I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That My Disagreement Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Care About Other People

I have some serious problems with conservatives in this country. They ignore science, they pretend moral superiority based on no evidence they are right, and they are often either catastrophically hypocritical or so blinded by their ideologies that they can’t see how they contradict themselves with every other political stance.

The thing is, those are all the same problems I have with our liberals, too. Case in point, this childish rant from an editor at the Huffington post: I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People. This is a shining example of what I outlined above. It’s wonderfully emotional, ignoring the facts that contradict its positions, carries a great deal of virtue signalling, and utterly misses the discontinuity of the views espoused.

This point can only be made with a dissection, I’m afraid:

“Personally, I’m happy to pay an extra 4.3 percent for my fast food burger if it means the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family. If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am.”

  • To start with, in debate circles, this is called “begging the question”. It isn’t even very subtle. The key point is the assumption that paying that 4.3% does somehow mean that “the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family”. The fact is, however, that this is not “settled science”, or even borne out by the facts on record.

    Obviously, economic theory says it’s wrong. If you increase the price of an item, the demand for that item falls, so you sell less of it. Imposing artificial wage increases costs, causing that supposed 4.3% increase in burger prices. So far we agree. But now consider that if it results in a 4.3% decrease in sales, the business simultaneously a) loses money, making them eager to find costs to cut, and b) discovers that they have less customers to serve, so they need slightly less staff to cover their needs. Combine those two, and you get the actual measured effects we see in Seattle according to this paper by researchers at the University of Washington, where they conclude that “The second wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees’ earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016.” In other words, the 3% increase in wage actually reduced income in those jobs by significantly more than that gain. (The whole point is moot, in the long term, but why not accelerate the process and make moral-superiority hay while the sun shines, right?)

  • Then comes the virtue signalling: “If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am.” Note the hidden assumption that the only way you could be disagreeing is if you were greedy about hamburgers/money, obviating the need to understand the opposing argument! She’s just “a better person” than you if you disagree, and your reasons really don’t matter, even if you are right and she is wrong… (As an aside: Did you know that minimum wage was originally proposed to maintain white supremacy? But hey, the author is definitely on the side of right, because it feels good.)

“I’m perfectly content to pay taxes that go toward public schools, even though I’m childless and intend to stay that way, because all children deserve a quality, free education. If this seems unfair or unreasonable to you, we are never going to see eye to eye.”

  • In the first sentence, we have a more subtle begging of the question, and it’s a twofer! The unstated assumption here is that there are no ways for her (or anyone else) to help educate children other than paying taxes. The stated one is that spending more money on education produces a higher quality of education.
    The first assumption is the more indefensible of the two, presumably the reason why it’s so carefully hidden in the text. Obviously, if her taxes didn’t go to education, she would still be free to donate any amount of her own money to education and would be free to encourage others to do the same. What she is really saying is “I know I’m right, and you should be forced to pay for my beliefs, too!”

    The second assumption is at best questionable. The US has been spending ever more on education since the 60s, and as shown by a study reported on in the author’s own Huffington post, has little to show for it. The author may know she is right, but reality has some serious questions…

  • In the second sentence, “If this seems unfair or unreasonable to you, we are never going to see eye to eye.”, the author first begs the question by assuming that you can only disagree with her if you think all her other assumptions are right, and still find the situation “unfair or unreasonable”. Never mind that you might disagree without thinking it unfair or unreasonable, or that you might find her other assumptions flawed or counterfactual, because the important meaning here is the implication of “we are never going to see eye to eye.” Once again, since the author knows she is right, and knows you are a bad person if you disagree (all facts and logic to the contrary), she has absolved herself of the need to think, or even make herself aware of the content of opposing viewpoints

This goes on at length:

“There are all kinds of practical, self-serving reasons to raise the minimum wage” (But none at all not to, evidence notwithstanding.)

“If making sure your fellow citizens can afford to eat, get an education, and go to the doctor isn’t enough of a reason to fund those things, I have nothing left to say to you.” (Because she knows her ideas will actually accomplish those things, so you can only be evil if you disagree.)

“I don’t have any easy answers. But I do know I’m done trying to convince these hoards of selfish, cruel people to look beyond themselves.” (Pure virtue signalling. Effectively, her own lack of knowledge is immaterial, because her heart is in the right place, and if you disagree with her, yours isn’t)

We do have problems. We do need to work on them. However, declaring everyone outside your tribe to be evil causes problems by dehumanizing “them”. Declaring yourself to be morally superior based solely on your political views, on the other hand, is just hubris. Both make things worse, not better, regardless of whether the right or left are doing them. Everybody needs to knock this shit off.

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