWII.” “…occurring largely independently of the government…” How was the mobilization for the war effort prior to World War II in any way independent of the government? It was entirely at the direction of the government. I don’t understand what you are saying.

  272. princessartemis says

    @Maxcat, see, I think you are a human, not a cat. Your wife is also a human, not a dog. Our differences are not so extreme as to cast them as the differences between two species. I honestly don't think you are looking on at your wife's different experiences and saying to yourself, "This is a black box, it is alien to me; no understanding is possible. Still, I see these inexplicable things hurt her and make her angry, so because I love her, I too will be angry." She is human and you are human–because you share this commonality, your wife's POV is not an alien black box. You can understand it. Not as well as she does, of course, not having experienced the exact same things, but you can.

    When I say common humanity, I mean we are all humans. We share that in common. No matter how different another human's life has been from yours, they are not as different from you as a cat is from a dog, they are a human in the exact same way you are a human. Therefore you can empathize with them, make an attempt to understand where they are coming from, and quite possibly, with a lot of thought, compassion, empathy, imagination, and humility, understand them.

    Maybe we won't agree on this. I've just met a lot of people in a lot of places in life, and have been singularly impressed by how human all of them have been. I've not yet had the strange fortune to meet a different creature in human clothing. Have not at all understood everyone I've met, but they've all been humans and so capable of being understood.

  273. Xenocles says

    @James-

    In my opinion the people paying for a service are the customers, even if they are not the immediate beneficiaries. If you buy a gift for someone, you still are the customer even though you are not the gift's user.

    In theory, the school board is accountable to the voters in most jurisdictions. In practice, I wouldn't be surprised if it took a major problem to effect any change. At any rate, they're not likely to change on account of a pipsqueak malcontent like me. You may smile and say "That's democracy," but that dodges the question as to whether it's right for any majority to extract money from a person for a purpose he abhors. It's certainly expedient, but its moral status is the question.

    Again, with a normal product you can opt out and seek a replacement or, in the worst case, carry on without it. You can write to the company and complain about their product, but any competent executive isn't going to waste his time listening to you complain if the bottom line is healthy. If, as is the case for public schools, nobody can opt out, that firm measurement of satisfaction is gone. I guess you could wait for a school board election. According to the first page Google pulled up on the subject, it's common for a member to serve a four-year term with elections staggered so as not to replace the whole board at once. So all you have to do is keep the people's attention for long enough to capture a majority of seats – over the course of several local elections. This is at least a part-time job. It's not exactly like dumping a bad vendor.

    As to your anecdote, it's just as good as mine and dwelling on the specific material involved misses the point. You can probably find many examples of the effect from your own experience. The point is that those examples inevitably pile up and cumulatively make the question not so much whether to teach an ideology but which ideologies will be taught (and just as important, which will be marginalized or omitted).

  274. James Pollock says

    "How was the mobilization for the war effort prior to World War II in any way independent of the government? It was entirely at the direction of the government. I don’t understand what you are saying."

    The U.S. government was largely isolationist and did not ramp up purchasing for the U.S. war effort until Japan dragged us into it. However, well before that time, U.S. industry began selling materials to those countries who could buy from us. Although the U.S. government did provide assistance to the British before the U.S. itself entered the war, the U.S. did not ramp up military production before the war came to us.
    Simplified: The U.S. government did not decide that the U.S. would enter the war. The Japanese Navy did.

  275. James Pollock says

    PS – Maxcat, you need to do further polling amongst the feline-American community on the subject of toilet-drinking. Informal polling of my immediate household shows 100% of feline-Americans endorsing toilet-drinking as being closer to the bed AND fresher water than what's in the water bowl.

  276. James Pollock says

    "At any rate, they're not likely to change on account of a pipsqueak malcontent like me."
    Coalition-building being necessary to effect political change, you're probably right. Did you try? (or will you following your cross-country move?)

    "that dodges the question as to whether it's right for any majority to extract money from a person for a purpose he abhors."
    This is fairly settled as "yes". Pretty much everyone can point to something-or-other they abhor amongst the various acts of government. Nobody gets a pass for this reason.

    "You can write to the company and complain about their product, but any competent executive isn't going to waste his time listening to you complain if the bottom line is healthy."
    I'd argue the opposite, that ONLY competent executives listen to their customers. They don't necessarily ACT, but failing to listen to your customers is a path to being pushed aside as soon as consumers have a choice. Ah, you say, but parents are captive to the school system. Not necessarily. I live in a state where education spending is equalized by state (under)funding, the state funding follows the student to whichever school they attend, and (in the larger districts) enrollment is at least partially open. For example, I live three blocks from a huge suburban high school, and my daughter attended that high school for a little over two years out of her four years in high school, having chosen two different alternatives along the way… and that's after she attended a magnet school for middle school. So there are, or at least can be, choices even in a fully-public school system.

    " So all you have to do is keep the people's attention for long enough to capture a majority of seats"
    You don't need a majority of seats. You need one, plus better ideas.

  277. says

    Xenocles: IMHO you victimize yourself by selective cognition. You seem to imagine indoctrination where simple indifference is taking place.

    For every problem there is an obvious solution that is simple, elegant, and utterly wrong.

    The idea that you can opt out of bits and pieces of society is such a solution.

    There isn't a "good parts version" of society that you get to buy from a-la-carte.

  278. flip says

    @Xenocles

    Regarding your issues with public schools:

    Public schools are accountable to school boards (for which people can get elected) and to government-set standards. What this means is that on average you will get resources and materials that are sourced from experts and consensus opinion based on what is currently known from the research available. In other words: kids a decade ago learned there was 9 planets. This has changed recently as the definition of the term 'planet' has changed. This may be seen as indoctrination, but it's not: it's changing educational standards to meet the currently understood science of our universe. Many people work on textbooks and are (or should be) experts in the subject matter and use the most up-to-date information available from many different sources. In other words, they will get an overview of the subject matter before distilling it.

    However, with charter schools, they are only accountable to their non-elected school board, and therefore can simply decide to teach their children that the world is flat, and never to go sailing in the oceans lest they fall off the side. Their decisions may be more opaque as to what to include in the curriculum and what is left out. They may not bother to take an overview with the subject matter, instead picking and choosing whatever fits their particular ideology. There is no accountability because the people who send their children to charter schools are most likely going to be people who agree with the ideology and curriculum available at such schools. Children who get sent to schools who don't meet similar standards as public schools are therefore less prepared with a broader understanding of the subject matter, and far less likely to be able to compete with children who have studied subject matter based on current consensus after graduation and being sent into the workforce.

    Likewise, with home schooling, there is no guarantee of oversight that what the children learn is based on current and standardised subject matter, resources or research. Public schooling ensures that the majority of children should be prepared for the workforce once they graduate; and is therefore less likely to include a biased viewpoint skewed by fringe ideas; and more likely to have an ability to redress the issues by public voting and other checks and balances.

    No, you can't teach everything: but what you should be able to do is teach the majority of things which will properly prepare the child for a life in the real world. That means selecting subject matter that the majority of research agrees upon, which luckily happens to not give way to ideology so much as choosing subject matter that you just happen to agree with.

    The other thing is that education is by nature based on a continuously changing understanding of things. As with the Pluto example, such things happen no matter what schooling you use, so the fault is not so much with public schools as it is with our inability to separate 'education' with 'changing knowledge'. How do you educate children without teaching them things which might turn out to be wrong later? The only option is no education at all, or to educate them as best you can and remind them that our understanding is pliable, not set in stone.

    (I went to a private Christian school – but then, in Australia, all that means is that you have to sit through a religious event once a fortnight, not that you get indoctrinated into their religion or was at all anti-science. Here we don't allow home schooling either.)

  279. AlphaCentauri says

    In the US, it's not as simple as schools being accountable to local elected school boards. Textbooks are produced by publishers that want to sell the greatest number of textbooks. In that market, the people who want to teach children to think and question are at a disadvantage to the ones who want to tell them what to think. A large state like Texas buys so many textbooks that publishers are loathe to include any facts that would upset creationists. But they don't want to include anything that would upset people in the large states of New York, Florida, Illinois, or California, either. So you get textbooks that don't rock the boat and don't teach kids to think.

  280. princessartemis says

    My experience with public schools, growing up in a district that was not very well off at all, is that that they make little effort to teach students how to think for themselves. Rather, they taught how to accept what authority says is true without question. They also instructed in a more or less materialist worldview. This may or may not be indoctrination, but it does not strike me that indifference is the right word either. Someone somewhere decided that this was the best method in which to teach young Americans. If they did not, I would like to know where the ghost is in the machine that is responsible for such a result.

    @flip, some people do not think that education is for the manufacture of cogs for the workforce. Manufacturing cogs requires a different approach than other goals for education might. I suspect those other educational goals are as laudable as making cogs is.

  281. Maxcat says

    @James Pollock: My understanding is that the prevalent feeling among United States citizens was largely one of isolationism prior to World War II, however, that sentiment wasn’t exactly shared by everyone and certainly not the President, Franklin Roosevelt. Yes, in January 1940 the British Direct Purchasing Commission was set up to buy US made aircraft to support the British war effort, but the “Act to Further Promote the Defense of the United States” also known as Lend-Lease was signed into law by Roosevelt in March 1941 to supply war materials to the British and it expanded to the Soviet Union by June 1941. The first direct US military involvement of World War II wasn’t Pearl Harbor – as early as October 1941 US ships such as the USS Kearny were involved in direct combat with German forces at sea. By early 1941 US war production was already greatly accelerated, for example, with the US Army Air Corp ordering over 500 B-17 bombers by July 1940. Whether Yamamoto actually said “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant” is open for dispute, but if the giant was sleeping, it was sleeping with one eye open.

    Also, with all seriousness, please watch out for you cat. Yes, some people actually teach cats to use a toilet like a litter box, and some cats do drink from toilets. However, as convenient as it may be for your cat, and certainly the water is probably okay, it is quite possible for your cat to drown if he/she falls into the toilet head first. It’s the same danger small children can face.

    @PrinceArtemis: Maybe this is semantics; maybe it’s just an “agree to disagree” situation. But I am quite sure, there are certain things that other people go through that you can never truly understand unless you have gone through the same experience. And even then, even if the experience is the same, it’s quite possible not. All of your thought, compassion, empathy, imagination, and humility, may help you understand some things, but not everything. You can never truly KNOW how someone else feels. If you think you can, you’re mistaken.

  282. princessartemis says

    @Maxcat, I suspect it's a little bit of both. It appears to me that you are using "know" and "understand" to suggest a perfection of knowledge (gnosis would be a good word here if it didn't already mean something else) not possible without being another person. I'm not using them this way. I'm using them in a bit of a 'dimmer' manner. It lets me see my fellows as fellows and gives me hope that I am not an inexplicable alien to all who surround me, so it works for me. Thank you for your time, I'll agree to disagree with you.

  283. Caleb says

    @princessartemis
    I think I need to understand your analogy better. I understand that in this society, sexual violence (which, if I understand your example, is a not crime in this instance) flows from Y->X. Society condones this behavior. However, sexual violence also flows from members of Y->other members of Y [Y1]. This causes the rest of society to classify the victims as members of group X.
    I will point out here that it is not the reclassification that harms Y1, it is the pre-occurring sexual violence. All victims are in the same class as to the harm experienced. Supposedly, not all members of X are victims. So we have X (potential victims) and subgroup [X1] (actual victims). We also have Y1 (actual victims). If the potential members of Y1 is coextensive with Y, then the supposed classification difference between X and Y is facetious.
    I think what you state is that socially accepted equality between Y and X will cause less sexual violence to both groups and bring about general recognition that sexual violence is wrong. I think you are missing an action principle. Social equality between Y and X would only reduce sexual violence if the perpetrators of said sexual violence recognized that sexual violence between equals was wrong in the first place. If there is no such recognition, then the equalization of group X would not in fact reduce the pool of potential victims. (Since sexual violence between equals is not wrong.) In your example, there is at least a class of perpetrators who do not recognize that sexual violence between equals is wrong. That is, those who victimize Y1. (The reclassification of Y1->X takes place after the violence.) How does equalization of X to Y convince those who already victimize equals?
    @James Pollock

    A large, diversified nation is better than a smaller nation because in the event of natural catastrophe, or other disaster, a larger nation is better situated to provide assistance (assuming, of course, you assume that one of the purposes of nationhood is to provide assistance to those who need it.)

    Alright. So “better” refers not to size per se, but the ability of the society to collectively respond to and remedy damage caused by natural disasters upon its citizens and their property. Size is only desirable to the degree it is factually correlative with this function. Disregarding empirics in this area, (I’d rather be a disaster victim in Switzerland or Denmark than in Russia or China. Just sayin.’) this tells me that size is an inappropriate focus of societal value. Instead, the focus should be on disaster readiness, and size to follow only as a means to an end.
    Now, is disaster response a self-sufficient end, or is there something behind there too?

  284. James Pollock says

    Maxcat, you keep referring to 1941 and 1940 as if these were before WWII.

    "You can never truly KNOW how someone else feels. If you think you can, you’re mistaken."
    I can get close enough for my purposes. Heck, there's a good argument to be made that you don't even know all the things that are influencing your thoughts, so even you don't KNOW how you feel.

  285. Maxcat says

    @PrincessArtemis: So you are using the concept of understanding or knowing to mean “I think I understand his motives,” “I think I understand where he is coming from,” “I think I know how he feels” as opposed to “his motive is X,” “his position is Y,” “he feels Z”? If so, then this is all semantics.

    If, not, I’m really sorry, because I just do not understand how anyone thinks they can actually get inside someone else’s head and actually know what they are thinking. I know people do it all the time on issues big and small, but you can’t actually do that. I know I even do it, when I know it can’t be done, and I don’t know why I do it just the same. I have theories: it’s easy; it allows you to take action when you don’t have complete information; it frequently works on a practical level.

    You can use your experience, knowledge, compassion, empathy, and IMAGINATION to watch someone’s actions and listen to what they say and form your own BELIEF as to what they believe, but you can’t know.

    Which all just gave me an odd thought: Is that why I have thought from the beginning that Clark’s little Ideological Turing Test here was at best doomed to failure and, at best, a load of crap? I think it is.

    Princess Artemis, thank you for assistance in helping me sort this out.

  286. Maxcat says

    @James Pollock: Yes you are absolutely right, I was taking a US centric view of the start of WWII: 7 December 1941 – but only because that was the reference I thought you were using. (“The U.S. government did not decide that the U.S. would enter the war. The Japanese Navy did.”) On a global scale, WWII certainly started years earlier. ( I had a history teacher that once made a good argument that WWII was actually just a continuation of WWI).

    And no, I frequently don’t know what I’m thinking, and I am not ashamed to admit I frequently need the help of others in making decisions. (Note, please see sincere thank you to @PrincessArtemis above.)

  287. Deiseach says

    Hello, Clark. I am not an American. Please explain to me why the Republican Party is evil. Also, please explain to me why I should think President Obama is anything other than a conventional politician (and, coming out of Chicago, a 'cute hoor' on the Irish model) instead of being an advanced spiritual being and a lightworker. Thank you!

  288. princessartemis says

    @Maxcat, that would not be an improper description of my usage. I think "understanding" is an adequate word for this the majority of the time.

    I suspect you're right about the Ideological Turing Test, and I likely for similar reasons. While I do think our common humanity is enough to allow us to understand one another, it's not enough to authenticate our understanding to the point of being "you must have been inside my head, experiencing things with me". And we're pretty good at sniffing out those who just don't have that authenticity.

    @Caleb, Let's me see about clarifying my analogy some. Right off, some of the violence also flows from X to Y, but is, because it is even more unthinkable than violence from Y to Y1, quite invisible. You are right, it is the violence that is the real harm, but the reclassification is part of what makes it acceptable. In reclassifying Y1 to X, it makes the violence at least understandable, if not acceptable. In order for Y on Y sexual violence to exist, there must be some Y who see their peers as unequal, and as their society pretty clearly make X the acceptable target, these certain Y are pre-classifying Y1 as X (or X-like). In American English terms, they are, as an example, "making him my bitch," "making Y my X." X, living in an unequal society, is used to seeing things in these terms, and some naturally aggressive X (something which this society deems unacceptable and not really possible) are violent to others and try to justify this by making them unequal. Sometimes this is other members of X, sometimes it is members of Y. X1 victims of X are not considered by the dominant Y to be especially unequal, but Y1 victims of X? You've got to be kidding me. For a Y to have been victimized by an X, they must have really been the Xiest X that ever Xed, if anyone even recognizes that it's possible at all. More likely, Y1 probably had fun and really must have been into it, given that Y must be the initiators and can never be the targets. (I note that in trying to understand my analogy, you did not allow for the possibility of X on Y sexual violence. Was this an oversight or indicative of how hard it really is to imagine that the "target" in an unequal society could be violent against the "initiator"? Honest question!)

    Equalizing X and Y will erase this ability to reclassify equals as less-than, as there will be no unequals. Will this completely erase sexual violence? Probably not, because it's more complex than that, but it will make it harder to justify, as it will remove a convenient mental shorthand to reduce equals to a state where the violence is acceptable. In a sexist society, X1 says, "Violence was committed against me," and is told, "But you are X." Y1 says, "Violence was committed against me," and is told, "No, it didn't." In an equal society, X, being equal, will not be considered an acceptable target, and Y, being unable to be lowered to X-likeness, will not be able to be made into an acceptable target. X1, being equal, will have their victimhood taken seriously, and Y1, being visible, will have their victimhood taken seriously as well.

    Naturally all analogies break down, and I can see some places where mine begins to, but I hope it holds together well enough to show a decent tangible "how" for this benefit to be called societal rather than just something that's good for a few people sometimes.

  289. princessartemis says

    PS, Maxcat, it probably doesn't look it, but I was rushed on that teal deer reply. It was a good discussion and you helped me clarify some of my thoughts too. Somehow that didn't get included in there. Thank you for that :)

  290. says

    Deiseach: The republican party isn't "evil" it's a combination of "afraid", "afraid", and "afraid".

    Having grown up in the south I have had died-in-the-wool Republicans say "If'n it's good for the darkies it _can't_ be good for me" as their reasoning for their republicanism. They then go on to vote for people who are against programs that would personally help them, on an individual basis, because they are "loss adverse" and don't want to have those worse-off than them raised into their tier and so become identical to those who used to be their socioeconomic inferiors. So this risk aversion and fear for their perceived standing is one of the primary motivators for a non-trivial cross section.

    My maternal grandfather was "rich" — nouvo-rich, the worst kind — and very republican. He ran in those circles. I was exposed to a wealth continuum from the old black man who did his maintenance (his family had "been with our family" for some generations) up through meeting with senators and cabinet members. I was however exposed to this after my most formative years (e.g. starting at about 13) and since he was a patriarchal douche-nozzle and I was related through my mother, I got to be pretty damn poor while visiting that scene. I watched and listened to wealthy republicans worry over their potential losses of standing and having to suffer fractions of a percent loss in expected income. It became not a case of "keeping up with the Joneses'" but a case of "continuing to beat down the Joneses', but with more viggor" like rats drowning their peers to make a raft when everybody could have just stood on the bottom. So the high end of that republican spectrum had the same risk aversion and fear for standing that the lowest end had.

    Next was a sea of "red-state zeal". My country right or wrong. If you're not with us your against us. Get your gun and report your neighbors. Strength through unity. You know, not to Goodwin myself but look that shit up. It's all guilt by association. It's fear of "the other". Xenophobia at it's most raw and _so_ typical that our "southern sheriff" stereotype has a catch phrase: "yah-ain't from round here, are you boyah?". A quick resort to force to shore up xenophobia is a reaction formation to fear.

    Republicans have not been "fiscally conservative" in my lifetime. They are nudge-nudge wink-wink cultural eugenicists with a laundry list of programs they want to kill under the "fiscal conservative" banner, and another laundry list — more defense spending, more money to the rich, more prisons, and more "punishment" — for programs to grow. The latter list is all about "safety". Well, actually the illusion of safety. The kind of safety that brings to mind a child hiding under a blanket with a toy gun.

    Fear.

    Arguments to adverse consequence — e.g. fear in proclamation-of-doom shaped clothing.

    And fear and it's proclamations of doom, causes stupid, short sighted reasoning.

    The only "evil" in politics is wilful ignorance, and that isn't the sole province of _any_ U.S. political subset.

  291. James Pollock says

    Maxcat, let me analogize your argument. A wrench can never truly fit a nut. They're manufactured in different places, at different times, and experience different forces from the time of their creation until the time they meet. No matter how good the manufacturing process, time and tide will impose imperfections… different imperfections… on both nut and wrench.
    This is absolutely true, and has almost no bearing on whether you can use a wrench to turn a screw.

    You can never truly know exactly what someone else is thinking, in part because communication methods are imperfect, but you can get across enough to provide functional understanding, even if it isn't complete. If I like chocolate-chip mint ice cream, and someone else likes chocolate-chip mint ice cream, the experiences of our lives related to ice cream may be completely different… and irrelevant, if we decide that "I like chocolate-chip mint ice cream" is sufficient. It's not necessary to feel, or even understand all the feelings, memories, sense impressions and whatnot a person has when they think about ice cream in order to understand that they don't want vanilla, they want chocolate-chip mint.

  292. says

    James Pollock: Flawed analogy. Wrenches are not supposed to fit nuts perfectly. If a nut were made, and then a wrench were made with an internal measure identical to the external measure of the nut it would be impossible to fit the wrench to the nut. Further if the tollerances were only expanded a little bit, the wrench would likely still not fit since the nut can change size under heat; but the wrench's opening might _shrink_ under heat as the tines widen if they widen faster than the span.

    Things work because of planned mismatch. Most systems only work because of complementary asymmetry in both specification and implementation.

    All men are created(*) with glorious inequalities fundamental to their existence.

    The working goal of the system is should be to converge toward ideals by an active exchange of misunderstandings for their better understandings.

    (*) The language was too good, and so used despite my atheism. 8-)

  293. Andrew says

    Interesting exercise. I think I would agree that F Clark would not immediately be rumbled as an imposter, although I am speaking as an outsider, albeit having lived in the US for a number of years. Some of the earlier responses were good, making clear points that I think most Democrats would agree with. Of course, being "in" on the game, I was waiting for the "a-ha", so I felt uneasy reading them. He was also believable when he was explaining away criticism of Democrats, but that is a case of being kinder on those perceived to be your allies, and I think we can all understand that. I certainly wouldn't be so kind, though. F Clark is clearly aware of the arguments made by Democrats against Republican talking points. I think in general, you can say that you have probably passed your version of the Turing Test, but am not sure of the value.

    In a few places I detect a patronising tone when presenting and dismissing Republican arguments. Not quite sure what to make of that. 

    The "we democrats" line which was used more than once was interesting. It makes sense as a member of the party speaking for the party, but not really of an average Democrat. That is my impression, anyway.

    Two questions:
    1. What do you think Republicans and Democrats agree on? (Clark or F Clark)
    2. Has this exercise made you modify your opinions at all? (Clark)

    In the end,  I think that our positions are related to what we see as being injustice (mostly from the perspective of a child). I know that I see injustice in the way that early property owners and investment bankers have made great profits without commensurate effort, even though I myself am well-off relative to many. Others see injustice in the way that people who do not work receive hand-outs.

  294. says

    If a wrench fits the nut too perfectly, it will be very difficult to use. A small amount of slack is built into the specifications.

  295. says

    James Pollock: I know it's news to you… that's why its so sad to listen to opine sometimes. Your world view is so simplified as to feel painful to the informed observer.

    Plus you drop important words, such as "perfectly", which was used in your analogy, and my response, but then went mysteriously missing in your sur-reply.

    It's like _all_ the words matter dude…

    Technical specs on wrenches and nuts follow for those who like references.

    Technical Specs

  296. James Pollock says

    John
    "If a wrench fits the nut too perfectly, it will be very difficult to use. A small amount of slack is built into the specifications."
    A perfect wrench has exactly the perfect amount of slack. But even a non-perfect wrench can be used to turn the nut.

    Robert:
    "its so sad to listen to opine sometimes."
    "Plus you drop important words … It's like _all_ the words matter dude…"
    Ironic, much?

  297. says

    James Pollock: "A perfect wrench has exactly the perfect amount of slack. But even a non-perfect wrench can be used to turn the nut."

    Which is the exact opposite of the analogy you made and your sudden reversal is exactly my point about the sloppy thinking you often display here.

    You went from "A wrench can never truly fit a nut" to "A perfect wrench has exactly the perfect amount of slack" without even noticing that you changed your analogy completely _and_ countered your own argument.

    And you make fun of me dropping the word "you" in an edit? You cannot even stick to one whole side of an observation.

    See, _we_ see you shifting on your unsteady feet with each declamation and you think you are bing perfectly consistent. That's the hallmark of flawed reason.

    I know you don't get it. You don't understand why we don't seem to be convinced by your outbursts. We know why, we watch it happen.

    It's because you don't know how to connect a series of statements to support a proposition. I suggest you go listen to "the argument sketch" by monty python…

  298. James Pollock says

    "So you don't know what "Irony" means either?"
    1. the humorous or mildly sarcastic use of words to imply the opposite of what they normally mean
    2. an instance of this, used to draw attention to some incongruity or irrationality

    Such as, for example, complaining to someone that they drop words almost directly after dropping a word. To do that would be ironic.

    Do flail on.

    "Which is the exact opposite of the analogy you made and your sudden reversal is exactly my point about the sloppy thinking you often display here."
    Or, it's the exact same analogy, and your failure to notice that is your own sloppy thinking. The perfect wrench does not exist, which is directly analogous to the perfect understanding that does not exist between any two people. I neither changed direction nor defeated the analogy.

    "And you make fun of me dropping the word "you" in an edit?"
    No, I made fun you you for dropping a word while whining about words being dropped.

    I'm sorry you just didn't understand the analogy, and continue to want to make a big fuss about it. Feel free to ignore any others I might make in the future, they're clearly identified with my name right at the beginning for your convenience.

  299. James Pollock says

    Compare and contrast these two (slightly edited) expositions:
    "A wrench can never [perfectly] fit a nut. They're manufactured in different places, at different times, and experience different forces from the time of their creation until the time they meet. No matter how good the manufacturing process, time and tide will impose imperfections… different imperfections… on both nut and wrench."

    "If a nut were made, and then a wrench were made with an internal measure identical to the external measure of the nut it would be impossible to fit the wrench to the nut. Further if the [tolerances] were only expanded a little bit, the wrench would likely still not fit since the nut can change size under heat; but the wrench's opening might _shrink_ under heat as the tines widen if they widen faster than the span."

    I think they say essentially the same thing, a perfect match between nut and wrench is not possible to achieve (there are a few assumptions in play in the second one. It talks about identical measurements, an assumption not made in the first passage, and it talks about tines, which not all wrenches have. These are trivial details.) Both paragraphs could easily end with the same conclusion, "This is absolutely true, and has almost no bearing on whether you can use a wrench to turn a [nut].", which completes the analogy.

  300. Maxcat says

    @JamesPollack & @Robert White: Interesting discussion about wrenches, nuts, tolerances, definition of perfection, etc., but, sorry, knowing what someone else is thinking doesn’t compare at all to wrenches and nuts. People aren’t nuts (depending on the type of nut we are talking about).

    A wrench can easily be manufactured to fit a nut when they are made in different locations at different times – assuming the nut matches a standard. Nuts are, generally, simple enough that they can be exactly described by a standards document. The maker of the wrench doesn’t need the nut so long as he has the standards document that describes the nut.

    Even if you are going to make something more complicated than a nut you don’t necessarily need everything to be done in the same place at the same time. The Boeing 787 aircraft has major components manufactured all over the world and when they are brought to Everett, Washington for final assembly they all fit together. This can be done because before any manufacturing was started, detailed documentation of all the components and interfaces were developed describing everything and how it would be assembled.

    As complicated as a modern aircraft like the 787 is, each and every human being is far more complicated. You can’t write a standards document that exactly describes what a person believes or thinks.

  301. George William Herbert says

    James Pollock, a while ago:
    Simplified: The U.S. government did not decide that the U.S. would enter the war. The Japanese Navy did.

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essex_class_carrier

    Designed in 1938-40, first three ordered 3 July 1940, ten more programmed by the Two-Ocean Navy Act of 19 July 1940 and ordered 8 on 9 September 1940 and 2 on 15 December 1941. After the US declared war, 19 more were ordered in 1943 and 6 more in 1944, but in point of fact WW II ended before all of the 1943 order were finished and three of those and all the 1944 units were cancelled.

    Also, 512 B-17s ordered in 1940, the Gato submarine orders in 1939, Garand rifle fully equipped the Army by the end of 1941 (before the wartime growth surge), …

  302. says

    Flippity… Floppity… these opposites say the same things…

    Seriously you just say whatever you think will win the latest fragment of whatever seems to breeze by. No focus.

    One is a statement of failure, that a match you would desire is not possible. A sentiment of what "can't be made".

    The other is a statement that what the first claims desirable is not even a goal. A statement that some things "are not desirable" and are, in fact, bad decisions most actively avoidable.

    That you think these two sentiments are the same thing is rather symptomatic of your weak reasoning. A reasoning that appears to be based on "gross seemings" and not so much on "precise reason and discernment".

    Your arguments regularly suffer from this sort of flaw. The term is "conflation".

    It is exacerbated by your apparent inability to gracefully lose a point even this tangential in the slightest of conflicts.

    Unimpressive at all levels sir!

  303. says

    Maxcat: I know, and agree. My position was that his nut-and-wrench analogy was flawed for being factually incorrect at a far more fundamental level. So not just wrong, but not even wrong. 8-)

  304. James Pollock says

    Maxcat:
    "As complicated as a modern aircraft like the 787 is, each and every human being is far more complicated. You can’t write a standards document that exactly describes what a person believes or thinks."
    True enough. Why would you want to?
    The point is that while it may not be possible to know every detail of what someone else thinks, it IS possible to know enough to work with.
    Just like the guy who puts gas in the 787 doesn't have to know every detail of every part of the plane in order to do his job, he just has to know where the hose goes (oversimplified to make a point). Even the guy who flies the thing doesn't have to know every detail of the aircraft's engineering in order to do his job. Perfection isn't required, which is a good thing because it isn't possible.
    "Perfect" knowledge of someone else's thoughts does not exist. Agreed. Neither does perfect anything else. But "good enough to do the job" DOES exist, and gets the job done, by definition.

    Alas, the world IS full of condescending jerks, and it's not possible to understand completely WHY they're condescending jerks. Are you sure you even want to? Or is delving into their personality that far a bad decision that is most actively avoidable?

  305. James Pollock says

    Robert, if you can't even recognize irony when it's pointed out to you, I don't think I'll be taking your advice on "precise reason and discernment".

    Sell it to someone else.

  306. AlphaCentauri says

    Too bad Ken's in trial prep mode, so he can't provide a new post to distract people away from discussions that have gotten too personal and acrimonious to be interesting to everyone else.

    Maybe he should accept one of those guest posts about ponies, so we can all be united in abusing the guest poster. ;)

  307. James Pollock says

    You're probably right, AC. About the first part I mean. I'm not sure reviling a pony-oriented post from a spammer would keep us busy for long, and then there'd be (figurative) blood in the water…

  308. says

    James, when people misunderstand me, I usually check to make sure it wasn't me that gave rise to the misunderstanding. In this case, yes, I misunderstood you. Sorry that I missed the "irony" tag.

  309. kgb999 says

    Didn't get to read all the comments … and from the last few, it seems maybe that's a good thing (pity too, it's an interesting premise).

    But from the first several questions … no, I would never mistake the arguments that Folgers Clark made with those of a mainstream Democrat. The responses come off as characterizing the beliefs of others rather than mounting an argument as a Democrat would. But beyond that, I don't think the characterization reflected the primary arguments I'm hearing made very well.

    One problem is the premise. Currently, it really doesn't seem as if the mainstream – if we're defining mainstream as those who hold leadership in the party – is traditionally liberal by any measure. There's a pretty big disconnect between "Democrat" and where the center of gravity in the self-identified liberal movement is at the moment. So, on most questions, I would posit that the answer from a mainstream Democrat's point of view is different than that of a self-identified liberals' point of view.

    The thing that jumped out at me most is that it seems like Folgers Clark established his perception of the arguments being made by Democrats sometime around the Clinton era, but things have really changed since those days in terms of core arguments being promoted.

    The center of gravity for any party's mainstream argument shifts with the need to justify whatever the party's current policy is – and what their top-echelon politicians are using their power to do. So the mainstream partisan argument typically follows the basic frames the politicians are using to justify what is being done.

    Obama has taken the Democrats into a really weird place. It's this crazy Regan/Bush/Clinton mashup where he's managed to take the absolute worst behaviors and justifications from each epoch and squished them all together. Likewise his staff. So, depending on subject, now the argument you're getting from Democrats could just as easily be ones you've fielded previously from hard-core Reganites … or Clintoites … or Bushies … or new ideas popping into their heads as they wing it.

    Trying to pin down Republicans was the same way when it was their crew in charge. Although, Bush's approach was not as much a synthesis – so there was a lot less re-hashing old arguments and a lot more winging it. The core ideology and arguments underpinning the Republican party sprinted at times to positions diametrically opposed to orthodoxy during the Regan years – particularly on due process and being secure in one's effects.

    It seems like achieving power, the presidency in specific, causes a great deal of flux in a party's perception of their *own* ideology and tends to significantly change the frames under which their ideals are contextualized – and how manifestations of political action are justified within those new contexts. It creates a moving target which morphs with time.

    Pondering it. Successfully presenting an argument from the perception of someone else – especially someone one believes they disagree with has got to be dang near impossible. I'm quite sure if I tried this, I'd just totally piss people off. Anyhow. Cool idea. Made me think.

    And for the record. Krugman really is kind of an asshat. It just seems to be in his nature.

  310. James Pollock says

    When "your" party's out of power, it's easy to sit and complain about things, and it's also easy to stand on principle, for the same reason… you aren't actually having to solve real problems. Whereas when "your" party is in power, the leaders of the party ARE having to solve problems, which means finding practical solutions to problems which means moving off of principle because it's rare that you can stand firm in the face of the problems you have to deal with (if they were easy problems, they would have been solved lower in the bureaucracy). So you tend to see people whose party is in power defending the actions of their leadership. That's why you have people who were firmly opposed to Guantanamo when W was running things strangely silent about it now that Obama is running things. (Also, I think, why Republicans suddenly remembered how against deficit spending they are when it isn't their guys doing the spending.)

  311. AlphaCentauri says

    You've also got a lot more fragmentation in the population now. When there were three television networks, two local newspapers, two wire services and no internet, people were pretty much hearing the same news all over the country. They may not have agreed with one another about things, and the news itself may not have been complete/accurate, but there was a common data set.

    Now with so many different places to go for news, people have much more access to accurate data, yet they are clustering at sources that say things they like — and therefore, don't challenge things they take for granted. They don't feel they have to defend their positions and therefore aren't thinking them through as thoroughly.

  312. Robin Bobcat says

    I'm a bit to late to the party, but I think it's time Folgers Clark answered the most pressing question we all really want to know the answer to:

    Boxers, or briefs?

  313. Ryan says

    It seems like something similar has been done, seeing who could most accurately pretend to be a member of the opposite political party and answer questions similar to the average member of the target party. They found that conservatives and moderates were far more accurate in answering questions from a liberal perspective than liberals were at taking a conservative perspective accurately.

    The paper was Jesse Graham, Brian A. Nosek, Jonathan Haidt "The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences across the Political Spectrum"

  314. James Pollock says

    "It seems like something similar has been done, seeing who could most accurately pretend to be a member of the opposite political party and answer questions similar to the average member of the target party"

    That's a test of acting ability.

  315. Damon says

    Is there some point in this? It just appears to be a guy doing an insulting caricature of a Democrat. Is there a layer of irony I'm missing? Is he pretending to be Rush Limbaugh's take on what a partisan Democrat might say? Either way, for what purpose?

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