Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Politics of Apoliticism (With a General Digression into the Ethics and Politics of Democracy)

Updated and adapted, from the Comments.

Technoprogressive Friend of Blog Nato Welch comments on this passage from a recent post:
Notice that I am proposing here not only that technocentric apoliticism and antipoliticism is actually a politics, but more specifically, that this highly political "apoliticism" will tend structurally to conduce always to the benefit of conservative and reactionary politics.

"This is a point that's new to me, and I am keen to get a real thorough grasp of the argument… I could not help hearing a rather disturbing echo of 'Either you're with us, or against us' that I can't say sits very well. How would you respond to that similarity?"

Who gets to be the "us" and who gets to be the "them" in this echo you are hearing?

In the passage you are quoting above I was just trying to make the point (probably clumsily) that literally every technoscientific and technodevelopmental outcome is historically specific, arriving on the scene through historically specific articulations (via disputation, social struggle, vicissitudes in matters of funding, and regulation, serendipities in the lab, eddies in communication, fashion, education, and so on) all of which are in some measure accidental and any of which could easily have been otherwise. These outcomes settle -- to the extent that they manage the feat -- into institutional, factual, normative, customary formations that are quite likely, however natural(ized) they seem for now, to become otherwise in the future through the very same sorts of articulative forces, as these incessantly sweep a world shared by free, intelligent, creative, expressive, provocative, problem-solving peers.

Given this historical specificity and given this contingency, it stands to reason that when technocrats or Superlative Technology enthusiasts, or even, sometimes, common or garden variety scientists and their self-appointed "champions" claim to have risen "above the political fray" or propose otherwise that they have assumed an "apolitical" vantage, through their "scientificity", from which to assess some desired technodevelopmental outcome -- actual, historical, or conjectural -- that the apoliticism or even anti-politicism associated (usually loudly, often triumphally, poor dears) with this gesture is an entirely rhetorical production.

That "apoliticism" in short always has, to be sure, a politics.

Now, the gesture of disavowing political considerations in the name of an "instrumentality," "physicality," or "neutrality" that goes on to do conspicuously political work is a gesture that can serve literally any political end. (This may be the force of the intervention you're making, Nato?)

However, I do think we can note that even if anyone, of any political persuasion, any "us" to any "them," can, in principle, opportunistically take up this sort of falsifying political protestation to apoliticism, it is also true that this is a gesture that will conduce especially to the benefit of conservative-elitist over progressive-democratic politics.

The reason I say this is found in the sentences that follow the one you quoted above: "[T]he essence of democratic politics is the embrace of the ongoing contestation of desired outcomes by the diverse stakeholders of public decisions, while the essence of conservative politics is to remove outcomes from contention whenever this threatens incumbent interests."

This tells you quite a lot about my perspective on politics. Forgive me if what remains of this response takes us into abstruse theoretical considerations that may be a bit perpendicular to your initial concern here. It seems to me that ultimately I cannot answer your question without saying a bit about where I am coming from at a more theoretical level.

I make an incessant point in my thinking and writing of distinguishing instrumental, moral, ethical, esthetic, and political beliefs from one another, distinguishing the different ends they facilitate and the different warrants that render them reasonable and so on. But it's also true that, like everybody else, part of my own project of coherent narrative self-creation (this is part of what I tend to identify with the esthetic dimension of our normative lives), involves efforts to weave these different modes of reasonable description and belief-ascription into an edifying and harmonious pattern, however idiosyncratic it may be.

Now, I am moved to advocate for social justice, for non-violence, for education, and for the amelioration of unwanted suffering on the basis of what amount to moral and esthetic (a word I use where many others would use the word "religious") considerations. These considerations, then, provide a personal moral and esthetic rationale for my democratic politics. I think that this is surely true for most champions of democratic politics.

But from a political perspective, properly so called, fairness, security, satisfaction, and the rest are primarily means to the end of ensuring to the best widest deepest extent possible that people have a say in the public decisions that affect them. Fairness, security, satisfaction inculcate the stake and amplify the say of democratic peers, that is to say, they bolster the scene of informed, nonduressed consent on which democratic contestation relies for its continued play through history.

The gesture of apoliticism seems to me to conduce to conservatism as a basic structural matter, since it tends to function to withdraw from contestation some settled outcome or what are taken to be a desired outcome's constitutive supports. Although this is a tactic that can be taken up opportunistically by particular "progressive" campaigns as easily as by "conservative" ones, in principle, the politics of the gesture itself are structurally conservative, in that they express a politics of depoliticization. And such depoliticization always props up the status quo in some measure, as repoliticization always threatens to undermine it by exposing and expressing its contingency.

Democratic-Progressives would be foolish indeed to make recourse to such a strategy of depoliticization with any regularity (if ever), else they will find themselves duped by incumbent interests in no time at all. Indeed, if we broaden the terms of this gesture, we find ourselves soon enough on the familiar territory of the mechanism of "selling out."

Once we ascend to this kind of meta-political level, though, it no longer is clear to me how "us" and "them" are meant to be functioning in your worries about my claim that apoliticism is structurally more conducive to conservative politics. If the "us" versus "them" is supposed to translate to something like "democrats" versus "anti-democrats" it seems to me part of the trouble is that most people will tend to be more democratic in some aspects of their lives than others, depending on what privileges they benefit from, what satisfactions they have come to imagine indispensable to the coherence of their narrative selfhood, and their awareness of conditions under which these privileges and satisfactions are secured and distributed. I daresay we all of us have democrats and anti-democrats within our own souls. Indeed, a recognition of what we ourselves are capable of when we feel insecure or ill-treated is probably a precondition for any reliable avowal of democratic over anti-democratic values. My point is, once we ascend to this level, I personally find it hard to figure out who "us" and "them" ultimately amount to.

It's not that I don't recognize that anti-democratic forces in the Republican Party in the USA, or among neoliberal and neoconservative and corporate-militarist partisans around the globe, have faces and names. Obviously I call them out here on Amor Mundi all the time.

My point is just to insist that the question of democratizing as against authoritarian politics is not properly exhaustively captured (or even well captured at all) in a tribalist evocation of "us" vs. "them." I strongly disagree, then, with thinkers like Carl Schmitt, who famously -- and my view absolutely falsely -- grounded his political philosophy in just such a friend-foe distinction. The indispensable satisfactions of membership (recognition, support, and so on) depend on the practices of identification and, crucially, of disidentification at the heart of moral life -- moral from mores, what Wilfred Sellars called "we-intentions." But with democratic politics we shift into the normative sphere of ethics, of formal judgments that solicit (even if they never achieve) universal assent. You might ask what is the point of distinguishing an ethical normativity the judgments of which, whatever their pretensions to universality, always look retroactively like judgments constrained by the parochial attitudes of their day. But, it seems to me, there is all the difference in the world between the end, the force, and the form of judgments that are defined by their exclusions (moral judgments generate communities constituted by the "theys" cast outside themselves) as against judgments that are defined by their aspiration to universal inclusion (ethical judgments generate a "scene" of deliberation to which all, in principle, may make recourse, the very notion of which depends on a prior understanding that not all who are reasonable enough to reason with are necessarily reasonable enough to identify with). Rights discourse, properly speaking, is an ethical rather than a moral discourse on my terms, for example.

Democracy is the idea that people should have a say in the public decisions that affect them. This "should" is a destination at which you can arrive through many routes: a conception of human dignity connected to consent, public visibility, respect for some bundle of rights, pragmatic insights about ways to guard against social instability, to undermine corruption in authoritative institutions, to provide nonviolent alternatives for the legitimate settlement of disputes, to facilitate problem-solving collaboration, whatever. But once one arrives at the democratic vantage (in its modern Enlightenment cosmopolitan construal, certain not in its ancient more aristocratic and plutocratic construal), then one has found one's way to a decidedly ethical point of view, and not a moral one. (Although, once again, for most people their ethical democratic sensibility will express, or at any rate bolster, moral beliefs that they have -- my point is that we profoundly misunderstand democracy when we reduce or confine our understanding to the various moral cases that can be made for it.)

After all, even the "theys" who contingently oppose some particular democratizing campaign as advocated by some formation of "us's" will nonetheless quite properly be construed as participants in the broader contestation of which democracy literally consists in the here and now. Again, this perspective does not diminish the democrat's capacity to distinguish allies from foes, nor diminish her capacity to assess tendencies, attitudes, outcomes as democratizing or anti-democratizing. But the democrat in affirming democratization does have to assume what sometimes seems a peculiarly bifocal perspective, defending particular outcomes as the most democratizing on offer, while defending at once a radical openness to contestation for all outcomes as the living implementation of democratization in the here and now (even if, sometimes these two affirmations will frustrate one another somewhat). This means, when all is said and done, that the pleasures and powers and knowledges constitutive of and unique to political and ethical judgment and action are not, properly so-called, moral(izing) pleasures at all, at least not once one has assumed the democratic perspective. For democracy, the satisfactions of membership in an "us" versus a "them" are confined to private pleasures and subjected to public skepticism.

10 comments:

Martin Striz said...

In the passage you are quoting above I was just trying to make the point (probably clumsily) that literally every technoscientific and technodevelopmental outcome is historically specific, arriving on the scene through historically specific articulations (via disputation, social struggle, vicissitudes in matters of funding, and regulation, serendipities in the lab, eddies in communication, fashion, education, and so on) all of which are in some measure accidental and any of which could easily have been otherwise. These outcomes settle -- to the extent that they manage the feat -- into institutional, factual, normative, customary formations that are quite likely, however natural(ized) they seem for now, to become otherwise in the future through the very same sorts of articulative forces, as these incessantly sweep a world shared by free, intelligent, creative, expressive, provocative, problem-solving peers.

While it is true that social and political elements shape the kind of science that gets done, it is not true that these elements alter scientific truths -- at least not if science is done right. Yes, the Bush administration cherry picks (and even actively emends!) science so that the conclusions support its views, but these folks aren't good scientists. By the same token, I could imagine doing a study which settles the claim that "races differ in intelligence, and this difference is based on genetics." All you would have to do is run a QTL analysis of low- versus high-intelligence populations to identify markers associated with intelligence, then look for statistically significant differences between races at those markers (this would also tell you the how much of the variance in intelligence these loci account for). Simple, straightforward. However I've never heard of such a study being done, probably because of the political traction that exists against such a study in academia (which may be valid, since the social costs of lending scientific credence to racism may outweigh any benefits from gaining this knowledge).

But the history of science is replete with new truths that go against intuition and sociopolitical norms. Relativity and quantum mechanics rocked our view of reality. Even Einstein didn't want to accept the implications of QM ("God does not play dice.") But any good scientist would have to accept the data. The data stands on its own.

There is always room for interpretation. Religious leaders welcomed the Big Bang theory because it meant the universe had a beginning, which necessitated their god. And scientific truths influence public policy, where they can be colored by sociopolitical biases, but that is no longer science. Nuclear physics can be used to power cities or blow them up. That doesn't change the truths of nuclear physics.

Martin Striz said...

I should add that the logic of science goes something like this: there is an objective external reality which preceded the arrival of humans, and by necessity, any sociopolitical bias. It is the nature of the hard sciences to cut through that bias to discover truths about our world.

We know it works when we are surprised. If you were never surprised by a discovery, if a discovery never challenged your expectations, if every discovery simply validated the accepted paradigm, then science wouldn't be doing its job. It would just be another avenue to validate our biases. But science has continually surprised us.

The particulate nature of genetics was discovered by Gregor Mendel, a Franciscan monk. The unity of electricity and magnetism (electromagnetism) was discovered by James Clerk Maxwell, a devout Christian. It wouldn't have mattered whether these discoveries were made by modern materialistic scientists or Muslim Imams. As long as they stuck to the data, the truths would be the same. Good science is sticking to the data.

Dale Carrico said...

While it is true that social and political elements shape the kind of science that gets done, it is not true that these elements alter scientific truths -- at least not if science is done right.

"Science getting done" is social and political practices, which you properly concede yourself by the end of that very sentence. By "scientific truths" I presume you mean beliefs justified by the protocols and criteria that have emerged over centuries of practice as the ones most apt to deliver powers of prediction and control to those who are guided by them. That's what I would mean, too. There is nothing proper to science that is threatened by my formulations.

However, temptations to rewrite warranted scientific belief in the image of a finality, a certainty, or a non-human autonomy to which humans are beholden -- what amounts in my view, in essence, to a rewriting of pragmatic consensus science in the image of a priestly religiosity we would all do better to leave behind us -- fare less well once one takes up my attitude. That's what I like about it. I prefer my science useful, rather than authoritative.

[T]he history of science is replete with new truths that go against intuition and sociopolitical norms.

We are definitely in agreement there. As I said at the end of the passage you quoted: "[C]ustomary formations... are quite likely, however natural(ized) they seem for now, to become otherwise in the future through the very same sorts of articulative forces, as these incessantly sweep a world shared by free, intelligent, creative, expressive, provocative, problem-solving peers."

None of this denies the force of conservative resistences and the costs they exact on innovators, of course. Thomas Kuhn provides some of the classic theoretical and ethnographic discussions of this (not that I agree with everything he says, I'm just assuming most folks interested in these questions will know Kuhn well enough to slot in his insights here, so that I don't have to).

There is always room for interpretation.

Quite so. That's what scientific practices of warranted description are. I agree that we properly distinguish scientific or instrumental modes of reasonable belief-ascription from other modes (moral, ethical, esthetic, political) -- indeed, offering up such distinctions is right there at the heart of this entry. But just as strongly I disagree that we should prioritize any one mode of rationality over the others or seek to reduce the terms of any one indispensable mode to the others, which I think is what is likely afoot when those who prioritize instrumentality like to distinguish "it" from interpretation, or propose that "it" can be socioculturally biased or, somehow, "not."

You write: "Nuclear physics can be used to power cities or blow them up. That doesn't change the truths of nuclear physics."

But certainly this changes some truths of nuclear physics, if only because people's attitudes to blowing up cities will inspire prgrammes of research that will nudge scientists in different directions than they otherwise will with the consequence that the candidates for belief that they propose and which subsequently will pass muster will differ from one another.

But quite apart from all that, the force of my point in this post was to insist that technoscientific progress is articulated by social, cultural, and political factors. I daresay you would agree with this point even if you don't like my ineradicably historicized characterization of justified scientific belief.

Dale Carrico said...

[T]here is an objective external reality which preceded the arrival of humans, and by necessity, any sociopolitical bias.

This claim seems to me pretty harmless, but also completely uninteresting. The moment one tries to use it as a hat-hook on which to "explain" why the criteria we use to justify scientific beliefs actual deliver the goods of prediction and control we entrust them with, then this claim begins to do untold mischief.

I don't see how one could deny that there is ineradicable gap between the world and the words that describe it without losing one's competence as a language user. Which means that of course I agree with you on the utterly noncontroversial "question" of "external reality." But, to be frank, I don't believe that anybody on earth, outside a few lunatics and substance experimentalists, possibly, really does deny this truism. This is so, I'm afraid, even when people are offering up theoretical accounts of justification that enrage epistemological realists.

But neither do I see any difference between those who would use this grammatical truism to invest declarations by proper scientists with sociocultural autonomy or with a decisive authority (prioritized, say, over ongoing democratic stakeholder disputes over outcomes), and those who would invest declarations by Priestly authorities about the existence of supernatural beings and their presumed wants with a similar priority over democratic contestation.

Dale Carrico said...

When people are free they will surprise us. That is because human beings are different from one another, responsive to one another, and endlessly inventive. As far as I can see, none of this has anything to do with the curious notion that the Universe has preferences in the matter of the words humans use to describe it, imagined "preferences" that cause some of us to describe some words not just as the best justified candidates for instrumental belief presently on offer but as mysterious incarnations of some suprajustificatory externality that they will call, for want of anything better on hand, "the data" (the data: even, if, as so often happens, the description identified with this exclusive the is subsequently supplanted by another better justified claim because our knowledge changes or our priorities change).

jfehlinger said...

Dale Carrico wrote:

> The gesture of apoliticism seems to me to conduce to conservatism
> as a basic structural matter, since it tends to function to withdraw
> from contestation some settled outcome. . . [D]epoliticization always
> props up the status quo in some measure. . .

Yes, it's interesting to see how libertarians and Ayn Randians
take the status quo (in which "I've got mine, go hang." or "I'm
a superior being, and clearly better suited to **get** mine
than you are.") as a sort of God-given or morally-privileged
baseline, deviations (or **threatened** deviations) from
which ipso facto constitute the "initiation of force", and
hence **deserve** response "in kind".

It's a very convenient philosophy if you just **know**, in
your bones, that you're better than the average Lake Wobegoner.

Dale Carrico said...

Yes, it's interesting to see how libertarians and Ayn Randians
take the status quo (in which "I've got mine, go hang." or "I'm
a superior being, and clearly better suited to **get** mine
than you are.") as a sort of God-given or morally-privileged
baseline, deviations (or **threatened** deviations) from
which ipso facto constitute the "initiation of force", and
hence **deserve** response "in kind".


Egg-Zachary.

jfehlinger said...

Nato Welch wrote:

> I could not help hearing a rather disturbing echo [In Dale's
> statement "antipoliticism is actually a politics"]
> of 'Either you're with us, or against us' that I can't say sits
> very well.

Dale responded:

> Who gets to be the "us" and who gets to be the "them" in this echo
> you are hearing?

The implication that I caught in Nato Welch's reservation is that
he heard you (Dale) saying "Either you [transhumanists who claim
to be uninterested in contemporary primate political squabbles,
who claim that their prognostications transcend such transitorily
topical froth] are either with us [not bloody likely!] or against us
[left-wingers, socialists, Democrats, fans of Hillary Clinton, tree-huggers,
global warming & peak-oil apocalyptics, etc.]. That's the New York
Post elucidation of the observation.

Of course, that interpretation implicitly characterizes Door #2 in the
above as concealing red-flag-waving fanatics, long-haired
hippies and braless Berkeley feminists marching in
the streets yelling "if you're not part of the solution
you're part of the problem!" and calling police officers
"pigs".

We all have our knee-jerk prejudices!

In other words, Dale is suspected of covertly bullying self-described
neutrals into declaring their "true colors" as either part of
the Republican Killer Clown Conspiracy (and its future
authoritarian incarnations) or the struggling Democratic champions
of diversity, of liberty, justice, full bellies and medical
coverage for all.

And the answer (as I see it) is, well, **yeah**!
Call it bullying if you will, or simply call it
a left-wing strategy of intellectual one-upmanship.
Take out the provocative language, dress it up in more
neutral (urp!) academic prose, and that's basically the
argument -- Dale is stripping away transhumanists' claims
to political neutrality and calling them out as
crypto right-wingers.

I think he's right (er, correct) , of course, but if one
**doesn't** think of oneself as a Lefty, and one doesn't want to
be **called** a Righty (bad PR, dontcha know) then I suppose
one would want to cast about for a plausible basis for claiming
that political neutrality is truly possible.

Of course this leads into the whole literature of French left-wing
philosophy, Deconstructionism, reading political motivations
into everything, and so on and so forth -- the kind of stuff
that gets right-leaning "rationalists'" blood boiling.
Time to call in Dinesh D'Sousa! ;->

BTW, isn't this a pretty picture of Ann Coulter:
http://www.yaf.org/catalog/ann_coulter_poster_ad_general.jpg

n8o said...

Holy cow. *blink blink*

Dale, that seemed an awful lot of material prompted by such a small question.

... and then I read the comments! ;p

Yes, I really didn't elucidate what I was getting at in very much detail. I'm tempted to blame Blogger's tiny text entry boxes.


Sorry I haven't jumped into this in a particularly timely way, but there was a lot to digest, a lot I needed to clarify for myself, by myself. Anyway, here goes:

jf's got it largely right.

The "Either you're with us, or you're with the terrorists" line from W is, to be precise, exactly the echo I was concerned with - the classic reiteration of Rove-style divisive republican politics.

Though it was strictly a "gut" reaction, whose deep rational implications I had to take considerable time to work out, I wasn't really enthusiastic with this surface association of partisans (be they neocons or progressives) refusing to accept claims to neutral, middle-ground, or compromise positions (be they "apolitical" scientists or progressives skeptical of executive power).

It would have to be an especially strong argument to support this tactic, then, in the case in which we (progressives) use it against them ("apolitical" scientists), while being unacceptable when they (W) uses it against us (skeptical progressives).

After a lot of anxious thought about this, I think that the answer lies in asking who is creating the division we are insisting be enforced. In both cases, the answer is the same: the non-progressives! In both cases, the enforcement of hawk/terrorist or democratic/elite demarcation is one created by the ostensibly privileged minority that stands to benefit from drawing the line in the sand. In both cases, it is progressives resisting such pigeonholing ad insisting on a greater, more subtle, more nuanced acknowledgment of the diversity of the real concerns of all the people involved, and not simply those inside the arbitrary circles being drawn by particular minorities. The non-progressive factions are doing the excluding of some to include some; The progressives are looking to include all, period.

In both these particular cases, the non-progressive factions just happen to hold the greater share of power, and that is what leads to "neutral" or "apolitical" positions to favor the non-progressive factions. Not all conflicts have this property, but the point is that the policy be all-inclusive rather than divisive, regardless of which party to the conflict holds that upper hand.

So I guess I can only really see how apolitical stands are inherently conservative only insofar as it is true that they favor the power incumbents, and, statistically, those incumbents tend to be conservative. At times, progressive policies and the consensus surrounding them are the incumbent winners of apolitical stands - they just tend toward rarity through the tendency of institutions to calcify, and corrupt over time in pursuit of the solidification of their own existence and power (as opposed to the promotion of the policy objectives they were created to pursue).

I'm now identifying similar kinds of situations in my readings on Overcoming Bias (Hanson, Yudkowsky) and The recent IEET summary of the Hughes/Hanson (non)debate over uploads. In fact, now that I mention it, it seems that that discussion was exactly of this kind, where Hanson insists on being a "non-partisan", "neutral", "objective", "dispassionate" non-libertarian economist with now preferences for policy. Hughes, in Citizen Cyborg, pushes the very point Dale and jf have made here: that the plain knowledge that, on this particular issue, in this particular economic and political climate configuration, claims to unbiased "neutrality" play into the hands of power incumbents (namely, libertarian market fundamentalists and kleptocrats) by default. By failing to resist such assumptions until Hughes pushes him on it nearly ten years later, the subtle cues embedded in Hanson's 1994 paper are sufficient by themselves to justify an adequate suspicion of it for ten years.

Overall, I am not entirely sure that the claims to non-partisan neutrality or objectivity are necessarily false in all cases. I think it is possible, neigh, //critical//, that we retain a disciplined objectivity in assessing evidence and facts relative to our chosen objectives and causes.

But what I would object to is a party which can plainly see which party to a conflict benefits most from particular conclusions, and yet claims to remain detached and unopinionated about the consequences of them on the social and political conflicts which they affect.

Not that the Hanson/Hughes debate is not so much over any of Hanson's predictions in the paper, but about the desirability of those outcomes, and what Hanson's own textual characterizations of those outcomes say about //him// and his political positions. Hanson is so moved by this that he is compelled to write the list, not to contest any particulars of material differences of the outcomes, but, as Dale describes, to //remove from contestation// any impressions about his own positions on the desirability of the outcomes.

I can only imagine that he does this because he holds his own academic reputation for "apolitical objectivity" as an economic scientist to be very valuable.

Facts can certainly "speak for themselves" - but they don't //want// anything. That is for human beings to do.

Yoi. Never mind not expecting to read this much about this - I didn't expect to write this much. Well, there's some of it, so far.

Your ball. *pock* :)

jfehlinger said...

Nato Welch wrote:

> I guess I can only really see how apolitical stands are
> inherently conservative only insofar as it is true that they
> favor the power incumbents, and, statistically, those
> incumbents tend to be conservative. . . I'm now identifying
> similar kinds of situations in my readings on Overcoming Bias
> (Hanson, Yudkowsky) and The recent IEET summary of the Hughes/Hanson
> (non)debate over uploads. In fact, now that I mention it, it
> seems that that discussion was exactly of this kind, where Hanson
> insists on being a "non-partisan", "neutral", "objective",
> "dispassionate" non-libertarian economist with no preferences for policy. . .
> what I would object to is a party which can plainly see which party
> to a conflict benefits most from particular conclusions, and yet
> claims to remain detached and unopinionated about the consequences
> of them on the social and political conflicts which they affect. . .
> I can only imagine that he does this because he holds his own
> academic reputation for "apolitical objectivity" as an economic scientist
> to be very valuable.

Yes. The primary use of the neutrality claim, though, in the toy
world of the on-line transhumanist forums, is to cut off certain lines
of criticism at the knees. "You're intejecting a political point.
This is not a list for the discussion of politics. Take this nonsense
elsewhere." -- a response which Dale has often met, e.g., on the WTA-talk
list.

In many of these places, libertarianism is the de facto political
assumption, but curiously, has been raised above the level of a mere
political position (hence shielding it from criticism) by being
elevated to the status of "rationality" itself. To the level,
that is, of believing that 2 + 2 = 4!

A very slick rhetorical move, if nothing else!

> what I would object to is a party which can plainly see which party
> to a conflict benefits most from particular conclusions, and yet
> claims to remain detached and unopinionated about the consequences
> of them on the social and political conflicts which they affect. . .

You gotta wonder how much of this is deliberate strategy, though,
and how much of it is purely unconscious psychological process --
defensive stupidity, tunnel vision, a blinkered world view.

That brings up another tactic popular in these circles -- to dismiss
anything smacking of psychology as "bunk". Anything, in fact,
redolent of the "soft sciences". "We want to see the math!
Give us the math, Dr. Hanson!" Soft science, soft in the head,
bleeding heart -- where have I heard this sort of rhetoric before?
(Paging Dinesh D'Sousa -- where is that man?)

Oh, and speaking of left-wing sissies -- here's a **strange** article
(written by a **strange** man -- he's a homosexual, but not
like you've seen before -- the author of _Androphilia_, Jack
Malebranche) defending Ann Coulter's use of the word "f*gg*t"
to describe John Edwards:
http://www.jackmalebranche.com/hub/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=27&Itemid=28