Refuting Progressives: So Easy A Blogger Can Do It

A blogger by the name of Allen Clifton over at “Forward Progressives” has put out a list of “facts” that annoy conservatives and Republicans, supposedly for fun. Allen writes:

I highly encourage all liberals to share this with their conservative friends.  Then watch as they haplessly try and argue against each comment.

It’s irresistible. And, as I expected, it doesn’t actually make us look bad. It just shows that progressives like Mr. Clifton haven’t thought their argument the full way through. I’ll leave the points Mr. Clifton makes in bold and my responses below.

Let’s begin:

1. Nowhere in our Constitution does it say we’re a Christian nation.

2. In fact, no where in our Constitution does the word “Christian” appear even once.

These points are actually true, and I cannot argue with Mr. Clifton. The Constitution does not mention the word “god,” and while many of the Founders were religious, it is questionable whether they were hardcore Christians or rather deists (or, in Mr. Jefferson’s case and the case of others, Christian Deists.) There are mentions to God in the Declaration of Independence, but again, are these references to the Christian conception? The Declaration refers to “Nature’s God”—a deist term, not a Christian one. The only time the Constitution mentions God is in the dating: “ the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven.”

That’s hardly grounds for making the Constitution a Christian document. That’s just how you told the date back then. These days, we replaced “Lord” with “Common Era.”

Of course, many argue that the Constitution was based on Christianity in the background, using the tenets of “natural law,” but one can get natural law without any reference to a deity. Ayn Rand (sort of) did so. So Mr. Clifton does begin strong.

3. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion—it also doesn’t specify any particular religion.

This one I think is a bit more debatable—as much as I like the Founders, I don’t know if they would tolerate a nonbeliever like myself. Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t. Many of the founding documents of the individual Thirteen Colonies contained passages specifically barring atheists, Muslims, Jews, and even Catholics from having any political representation or power whatsoever.

However, I am inclined to go with Mr. Clifton—if one has freedom of religion, then one must also have freedom from it. Otherwise, it would be meaningless. And there are, strangely enough, atheistic religions. Religious humanism and religious naturalism are two examples. I would also argue the Church of Global Warming, but that’s a bit more tongue in cheek.

4. The 2nd Amendment actually refers to a “well regulated militia.”  While it says the right for Americans to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, the phrase “well regulated” obviously infers that this right doesn’t come without regulations.

Lest you think I’m going to let Mr. Clifton off easy, I now give you where his argument breaks down: the “well-regulated militia.” This is a subject upon which many progressive Internet activists have utterly missed the point. In the time of the drafting of the Constitution, well-regulated meant only that the militia had to be well trained. There would be a guide in effect for the training of militia, known as the “Manual of Regulations.”

Here is a list of examples of the phrase “well-regulated” being used around the same time. Clearly they are not referring to government regulations.

This was upheld by the Supreme Court in the Heller decision, and for once, they got something right. Mr. Clifton’s argument fails utterly, unless he wants his regulations to be in the form of training Americans how to fire an assault rifle. Which I’m not sure I would be against.

5. Our Constitution doesn’t mention anything about our nation having to be based on pure Capitalism.

No, it doesn’t—but that really fails to think it through, doesn’t it? What is capitalism but the system of free and voluntary associations between individuals? When you have a document that restricts the government so it cannot interfere in these interactions, what are you going to have, by default?

Capitalism. It is a natural outgrowth of our Constitution, and that’s just how our Founding Fathers wanted it to be. A system where we could live our lives as we please without government interference, and that includes the economic sphere.

Mr. Clifton should give more than just cursory thought to this.

6.  A corporation is an entity, not a person, and our Constitution wasn’t created to protect the rights to entities—they have none.

Debatable. For a long time, there has been a useful “legal fiction” that corporations are people. This is because it would be absolutely painful to get every single shareholder of a corporation to sign off on every decision, and to be dragged in before a court—so it was allowed for corporations to be treated as individuals in court to make everything simpler.

But that also ignores the deeper fact of the matter: the Constitution is not protecting the corporation, it is protecting the people in the corporation. It is protecting the employees, the managers, and yes, the shareholders. Believe it or not, Mr. Clifton, those are people too. Should becoming a corporate executive and making decisions for a corporation mean I must give up my 4th Amendment rights? Should government be allowed to just take things from corporation in searches? Imagine Uncle Sam coming to your phone company and just taking all their records about your phone calls without any warrant or justification, but just because they could.

Would you still want the Constitution to not “protect” corporations?

7. Education is more important than national defense.  What’s the point of a strong national defense if there’s nothing worth defending?

This to me is really stupid on all sorts of levels. First, what’s the point of a great education if there is no strong national defense to protect it? Second, what education? Have you seen our educational scores lately? And don’t give me that malarkey about not spending enough money. We spend plenty enough as it is and you know it:

cato_eduspending

Third, who is to say that education must be provided by the government? I can see many good arguments for necessitating national defense by a government, but not for education. For the better part of the 17th-19th centuries, education was private, and we did fairly well. Yet now we have public schools all over the place, and nobody is learning.

This “fact” is a completely BS statement. It is, at best, a value preference for education over national defense. I don’t know how one could “haplessly” argue against it, considering all the evidence to the contrary.

Mr. Clifton, try harder.

8. There are far more poor and middle class Americans than rich.  If you continue building a society based on taking from the many to benefit the few, then we’re not going to have a nation much longer.

First of all, I don’t see the problem with the income distribution. So what that there are a few rich folks? Does it matter? No. Let me illustrate.

Say you had a system where those at the bottom made $10,000 a year and those at the top made $20,000. Now, say you have an alternative system where those at the bottom made $100,000 and those at the top made $200,000,000,000. The first system is more equal than the second, but the second system is far more desirable to live in, would it not?

If Mr. Clifton is trying to argue that we should stop cronyism—corporate bailouts, subsidies, programs meant to keep the cost of food high, and the fiat currency model being dominated at the Federal Reserve—then I am all in favor. These things we can easily agree on. But if he thinks that somehow taking from the rich to give to the poor—i.e., an inversion of his statement—will save this country, I want to know what he thinks of Soviet Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, the Ukraine (particularly in the 1930s-1950s), Vietnam, and the pre-reform China (not that post-reform China is all that much better in terms of freedom.) Oh, and while we’re at it, maybe Italy and Greece too. Does he think those places with their high amounts of income redistribution were paradises?

One can say we should have a minimal safety net. But that’s a big difference than what Mr. Clifton is implying, which is that we should have a lot of income redistribution in the manner he likes. The evidence is stacked against you, Mr. Clifton. You have a hard claim to make if that is your case.

9. Rich people didn’t become rich by giving away their money, Trickle Down Economics is the biggest con our country has ever seen.

No, they didn’t—they became rich by serving other people. In a free market economy, the only way you get someone’s money is by providing them with a reason to give it to you. That means you either provide them a service or a good. The only other way is theft, which is the dominant method of taking money in socialism and communism.

This is not a hard concept to grasp. Lately it has been made much more difficult via the efforts of corporate lobbyists and cronyists, but that’s just paying lip service to capitalism.

Mr. Clifton thinks he has an “ironclad” argument, but really, there is loads of evidence to suggest he is quite wrong. While giving out tax breaks and subsidies to major corporations is not the answer, there are suggestions that eliminating the corporate tax rate would boost employment in this country. Cutting down on red tape would also encourage companies to bring their business back here rather than taking it abroad. And yes—the minimum wage, which keeps tons and tons of unskilled, frequently young, African-American citizens out of a job.

There are many things we must do—reform our monetary policy, stop subsidizing corporations, and making the tax code more uniform—but Mr. Clifton has made an error here by, again, not really thinking through how people earn their money. Yes, some steal, whether at gunpoint or, on Capitol Hill, at penpoint. But most earn their money by providing goods and services to other people.

Think of that. An economic system based entirely on serving others! You would think Obama invented it.

10. Decades ago we all paid a much higher tax percentage,  and our economic policies protected the people more than businesses.  During these times our nation saw historic growth and unheard of economic prosperity.  None of that was done by basing our policies on giving more to the rich.

This is one that is hard to argue—if you’re only looking at one part of the picture. Yes, it is true that our tax rates were much higher 50 years ago. It’s also true we had an economic boom.

It’s also true that every other industrialized nation on planet Earth had been bombed flat thanks to World War II, and the only game in town was the United States of America. When you have a monopoly, you can do quite a lot.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a monopoly anymore. Americans don’t realize it yet, but we actually have to compete with other nations now. We can’t afford a high minimum wage and a high tax rate, because companies and individuals can go elsewhere to get things done. The more and more we slide down the economic freedom index, the more and more we’re going to be unable to pay our bills.

Mr. Clifton’s comment only means that he is still living in a distant past, instead of dealing with the realities of today.

11. Perhaps most news seems liberally biased because your news sources refuse to report facts.

This really isn’t a fact, this is just a stupid line. I could say the same about education system that has left most young adults, who are usually left-wing liberals, unemployed and living in their parents basement. But Mr. Clifton does have one point here, a point underscored by Erick Erickson of RedState earlier this year: “conservative” news outlets do a poor job of reporting.

However, “liberal” news outlets do a terrible job of reporting too, especially when it comes to “spending cuts” which are completely nonexistent. Oh, and one word: Gosnell. So Mr. Clifton should not feel smug on this account.

12. Being Muslim doesn’t mean someone isn’t American. Islam is a religion, not a nationality.

This is true. It’s sad that this needs to be explained.

13. George W. Bush actually did double our national debt, President Obama has not.

This is partially true. Bush did double the debt; his first year federal debt stood at $5.6 trillion, and when he left office federal debt was just north of $10 trillion. Using the numbers from Treasury Direct (2001-2008, a rough estimate, cutting out the years he wasn’t really in office) Bush increased the debt by 72%. (Feel free to call me out on the math.) But that was spread out over 8 years. What about Obama?

Well, at the end of 2012, our national debt stood at over $16 trillion. That’s an increase of 60%—and that’s only in four years! At the same rate, Obama will increase the debt by 120% over his total eight years in office, a lot higher than Bush’s increase, almost half again as large.

This is one that only time can truly tell. We’ll have to see what Obama does over the next four years. But Mr. Clifton shouldn’t get so smug, and liberals shouldn’t think they have something to annoy people with. Unless they’re annoying us with the fact they don’t realize eight years is twice as much as four.

14. Bush also inherited a balanced budget.  It was his tax cuts and unfunded wars which sent us back into budget deficits.

It’s true; Bush did inherit a surplus. And the wars did contribute to the budget deficit. On that I don’t really argue. But I do quibble with the notion that the tax cuts caused the budget deficits. Mr. Clifton is putting the cart before the horse. The problem is not the tax cuts; it’s the spending.

If George W. Bush had actually cut spending and kept it low, we would not have had a budget deficit. We would have been fine. Instead, Bush and Republicans threw out the limited government playbook for who knows what reason and became voracious spenders. So tax cuts aren’t the problem whatsoever.

What Mr. Clifton’s line implies is that whatever money is in your pocket does not belong to you, it belongs to the government, it is only loaning it to you, and it should be able to tax you whatever it thinks at whatever point in time. That’s dangerous…and wrong. Any money you receive by peaceful, voluntary interactions with others is yours. Period and full stop.

Americans are cutting back spending in this economy to make ends meet. Shouldn’t the government do the same thing? Why should we just assume it should raise taxes and make everything fine?

15. Social Security and Medicare is socialism—and millions of Republican voters benefit from, and receive, these benefits.

Well, that’s pretty direct, and honest for once. I won’t argue with this, and I also won’t argue with the latter point either. (Although “benefit from, and receive, these benefits” is redundant and an example of bad English.) I will say this, though: in America, you don’t have a choice. There is no way to “opt-out” of these programs. The government ordered Americans over the past century to enroll in Social Security, and then took money out of their pockets. So when they receive the money back, it seems to be only fair.

This does not mean that Social Security and Medicare shouldn’t be reformed or done away with entirely. It just means that people were coerced by government action into participating. Nothing more, nothing less. Mr. Clifton should remember that—and if he thinks it isn’t mandatory, just see what happens if he tried to keep that Social Security money they deduct from his paycheck.

16. Health insurance is you paying for another person’s health care—in fact all insurance is you paying for someone else.

This is true—and one reason why I, personally, am against all forms of insurance. (This is certainly not a view held by other United Liberty contributors.) I think there are moral hazard problems with insurance, problems that are serious. But, so long as it’s voluntary, I shouldn’t have a problem with them.

Except insurance isn’t really voluntary these days. Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, basically created employer-connected health insurance when he instituted wage controls during World War II; unable to attract employees, companies were told by the government to give health insurance as a perk. This destroyed the former business model of the healthcare industry, which had doctors who made house calls paid for either directly or through various voluntary aid societies, like the Elks Club or Rotary or any number of organizations. And, yes, many of these were pooled healthcare funds, like insurance. (For more information, see chapter 7 of Libertarianism: A Primer, by David Boaz of the Cato Institute.)

This system was added onto by Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, who in 1973 sponsored a bill that created the dreaded HMO. This is hardly a voluntary thing, which is what most people on the right rail against. Yes, we understand what insurance is, Mr. Clifton—but do we understand what problems we have with it?

17. We had record oil prices under Bush, not Obama.

Hmm. To figure this one out, I decided to do some checking. There was a huge spike in oil at the very end of the Bush Administration, in 2008, which crashed quite quickly. But during the Obama Adminstration, on average, oil prices are much higher. So while they may not technically be record oil prices, if we remove the one ridiculous spike (and that spike is ree-dic-you-luss), Obama still has higher oil prices.

Not sure what Mr. Clifton was trying to prove there.

18. The “Great Recession” started in 2008, while Obama took office January 20, 2009—you know, after the recession started.

It is true that Obama is not the cause of the Great Recession. What is equally true, however, is that the recession was caused by the government. Forcing banks to loan to people who couldn’t pay the loans back, and having the federal reserve create boatloads and boatloads of new money, led to the creation of a bubble that popped….and none of the government “fixes” have repaired it.

For more information, read Thomas Woods’ Meltdown. It’s a good—even humorous!—look at what happened, as well as how to fix it.

19. If Obama is the cause of our economic problems, why do Republicans avoid, at all costs, being associated with George W. Bush?

Perhaps because Mr. Bush is not really a conservative? Or perhaps Republicans are aware of the cognitive dissonance involved? This is a serious problem that writers like Daniel Larison have noted. It certainly does not apply to all Republicans or conservatives…and it definitely doesn’t apply to libertarians.

Mr. Clifton has raised some good points, but he has utterly failed in others to knock down the argument for free markets. Mostly, he has succeeded on purely social grounds, something that libertarians would not argue with him on. So it’s not all bad. But he has made some serious errors, and I was hardly “hapless” responding to these points.

Let me make a few my own that will likely stymie Mr. Clifton:

  • Government welfare programs have failed to bring a single American out of poverty, and have prolonged poverty for decades.
  • Minimum wage prices young and unskilled Americans out of the economy and increases unemployment.
  • Taking 100% of the income from the top 1% would not put a dent in our public debt or budget deficit.
  • Stimulus does not boost the economy, because it takes money out of Peter’s pocket to pay Paul. The economy is not larger because of it.
  • Stimulus must end eventually, and liberal Keynesians never think about that, so they have no plan for when it does.
  • Public education is not about educating kids, it is about lining the pockets of teachers and administrators who can’t actually work.
  • Economics is not about the numbers or the amounts, it is about the value brought to individuals, and there is very little value provided by the current government.
  • Regulations to “protect” consumers against Big Business are actually written by Big Business. To protect consumers, we must deregulate.
  • Affirmative action, by promoting one race above another, is a form of institutionalized racism.
  • You can have gay marriage, but individual churches are still allowed to not officiate gay weddings—forcing them to would be violating the First Amendment.
  • Obamacare will add $6.2 trillion to the debt, will make your insurance more expensive, and is actually a huge bailout to the pharmaceutical corporations.
  • The police will not protect you from a home invader, they will only come later to collect your body. If you need to protect yourself, you’re probably going to need a gun.
  • Article I of the US Constitution mandates that all legislation must be made in Congress, and thus all the regulations made by the EPA, FDA, FCC, SEC, and other regulatory agencies is unconstitutional.
  • Human beings, by virtue of being self-aware, sapient beings, have natural rights, including the right to own a business and enjoy the fruits of their labor, which cannot be infringed upon.
Let see Mr. Clifton deal with those points.
 


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