The GOP Debates and the Lack of Introspection

The last two GOP debates have featured cheers from the crowd and responses from candidates that ought to be considered problematic.

Note:  just as I was about to post this, I noticed that Doug Mataconis has a related post that went up while I was composing the following.  However, my take, apart from pointing to the Paul clip, is more involved (and I disagree with Doug in terms of evaluating Paul’s response) so went ahead and double-posted the video.

Writing in response to several audience outbursts at GOP debates (with the proximate cause being Ron Paul’s response about what to do, in Paul’s ideal world of personal responsibility, regarding an uninsured individual–video below), Andrew Sullivan writes:

even if such libertarian purity does make sense, that cannot excuse the emotional response to the issue in the crowd last night. Maybe a tragedy like the death of a feckless twentysomething is inevitable if we are to restrain healthcare costs. But it is still a tragedy. It is not something a decent person cheers. Similarly the execution of hundreds, while perhaps defensible politically and even morally (although I differ), is nonetheless a brutal, awful business. You don’t delight in it. And the same is true of torture. Even if you want to defend its use in limited circumstances, it remains an absolute evil, no humane person would want to do it, and no civilized person would brag of it or dismiss any moral issue with it at all.

Indeed.  And, like Sullivan, I find the lack of introspection on these issues as displayed by some to be disturbing.  This was my reaction to Rick Perry’s all too calm response to the death penalty question from last week’s debate and I feel the same way about Pauls’ response to Blitzer’s question about the uninsured.  Purity about justice and liberty (respectively) make for great slogans and debates over drinks, but reality is a tad bit more messy than that. And while what one can extrapolate from audience outbursts is limited, the cheers from the debate crowd in both instances are likewise disquieting.

Perry’s death penalty response was especially problematic insofar as it was far too confident given the solemnness of the topic.  As I commented over at E.D. Kain’s blog last week:

I would have been more impressed had he shown at least some level of self-reflection over the serious responsibility to to be associated with overseeing that many executions. Instead, he presented an air of infallibility over his ability to be the Hand of Justice. This is not impressive, is it disquieting.

I mean, gee whiz, I occasionally pause to wonder if I treated a student fairly on a grade or in a response given in class (or whether punishment meted out to my kids was fair) so I should hope that overseeing the final justice that is the death penalty would give one pause for thought on occasion, rather than just being used as a political excuse to look steely eyed and resolute.

Here’s the video in question.

In regards to health care, here’s the video that inspired Sullivan’s post:

The irony of Paul’s position is that he believes that individuals should take responsibility for themselves and yet he opposes the individual mandate for health insurance which is a policy that would require that each private citizens is covered (i.e., making sure everyone took responsibility for themselves), thus alleviating the current situation wherein society at large could be held responsible for the costs of an uninsured citizen.   As Sullivan notes:

America, moreover, has a law on the books that makes it a crime not to treat and try to save a human being who walks into an emergency room. So we have already made that collective decision and if the GOP wants to revisit it, they can.

Here’s how: offer an honest proposal from the GOP to repeal the emergency room care law. Why not? If you are going to repeal universal health insurance, then make your libertarian principles coherent. And make the case that people unable or unwilling to buy health insurance deserve the consequences. That makes sense. And the question of why Perry or Ryan or Bachmann support this free-rider loophole in contradiction to their principles is one worth asking again and again.

The above facts (and their logical consequences) are why I have argued in the past that I do not buy the argument that not buying health insurance constitutes an act without broader social consequences (which is the essence of the argument that it constitutes “no activity” and therefore cannot be regulated by Congress).  To reiterate:  if by choosing not to buy insurances I put society at risk for paying for my illness or injury because of prevailing law about emergency room care, then my so-called lack of action is not a null act that affects only me, it is instead an active choice with consequence beyond myself.

I would further note:  the idea that one can have freedom and yet still be required by government to follow certain steps so as to engage in exercising that freedom is hardly a novel concept.  One cannot drive, fly an airplane, perform surgery, practice law, or any numbers of other things without government requiring certain things of you.  While yes, in theory, these are all liberty-constraining activities, but even a free society needs rules and constraints to be a society.

I recognize that campaigning for office is rarely an introspective activity and, further, that voters do not reward complex, nuanced positions but instead prefer resoluteness.  Still, there are topics worthy of pause for thought and acknowledgment that human fallibility is in play.  Further, policies (and ideologies) have consequence and officer-seekers need to acknowledge this fact if they are to be trusted with governance.

A passing sidenote that I end with comes from something I saw on my OBT colleague Alex Knapps’ FB wall this morning:

So far in the Republican debates, the crowds have cheered for torture, executions by the Governor who’s definitely executed two innocent people and probably more, and letting people without health insurance die. Mind you, these are the same people who want to return the country to Christian values. I think they might want to look up what Christian values are.

While I do not want to be snarky and pretend like the described events tar an entire party or a faith group within said party, the basic point is still worth making.  Further, such behavior should results in condemnation from within the party (and especially from the faith communities within the party).

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Health Care, Religion, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Had I wanted to spend more time on my post about this (frankly burned out with debate stuff today) I would’ve noted that Paul’s response didn’t seem to take into account his position as a medical doctor. Looking at it from that perspective, there is the issue of an ethical duty to provide care regardless of ability to pay.

    For the most part, though, I actually agree with you more than you might think.

  2. Polaris says:

    The individual mandate is the antithesis of “taking personal reponsibility”. Otherwise why would Obamacare effectively make catastrophic health insureance (which DOES make sense) effectively illegal.

    If you are using govt choice to make someone do someithing, that’s not personal responsibility. Encouraging personal responsibility would be to repeal the law that mandates health services to those that can’t pay.

    -Polaris

  3. mattb says:

    I’m having a hard time squaring this position with the 2010 fear that were ginned up about “Death Panels” and “rationing.” I guess the position has a certain type of “purity” in that it establishes a “don’t get broke if you can’t pay for the repair” bright line.

    Personally, I’m interested in understanding how it squares with other ideas brought up in the debate last night. Take for example the hypothetical I posted in a different thread here:

    Given the general tenor of last night’s debate, if a family chooses not to immunize a daughter and she later contracts cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and/or cervical cancer should that individual (or family) be denied health insurance or government assistance for treatment because of that choice?

    Following Paul’s line, how is this situation different than the 20something that doesn’t have insurance? The family (and the individual… if she is an adult) chose not to avail themselves of the technology. Is the sickness then “their fault?”

  4. @Polaris: Sometimes the law has to be deployed to get people to take up that which they are responsible for, such as with child support.

  5. mattb says:

    @Polaris:

    Encouraging personal responsibility would be to repeal the law that mandates health services to those that can’t pay.

    This is the intellectually consistent position.

    But reading it I can’t help but think of Dickens…

    Two gentlemen enter Scrooge’s counting-house collecting to “make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute”. Scrooge asks them, “Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses? The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” The gentlemen answer: yes, all are in operation. They then attempt to solicit a donation. Scrooge replies, “I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.” Scrooge is told that many can’t and besides, “many would rather die.” Then comes Scrooge’s famous retort: “If they would rather die they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” He adds: “It’s not my business. It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

    summation quote from: http://www.nallon.com/carol/chrcarIII.html

  6. Polaris says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Why?

    That’s a serious question because I don’t see it. I don’t want your government in my life, period, and I certainly don’t want to pay for it.

    -Polaris

    Edit PS: In any event it’s moot. In the case of child support, your actions are affecting someone else (your child and your ex-spouse) and so the govt might reasonably have a say. It’s a decision that doesn’t affect just you. Your own health is your own and no one else’s and thus no one else should have a say. [Now if you are working for some that depends on your good health…say the Military for example, that’s completely different.]

  7. @Polaris:

    I don’t want your government in my life, period, and I certainly don’t want to pay for it.

    I am not sure why you use the word “your” (but perhaps I am missing something),

    However, as a general proposition it is impossible to live without government in one’s life unless one wishes to go live in the wilderness. As such, I am not sure of your point.

  8. Anonne says:

    Patti Davis was on Lawrence O’Donnell last night and said that none of these clowns in the debates come close to being like her father, Ronald Reagan. They also played a clip from the West Wing inspired by Reagan, where Bartlett has a priest in the Oval Office and confesses his sins before an execution that there was no legal ground to stop. Perry acts like he’d take a six pack of beer instead.

  9. Polaris says:

    Mattb,

    I think Dickens unfairly slimes the libertarian position with Ebeneezer Scrooge, but I agree with the fictional Scrooge here. If people are bothered by it, then donate their own time and money of their own free choice to do something about it.

    -Polaris

  10. Polaris says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: My point is simple. If I make a decision that affects only me (my own health), then what right does the govt have to stick it’s nose in?

    None that I can see.

    -Polaris

  11. mantis says:

    Party of Death.

  12. David M says:

    I for one welcome the Obamacare overloards interfering the insurance companies freedom to refuse to sell me a policy at any price. The tyranny of actually being able to purchase a health insurance policy is almost unbearable.

    More government does not always = less freedom. That is an incredibly simplistic and narrow view of the world.

  13. @Polaris: But of course, most decisions do not effect only ourselves, especially the big ones. I am actually sympathetic to the philosophical point you are making, but there is a profound difference between philosophical purity and the reality that would result if people were actually allowed to die because they were in an accident, unconscious and had not insurance.

    A simple question: what if I was in a wreck and taken to the hospital and left to die because I had forgotten my wallet at home and the hospital thought I had no insurance?

  14. john personna says:

    In the conservative world, is it even thought that parents should be required to buy insurance for their children?

    Or is it expected that children may need to plead for charity, should need arise?

  15. mattb says:

    @Polaris:

    I think Dickens unfairly slimes the libertarian position with Ebeneezer Scrooge

    Why… one can argue he’s one of the most philosophically consistent characters (at least prior to his personal transformation) in all of Dicken’s work. He’s a radical free market capitalist through and through. Or is it the entire libertarianism was — for Scrooge — a result of a cruel and isolated upbringing?

    @as for this:

    your actions are affecting someone else (your child and your ex-spouse) and so the govt might reasonably have a say. It’s a decision that doesn’t affect just you.

    This is exactly why I pose the inoculation question above. If the child — whose parents opted not to vaccinate — contracts CIN (precursor to Cervical Cancer) which is caused by HPV prior to becoming an legal adult, should that child be denied treatment on the basis that this was statistically the fault of the parents (who failed to take the necessary preventative measures)?

    Likewise, should emergency medical procedures/care be held until it’s clear that the individual can pay for it? Or should care simply stop once the individual cannot pay for it?

  16. Polaris says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    A simple question: what if I was in a wreck and taken to the hospital and left to die because I had forgotten my wallet at home and the hospital thought I had no insurance?

    I’ll give you the same answer as before and I know you won’t like it:

    Fecal Matter happens. People die every day from dumb bad luck. Today it was your (hypothetical) turn.

    It’s a hard cruel world out there and trying to have govnment make the world safe, cute, and cuddley for everyone is not only (IMHO) fiscally irresponsible, but a sure first step to tyranny…tryanny of the ‘mother’ rather than ‘father’ figure govt, but tyranny all the same.

    -Polaris

  17. Polaris says:

    @john personna: Since children are not and can not be expected to be able to make adult decisions, the parents should be held responsible and I mean in a legal sense. If a child dies because their parents would not (not could not but WOULD not…that’s the issue being discussed here) take care of their child, then legal action against the parents should follow.

    That’s a far cry from a rational adult making a choice about health insurance and paying for it with his life. That’s a RATIONAL choice arrived at by RATIONAL means, and he (or she) should face the consequences of that without involving others.

    -Polaris

  18. David M says:

    @Polaris: Why even bother with a military or any government at that point?

  19. @Polaris:

    Fecal Matter happens. People die every day from dumb bad luck. Today it was your (hypothetical) turn.

    And yet, I find it morally problematic to allow said fecal matter to happen if its ill effects (especially needless death) can be alleviated. You don’t, clearly, and that is where the philosophical dividing line is drawn.

    It’s a hard cruel world out there and trying to have govnment make the world safe, cute, and cuddley for everyone is not only (IMHO) fiscally irresponsible, but a sure first step to tyranny…tryanny of the ‘mother’ rather than ‘father’ figure govt, but tyranny all the same.

    While making the hard cruel world 100% “safe, cute, and cuddley” is clearly impossible, I would submit that you should review history (especially of the last century) if you think that government has no role in improving the lives of citizens–not to mention making the world safer (and perhaps even cuter and cuddlier) than it otherwise would be.

  20. john personna says:

    Psychopathy (/saɪˈkɒpəθi/[1][2]) is a mental disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others, and are very disproportionately responsible for violent crime. Though lacking empathy and emotional depth, they often manage to pass themselves off as normal people by feigning emotions and lying about their pasts.

  21. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    I think Dickens unfairly slimes the libertarian position with Ebeneezer Scrooge, but I agree with the fictional Scrooge here.

    To put it simple: if one fails at passing the morality test of a simple 19th century children’s story one is probably not fit to live in a modern society. So wilderness seems like a really good option here.

  22. ponce says:

    Seems as good a definition as any of the current sides in the battle for control of the Republican party:

    The Introspectives vs. The Certains.

  23. Polaris says:

    @Ebenezer Arvigenius: Or perhaps the 19th century morality test was wrong or at best incomplete.

    -Polaris

  24. Hey Norm says:

    I find it interesting that the religious right is so eager to leave people to their own devices. Talk about the antithesis of christianity. If Polaris really believes what he is saying – great. Ayn Rand spewed the same bunk…then jumped onto Medicare when she got sick herself.

  25. mattb says:

    @Polaris:

    Since children are not and can not be expected to be able to make adult decisions, the parents should be held responsible and I mean in a legal sense. If a child dies because their parents would not (not could not but WOULD not…that’s the issue being discussed here) take care of their child, then legal action against the parents should follow.

    So if I’m reading your correctly, the scenario goes like this:

    1. Parent(s) cannot or chooses not to insure the child.
    2. Child has catastrophic medical event
    3. Parent(s) cannot pay, child is refused care and dies.
    4. Parent(s?) can be held criminally accountable for the death of the child (negligence? reckless engagement?)

    What about a slipperier scenario in which the child is under insured — where costs exceed premiums? Or what about the case where at the beginning of a condition a parent is employed and has insurance and then loses her job?

    Like Steven, I don’t think the world can be made a “safe” place. But the idea that any social safety-net somehow infringes on your rights (or that simply by being a member of a society there you do have a implicit responsibility for others) does not speak particularly highly about your worldview.

  26. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    Or perhaps the 19th century morality test was wrong or at best incomplete.

    That would probably depend on one’s understanding of “a society”. But to be frank I’m unwilling to continue this discussion since I’m currently too disgusted by you and your views for a friendly intellectual exchange.

  27. mattb says:

    @Ebenezer Arvigenius: I’ll take it one step further. I have a really hard time with the idea that Polaris on one day can be “appalled” by Muslim insensitivity in building the “Ground Zero Mosque” and then not see any moral issues with the position that he’s seriously expressing here.

    I also love his profound consistency in saying that we should not have to account for the actions of others while, at the same time holding that all Muslims must perform public apologies and forcefully decry any and all terrorist acts (which by all accounts have nothing to do with them other than a tenuous group association) committed in the name of Islam (btw ignoring the fact that many have been doing that for quite a while).

    Perhaps it’s all performance trolling (Polaris being a reference to opposite polls). But it really isn’t in particularly good taste.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    I feel that an awful lot of OTB is about nominally Republican authors discovering, then rediscovering, then rediscovering yet again, that Republicans are selfish, stupid, bigoted as-soles.

    The rest of us already know this, and have known it for some time.

    I think the question on the minds of many of us is this: Why are people capable of understanding this about Republicans still Republicans?

  29. Fog says:

    “It’s a hard cruel world out there and trying to have govnment make the world safe, cute, and cuddley for everyone is not only (IMHO) fiscally irresponsible, but a sure first step to tyranny…tryanny of the ‘mother’ rather than ‘father’ figure govt, but tyranny all the same.”

    What is the definition of progress then?
    Could it be an increasing ability to alleviate human suffering?
    As the Greeks put it, a society is great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.

  30. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Anyone who wants to understand the OTB cycles should seriously read this:

    Your Brain on Politics: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Liberals and Conservatives

  31. Rob in CT says:

    Polaris, are you against the entire concept of insurance?

    Insurance is, after all, risk-pooling. Within that pool, some require healthcare and others do not. Everybody pays premiums, though. Those who stay healthy end up subsidizing those who get sick. Is that bad too?

    Insurance is about getting the many to fund the (uncertain) liabilities of the few. Some people’s houses burn down. Most do not. Does that piss you off too?

  32. ponce says:

    I find it interesting that the religious right is so eager to leave people to their own devices. Talk about the antithesis of christianity.

    I consider Republican Christians as CINOs, Christians in name only.

  33. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds: “I feel that an awful lot of OTB is about nominally Republican authors discovering, then rediscovering, then rediscovering yet again, that Republicans are selfish, stupid, bigoted as-soles.”

    It’s important to remember that as little as 20 years ago, conservatives may have been wrong but they weren’t irrational and tended not to be a-holes. The last 2 decades have seen a near total collapse in all standards of intellect and behavior on the right. People caught in the midst of such social breakdown often struggle to acknowledge, let alone confront, the world falling apart around them.

    Mike

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:
    JP:
    That is a fascinating article. As the author suggested, we’ll have to see whether the data holds up. But it fits with my own personal sense that conservatives are as intelligent as liberals but almost incapable of imagination. Imagination in this case being associated with (though not identical to) the kind of novelty-seeking, open-minded, scientific approach that characterizes liberals.

  35. Anonne says:

    @Rob in CT: But Rob, health insurance is not entirely like other insurance, because we ALL will indeed use the health system at some point . The extent of the burden on the system varies, but everyone will use it at some point, if nothing but to document the cause of death.

    And this is why a mandate makes sense. Health care is in many ways a common good. Free riders who increase the load on the system are a huge problem, and the quality of care goes down. Republicans were for this idea in the 90s. It is only unprincipled opposition why it suddenly becomes “soshulism” when adopted by the Democratic Party.

  36. Ron Beasley says:

    @john personna: I have read that about 5% of the population are sociopaths – I can’t help but think that number must be too low.

  37. Alex Knapp says:

    @Polaris: For the record, when, as the immutable Law of Universal Irony dictates, you find yourself in a position where you are unable to afford life-saving health care, I’d like you to know, for the record, that it bothers me not one whit that my tax and/or health insurance dollars will be used to save your life.

    That’s what it means to live in civilized society – providing mutal proection for even the most uncivilized.

  38. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The big picture idea that we have a heritable component to our political outlook seems solid. It’s been out there and growing in twin studies for at least a decade.

    If we are going to step back and do the “population dynamics thing” then we might guess that it matters less where an individual is on the curve, and more that populations contain many types. This surely makes populations more adaptable and brings society-wide survival benefits.

    I could guess that we have something like a bell curve, with “let them die” Teas on one end, “can’t we all work together” socialists on the other, and the bulk of us in-between.

    The happiest policies are the ones that satisfy the greatest area under the curve.

  39. john personna says:

    That, and people who are outliers would probably benefit by thinking of the whole curve, rather than experiencing frustration that they can’t drag the whole curve to their end.

  40. legion says:

    Look, one of the main (possibly _the_ main) point of having a government at all is to do things that individuals cannot do, or will not do, or cannot do efficiently, on their own. A classic example is the interstate highway system. Any grouping of people – or states, for that matter – capable of pulling that project off would be a de facto national gov’t.

    Polaris (and presumably others in the Lib/TP camp) complain that trying to set up national healthcare is fiscally inefficient. My response: So what?

    THE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT IS NOT TO MAKE A PROFIT. It is to see to the safety, security, and well-being of its citizens. If that can be done with fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget, fine. But if not, PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN MONEY. You might disagree with that, but it is a concept any “free” society must be founded on. Otherwise, all you have is just another aristocracy, where only money equals freedom.

    When you are a part of a society, you accept that society as a whole may make different decisions than you would as an individual. Deal with it. The taxes you pay are there to benefit society as a whole – not just you. A lot of this horn-tooting about “individual freedom and liberty” strikes me as nothing more than pure anarchy dressed up in the cheap bravery afforded by being comfortably wealthy. If you don’t think gov’t has any business doing anything you disagree with, get the hell out.

  41. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:
    I agree. My first presidential vote was for a Republican. (Nixon, forgive me.) I was an early member of the Libertarian Party until I realized most of them were taking things literally that I saw more as a necessary counterbalance within a larger frame.

    Even by the Reagan era I could throw away a vote on John Anderson because I didn’t much like either party.

    But now I’m left with nowhere to go but the Democratic Party. The GOP has forced me to straight party-line voting.

    Republicans are no longer the party of, “Hey, let’s take our time and think this through.” They’re the party of hysteria, fear, hatred and despair. The GOP today is a radical reactionary party not remotely conservative.

  42. Hey Norm says:

    @ MBunge and MR…
    There is a train of thought that the GOP lost it’s way when it became a religion, and was no longer a political party. Politics is about negotiation and compromise. Religion…not so much. The “no tax increases ever” catechism…pure faith based on no discernable evidence. Climate change denial…pure belief in the face of all discernable evidence. Is it really a lack of imagination? Or is it an over-active imagination tainted by mental illness? You decide.

  43. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:
    I’ll give you a practical example from my life. I move a lot. I mean, a lot. As in probably 50 different homes in 4 countries and 13 states plus the DC. That fits with the novelty-seeking.

    But if I’m going to bounce around seeking novelty I need someone to have built an actual town or city for to bounce in and out of. Those would be people with less of a novelty-seeking urge.

    Symbiosis.

    It begins to fall apart if I show up in town and start preaching anarchy. Or if the townsfolk decide to beat me up for being an outsider. (All this being metaphorical of course.)

    What’s happening right now is that second thing: paranoia and fear-driven overreaction among the amygdala-dominated conservatives. “We” aren’t doing anything terribly different, but “they” are freaking out.

  44. ponce says:

    I have read that about 5% of the population are sociopaths – I can’t help but think that number must be too low.

    I read a recent study that said roughly 50% of Americans would kill someone for no reason if someone else would take the blame.

  45. @michael reynolds: For what it is worth, while it is true that I once identified as a Republican/conservative but that predates my time at OTB. I have not voted Republican for over half a decade. I have changed my mind about some things, the party/movement has changed on others and in many cases I can no longer give the benefit of the doubt I once was willing to give.

    Does that help?

  46. Hey Norm says:

    @ Ponce…
    I killed a man in Reno just to watch him die.
    Does that help?

  47. john personna says:

    What’s happening right now is that second thing: paranoia and fear-driven overreaction among the amygdala-dominated conservatives. “We” aren’t doing anything terribly different, but “they” are freaking out.

    It is strange. The “right of center” party seems very much in the grip of what I’d call outliers.

  48. ponce says:

    What’s happening right now is that second thing: paranoia and fear-driven overreaction among the amygdala-dominated conservatives. “We” aren’t doing anything terribly different, but “they” are freaking out.

    I gotta disagree.

    Twenty years ago, I was a straight-ticket Republican, and all I heard at meetings back then was how group x or y was taking over or destroying the country.

    I think what’s different now is the internet and cable news channels allowing people to make money feeding Republican fears 24/7.

  49. Hey Norm says:

    Viewers of last nights debate…3.6M
    Viewers of Obama’s speech last Thursday…31M
    Hmmm…

  50. Alex Knapp says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I feel that an awful lot of OTB is about nominally Republican authors discovering, then rediscovering, then rediscovering yet again, that Republicans are selfish, stupid, bigoted as-soles.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve never been a Republican. I jumped from Libertarian Party activitst to disgruntled libertarian-leaning Independent to someone who’s a Democrat by default who thinks that “European-style social democracy” would be awesome. Especially along the lines of Denmark.

    While I’ve voted for Republicans on occasion, living in a blood-red state makes me tend to vote Democrat here. And in this state, by Democrat, I mostly mean Rockefeller Republican.

  51. An alternate version of the dilemma: a 20 something could have withheld enough money to pay his taxes but decides not to, and when April 15 rolls around, ends up owing taxes that he can’t afford to pay. Do you support dragging him out of his house in the middle of the night and jamming him into a metal box for several years?

  52. michael reynolds says:

    @Alex Knapp: @Steven L. Taylor:

    Three fellow travelers on the path to sanity. Maybe none of us are exactly racing down that path, but we’re moving in the right direction.

  53. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    An alternate version of the dilemma: a 20 something could have withheld enough money to pay his taxes but decides not to, and when April 15 rolls around, ends up owing taxes that he can’t afford to pay. Do you support dragging him out of his house in the middle of the night and jamming him into a metal box for several years?

    What they do in real life is garner wages.

    But that metal box thing really gives a zip to the amygdala, doesn’t it?

  54. john personna says:

    (I’ve had to fix a few quotes today … I didn’t quite catch the things I thought I did in my copy-text. Sorry for the confusion.)

  55. samwide says:

    @Polaris:

    @Steven L. Taylor: My point is simple. If I make a decision that affects only me (my own health), then what right does the govt have to stick it’s nose in?

    Ah, just flashed on the libertarian version of It’s a Wonderful Life — the movie opens in Pottersville and George is led to see that but for him, the town could have become Bedford Falls. At the end, the angel gives George a copy of Atlas Shrugged, inscribed, “Dear George, remember every man is an island, entire of itself. Thanks for the wings. About your illness. Think of it this way, because of your efforts, see you soon, real soon.”

  56. Jay says:

    I have to call bulls*** on the genetics of politics stuff, not bc I particularly disagree with everyone’s intuitions, but bc this is a great example of how people on both sides of the spectrum abuse science. The main scientific article cited by the article above has many severe flaws (as the authors admit):
    – it misrepresent the results, which actually show that moderate conservatives have larger ACC’s (the empathy center) than centrists and about equal amygdalas.
    – poor sample: none of the subjects identified as ‘very conservative’ so any possibiliy of true correlation is ruined.
    – not aplicable to the US: these are British college kids. Their political scale is different. Besides, I imagine any of us would have to have a large amygdalas to survive university in London as a conservative.

    I know I’m being picky, but misrepresenting research to satisfy our intuitions is barely better than denying evolution bc it doesn’t fit wih ones faith. Either way, you’re filtering out facts-that-dont-feel-right. With the pseudo-facts removed, many of the.arguments that I’m reading here sound less like reasoned opinions and more like rants, which is how they really should be interpreted.

  57. Alex Knapp says:

    Jay is correct that imaging studies of political views have a number of methodological flaws, not the least of which is that there aren’t any very good longitudinal studies.

  58. Terrye says:

    Texas is not the only state with a death penalty…why only ask for this sort of self reflection from a Republican? Obama obviously is willing to put someone to death.

    As for the issue of health insurance..Paul also said they did not turn anyone away to die back in the 60s. The thing is more people are without insurance today than were when Obama took office, why just harp on the conservatives.

    I know people who do not have health insurance and they actually pay their own way. Shocking, I know.

  59. G.A.Phillips says:

    the kind of novelty-seeking, open-minded, scientific approach that characterizes liberals.

    LOLZZZZZZ!!!!!!!

  60. john personna says:

    @Alex Knapp:

    Jay is correct that imaging studies of political views have a number of methodological flaws, not the least of which is that there aren’t any very good longitudinal studies.

    Why would the twin studies not qualify?

  61. john personna says:

    @Jay:

    I think you misinterpret (or misrepresent) the caveats given by the author.

    What she is saying is that there is a recurring shape to these results, and though details may be fuzzy, a picture is emerging.

    Now, if you tend to reject science and “emerging pictures” in general, it is certainly possible to play the same game here.

  62. john personna says:

    (My prediction in the past has been that it will take society about 50 years to process the things we already know about genes and behavior. That is, for it to shake out from genetics to ethics and policy. It is too big a shift to go any faster.)

  63. anjin-san says:

    Obama obviously is willing to put someone to death.

    And he would probably have a few sleepless nights over it. Perry has made it plain that the rather monumental step of ending the life of another person is nothing to him.

  64. An Interested Party says:

    If someone could release my comments from the spam filter, thank you…

  65. anjin-san says:

    I know people who do not have health insurance and they actually pay their own way. Shocking, I know.

    They must have pretty deep pockets. The colonoscopy I had a few years ago cost 13K. Now I can come up with that if I need to, but that was just for the test. If i was on a pay as you go, and it turned out I had colon cancer, well that would be a real problem.

    My wife had one when she hit 50 too. So there is 26 k for two tests. No prescriptions, no check ups. Just 2 tests.

    Tell me Terrye, do you have 26k in after tax dollars on hand to spend on a few tests? Do you have the 100k you might need if the results are bad?

    I have head that 40% of the people in this country would be hard pressed to come up with 1k in cash quickly if they needed it. Not sure about the accuracy of this, but it is pretty troubling.

  66. anjin-san says:

    I don’t want your government in my life, period, and I certainly don’t want to pay for it.

    Tell me something. Let’s say your house is on fire. Perhaps someone you love is trapped and you can’t get to them. What do you do – call the fire department or accept your bad luck and go outside and watch it burn?

    A further question. Suppose you stick to your principals and don’t call the fire department, but a neighbor does. As the firemen arrive you hear a loved one inside screaming for help. Do you tell the firemen you don’t want the government in your life and order them off your property?

  67. doubter4444 says:

    @anjin-san:

    That’s why the Randian Libertarians and Anarchists (aka Teabaggers) are lying hypocrites.
    When it come down to it they’ll always take the aid.
    And then probably sue the helpers after the fact claiming they did not want the help .
    Lying scum, that’s all they really are, lying bullies gaming the system.

  68. Jay says:

    @john personna: The author’s caveats are simply not strong enough. You cannot infer results from studies that are not powered to provide those results. Period. That would include writing articles implying that there is any kind of consensus or that there is a growing body of data. The only way to properly report these kinds of results is something like “researchers are attempting to link anatomy to political persuasion, but so far the results are not significant”.

    Anything else is misleading, for an important reason: the author’s methods would lead us to believe that were there 100 studies of the same type that he/she cites, we would have 100x more data supporting his/her thesis. We wouldn’t. We would simply have 100x more garbage data/noise than we do now.

  69. Jay says:

    @john personna: do you have a link for the twin studies (maybe it was there and i missed). sounds interesting. thanks.

  70. Alex Knapp says:

    @john personna: I’ve never heard of any twin studies in this realm.

    I’m working on a longer piece about the brain studies, but let me break down the five major flaws for you:

    1) The samples aren’t randomized. They’re homogenous populations of students.

    2) They’re not blind. The participants know they’re being studied about their politics. The scientists know who’s self reporting.

    3) The political classifications aren’t objective. This is a big one for me. The participants self-report their affiliations. I know people who call themselves liberal and vote Democrat, but if you scratch the surface, they’re pretty conservative. And vice versa.

    4) There are no predictive studies. There really needs to be a randomized blind study where the brains are imaged, a prediction is made about political affiliation, and then the result is revealed.

    5) There are no longitudinal studies. For a really good study, you’d want to do several images over a long period of time, both to look for changes in the relevant brain areas and re-determine political affiliations.

    Good rule of thumb: observational studies make for lousy conclusions. They’re hypothesis generators. I’d say the results from these studies are interesting enough to study the issue in more depth, but there is simply not enough data to draw conclusions from. This is the kind of data you make predictions from, then devise ways to test those predictions. Then you test them. Then you draw conclusions.

  71. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, Polaris’ notion that health care is an area where THE-GUM’MINT-SHALL-NOT-PASS intrigues me. I would assume that he believes that government should intervene to, say, prevent me from taking his pretty car. Or killing him because he snores. OK. To co-opt another discussion on OTB, we’ve defined what type of person he is, now we are just negotiating the price. He and his libertarian friends believe that government can protect his property and keep him from being killed, but little else. He can try to convince the rest of us of that, but fortunately, he doesn’t get to make the rules. Most of us would set the price higher, i.e. allow for more coerced collective action (imposing taxes to build roads, educate the poor, etc).

  72. john personna says:

    @Alex Knapp:

    I’m having a sense of deja vu, that we’ve discussed Genopolitics (that page includes twin studies) and the fact that they are past “is it true” and are now locking down individual genes.

    I worry that you have a mental block, buddy. That you aren’t tracking the science.

  73. john personna says:

    @Jay:

    @john personna: do you have a link for the twin studies (maybe it was there and i missed). sounds interesting. thanks.

    To be honest, knowing them, or finding them, was a test.

    To argue against this without either is a fail.

  74. john personna says:

    It might be useful to back up, and think about what people used to believe, before so many interactions between genes and behaviors were discovered.

    We used to believe we were born a blank slate. That we had equal likelihood of being greedy or altruistic, socialist or libertarian. We thought that we were inculcated for those, or, pulled ourselves up by our own mental bootstraps and reasoned our way to a new ideology.

    I talked above about the big picture emerging … it’s simple. It’s that we are less blank than we thought. And that is all you need believe to be less arrogant about your reasoned path to ideology. That’s all you need to be more accepting of people who are just different.

  75. MKS says:

    The pundits seem to completely neglect the second portion of Ron Paul’s answer: people in the U.S. have always taken care of the poor, sick and injured – through individual, civic and church charity.

    The leftists appear, however, to scorn charity, and prefer using the force of government to compel one person to pay for another’s health care at his own expense.

    Persons on both the left and right endorse compassion. It’s just that the left believes in compulsory compassion, while the right believes in voluntary compassion.

    Which do you advocate?

  76. john personna says:

    @MKS:

    The pundits seem to completely neglect the second portion of Ron Paul’s answer: people in the U.S. have always taken care of the poor, sick and injured – through individual, civic and church charity.

    But that’s not true. The people in the US created government programs to fill the gaps that they knew were there, all along.

  77. bandit says:

    that Republicans are selfish, stupid, bigoted as-soles.

    Maybe someday you’ll grow to a maturity level where you can make an argument beyond juvenile name calling. But to paraphrase ‘Office Space’ ‘But we all know that’s never going to happen’

  78. john personna says:

    (Why do you think “my mother needs an operation” was a serious line in so many old movies?)

  79. Rob in CT says:

    This is what we’re dealing with:

    Most poor people in this country are poor because they choose to be poor. If you are willing to work hard enough, there is no reason for most people to be poor. Are there exceptions? Perhaps, but don’t think poverty is some outside thing beyond a poor person’s control It almost never is.

    That’s Polaris, from an older thread (drug testing for unemployment bennies). That’s the mindset.

    It really is screw the poor, because they’re poor and obviously morally deficient. Those making the argument fancy themselves morally superior, basically because they have money. Don’t have money? You obviously are unworthy (because, after all, we live in a perfect meritocracy!).

    It’s a seductive thing, I know. I’ve got money. I grew up with it (hint: that’s a real good way to end up well off. Get born to the right parents). In my callow youth, I had my Randian phase. Then I grew the hell up.

    people in the U.S. have always taken care of the poor, sick and injured – through individual, civic and church charity.

    That didn’t work very well. The history to which you are referring looks like fantasy to me. One need not deride private charity to recognize that it is unequal to the task.

    So yeah, some things that had been done (inadequately) via charity were turned over to the government. This has both positive and negative effects, but to my eyes the positive outweights the negative.

  80. anjin-san says:

    The pundits seem to completely neglect the second portion of Ron Paul’s answer: people in the U.S. have always taken care of the poor, sick and injured – through individual, civic and church charity.

    And you have neglected the portion where Paul is standing on the beach in a white suit with a very short man pulling on his sleeve and saying “da plane, boss, da plane”…

  81. @john personna:

    What they do in real life is garner wages.

    But that metal box thing really gives a zip to the amygdala, doesn’t it?

    In the real world that’s also what they do to the 20 something with no insurance.

    But that guy duying in the emergency room waiting area really gives a zip to the amygdala, doesn’t it?

  82. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    In the real world that’s also what they do to the 20 something with no insurance.

    But that guy duying in the emergency room waiting area really gives a zip to the amygdala, doesn’t it?

    I guess I see what you are trying to suggest, but no, that’s not the way it works. In real life people die without insurance.

  83. Alex Knapp says:

    @john personna: Read through the papers in the Wikipedia article. Again – no longitudinal studies. No blinds. No randomized examples.

    We’re at the “observation and hypothesis” stage of the scientific method here.

    I’m not saying that political affiliation isn’t related to genotype or brain structure. But there’s not enough data to conclude that. Better experiments need to be run. (Something which, by the way, virtually every paper you’ve referenced has said.)

  84. john personna says:

    @Alex Knapp:

    At this point I have to be dismissive. You are making a weak and indirect defense of something you do not, cannot, actually endorse.

    The “blank slate” is dead, but you’d need it to be true for all your evasions to matter a shit.

  85. Polaris says:

    @john personna:

    I guess I see what you are trying to suggest, but no, that’s not the way it works. In real life people die without insurance.

    Wrong. He died because he was an idiot. He was told what the danger was of letting the infectin go unchecked. He had the money to fill his antibiotic perscription (and anti-biotics are cheap as perscription drugs go) if he was willing to put up with the pain for a day (and HELLO….you don’t need a perscription to buy Bayer Aspirin, Ibuprophen, or Tylenol….the first two of which not only cut the pain, but also act to relieve swellig).

    He choose to fill the pain med perscription instead and tried to ride out an infection the emergency room docs told him could kill him.

    He died because he was stupid, not because he didn’t have insurance.

    -Polaris

  86. Alex Knapp says:

    @john personna: I don’t believe in a blank slate. But that doesn’t mean there’s sufficient evidence to support the claim that political affiliation is related to brain structure or genotype.

    I’m pitching a piece about this around right now. I’ve interviewed several neuroscientists who have noted the exact same issues in the literature.

    Bottom line: since the brain is plastic, there have to be longitudinal studies. There have to be randomized samples. There have to be predictive, rather than observational, studies. It’s not just the neuroscientists I’ve interviewed who say this: it’s what most of the PAPERS say in their discussion sections!

  87. john personna says:

    @Polaris:

    Dude. You’ve already stipulated:

    Fecal Matter happens. People die every day from dumb bad luck. Today it was your (hypothetical) turn.

  88. john personna says:

    @Alex Knapp:

    I don’t believe in a blank slate. But that doesn’t mean there’s sufficient evidence to support the claim that political affiliation is related to brain structure or genotype.

    Then your mistake is in thinking there is some bright line between “blank slate” and “party genetics” that you can defend.

    You’ll end up arguing what you oppose … false specificity in results.

  89. john personna says:

    (Be sure to talk to your neuroscientists about DRD4)

  90. WR says:

    @MKS: Or maybe it’s just that the people on the left have actually picked up a book in their lives and learned just how well the charity system worked before we had a social safety net.

  91. mantis says:

    He died because he was stupid

    Then how are you still alive?

  92. Polaris says:

    @mantis: I thought that OTB has a policy about overt name-calling?

    Was I mistaken or does that policy only apply to those that disagree with the party line on this blog?

    -Polaris

  93. john personna says:

    Then your mistake is in thinking there is some bright line between “blank slate” and “party genetics” that you can defend.

    I thought about this a little more while on my bike ride. It was years ago that The Blank Slate was published. In it Pinker complains that in response to ideas of genetic contributions, people often construct a straw man of genetic determinism. That is, if you can’t show that genes control everything, then they must influence nothing.

    That’s what I’ll watch for in Alex’s article. First, because it is a canard, and second because we don’t really need more than an end of the blank slate for this to inform our politics, and really our meta-politics.

    If our views are in part and speaking “biological” (more on that here), then we can reasonably expect that those biological factors are affecting us non-uniformly, and contributing to our heterogeneity.

    We should less expect to convince people.

  94. Polaris says:

    @john personna:

    Dude. You’ve already stipulated:

    Fecal Matter happens. People die every day from dumb bad luck. Today it was your (hypothetical) turn.

    Sure, but that doesn’t mean your example holds up under any kind of scrutiny. It doesn’t. The person in your example died because he made stupid choices. Nothing more and nothing less.

    -Polaris

  95. john personna says:

    @Polaris:

    My example was just an example of the greater reality. You’ve already stipulated that you accept the greater reality: ” People die every day from dumb bad luck” And your acceptance thereof: “Today it was your (hypothetical) turn.”

  96. As a general reminder (because I do not have the time to go back through the thread): please refrain from ad hominem attacks, name calling, and profanity.

  97. mantis says:

    @Polaris:

    @mantis: I thought that OTB has a policy about overt name-calling?

    What are you asking me for? I don’t run this blog.

    Regardless, I called you no name whatsoever. Are you getting delusional now?

  98. john personna says:

    I think Polaris was harder on the dead guy than Mantis was on Polaris.

  99. John Blair says:

    It was this very question to Ron Paul that framed the biggest problem with the hard right. Cheering the death of someone who made a bad decision was disgraceful. It’s a pathetic display of barbarism. At some point it’s about higher values. The value of “responsibility” is important. Yes. But the value of “human life,” is greater and should, in civilized people, be the ulitmate value. Thank God Perry showed some leadership and said he was “taken back” by the cheering. To reiterate Perry’s words: “We are the party of life. We ought to be coming up with ways to save lives.”

  100. anjin-san says:

    Perry’s words: “We are the party of life. We ought to be coming up with ways to save lives.

    26% of Texans have no health insurance. He has already had his shot and failed.

  101. john personna says: