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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Arguments from Emotion and the Totalitarian Left

This post is a spin-off of The Totalitarian Left series, part one of which is here. That series maintains that liberals are soft on terror because they consider arguments from emotion to be legitimate. That is, if someone feels strongly about something, the passion of their feeling, alone, is enough to:
Make their gripes be considered reasonable;
Make their claim be considered proved;
Create an obligation that their demands be met.

If Arafat’s Nobel Peace Prize and dinner at the White House with President Clinton are examples of the phenomenon on the macro scale, what follows is an example of the same phenomenon on the micro scale.

My auntie Patti and I (in the mainland you might say surrogate mother or second mother- in Hawaii we say auntie- sort of- anyway this woman was always, and is, like a second mother to me) we were discussing health care. Her mother, Nana, is approaching her 90th birthday, and is alive and relatively competent, despite the onset of Alzheimers, because she takes 9 or 10 wonder pills every day. Nana pays for her medication regimen with some combination of government money- Social Security plus Medicaid in some combination. Patti is rich from her retired husband’s earnings as a land developer- she literally lives on a mansion on a hill- and politically she is a modern liberal. She pays her daughter (Nana’s grand daughter, a registered nurse) to take of Nana. Okay, there’s the exposition- here’s the conversation.

Patti: Nana's been getting her pills from Canada. Now Bush is going to make that illegal so his corporate pals can screw her over. She’ll be paying twice as much for the exact same thing.

Me: They’re only cheaper in Canada because the Canadian government makes it illegal for them to sell them for market value. And somebody has to pay the difference. So Americans are actually supplementing Canadian health care.

Patti: They wouldn’t sell them in Canada if they didn’t make money. They are selling a pill that costs them fifty cents to ma for five dollars. You want her to pay more?

Me: No, if she can do it more power to her. I'm just saying the SECOND pill costs fifty cents. The first pill costs fifty million dollars to research and develop and test and get approved. Americans pay for the first pill. Canadians pay for the second pill. If you take away the profits they won’t make new pills.

Patti: Bullshit. These corporations are making billions of dollars. I wouldn’t mind if they made reasonable profits.

Me: These are publicly traded companies. You probably own some stock in them. They aren’t full of bogeyman.

Patti: Well who is going to pay my mom’s bills? You’re talking about economics and I’m talking about my mother eating dog food because she can’t afford her medicine and food! She gets 500 dollars a month from Social Security.

Me: Nobody is eating dog food, Patti. Is Nana eating dog food?

Patti: No, because of me! But people do!

Me: Nobody is eating dog food. Nana is alive because somebody made these new pills. If you take away the profit they aren’t going to keep on making new medicines.

Patti: Well, good luck on finding a gynecologist for your wife. They’re being sued out of business and moving to Mexico. They’re getting run out of the country!

Me: She has one…

I didn’t record the conversation, (I wish I had so I could post it so you could hear the passion in her voice when dog food entered the conversation) but that is a faithful and very accurate report of it. I’m sure conversations like this take place all over America, every day. Note the patter of liberal argument vs. conservative counter:

1. Patti attempted to demonize corporations… This is a liberal cliché- countered with the conservative answer, which I believe has only been around for the last ten years or so…

2. Argument from emotion 1- that Nana will have to eat dog food. She said this passionately, and it was supposed to shut me up. But I countered with reality- Patti is rich and will never need to eat dog food. Then I said nobody would. Now, I don’t know this, but that’s okay, since Patti doesn’t know that anybody is or will have to eat dog food. The specific response to an argument from emotion DOES NOT MATTER – arguments from emotion are inherently weak, and you need only deny them flatly.

3. Argument from emotion 2- Having failed in making me agree with her out of guilt that Nana would eat dog food unless I did, (lol) Patti goes for the jugular by saying my wife will not have an OBGYN if medicine isn’t socialized (this would be effective, if I respected arguments from emotion, that is, because my wife and I are encountering difficulties in conceiving a child). My reply was true- but even if it wasn’t- wouldn’t the solution to her claim be tort reform? I’m not sure if she threw that in as a red-herring or not. Anyway, my response ended the conversation.

Now, let me be clear about one thing. Patti is a wonderful person. She is loving to her family, my family, to everybody. She gives to charity. She gave me a car when I was in college! She taught kindergarten for 30 years. She’s great. I love her to death. (NOT a Freudian slip!) So this is not an evil woman trying to manipulate me… this is a kind woman who believes argument from emotion is legitimate. After helping to raise me for 30 years this one conversation is not going to change her feelings about me, but it infuriated her that I did not respond to her emotion.

If Patti and I were not so close she would probably think I was a heartless bastard. She would probably think that I did not care whether or not Nana would eat dog food. Or, more generally, that my failure to respond to arguments from emotion indicated I lacked the ability to feel emotion for others- sympathy- empathy- compassion. This is probably where liberals get the idea that conservatives are not wrong, but evil. (Patti probably just told herself that I am naïve)

But what I refused to do was shut off the analytical part of my mind out of fear: fear of rejection, condemnation, or anger. Liberals respond to arguments from emotion in exactly that way- they stop thinking to appease. And because they do so, individually, on a day to day basis, thousands, maybe millions of times a day, in America and around the world, on a micro scale, if you will, they do so on a macro scale, too.

Ed.- How’s that for a crazy sentence? 8 commas in there. If you followed that sentence the entire way through then you and I, dear reader, are tight!

More on this tomorrow.


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