Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Tiresome Liberal Fallacy

I am worn out by a way of reasoning that some liberals cannot seem to avoid. A week or so ago, there was an article in the Columbus Dispatch concerning the fact that the Ohio State University Athletic Department is bringing in over a hundred million dollars a year. This was claimed to be a terrible misallocation of our financial resources given how much poverty, homelessness, etc. there is. Let's suppose that the Ohio State Athletic Department were to shut down in 2008 and therefore would sell no tickets to games, accept no donations, and sell no clothing or other things that contain OSU logos. How much of the something like $107,000,000 saved by Buckeye fans do you think would be given to charities that help out the poor and homeless people in Ohio and elsewhere. I suggest that very little of this money would find its way to a hungry or homeless person.

My first encounter with this sort of fuzzy headed liberal thinking (I am a liberal but try not to be fuzzy headed) was in connection with military spending. The idea was that if we reduced military spending, our government would be able to help those in poverty who needed it. Not surprisingly, this sort of reasoning can be found today. One J.R. Mooneyham writes
The less money nations spend on their militaries [sic] and intelligence and security measures, the more they have for education, medicine, and other social needs-- or alternatively, the lower the tax burden on average citizens can be; thus is nourished greater peace and prosperity for a people, while making war is discouraged.
The part of this passage that interests me (the rest is incoherent) is the bit that occurs before the dashes where we have the argument in pristine form -- the less we spend on the military the more we have for social purposes. This is certainly true but the moment we cut back on military expenditures conservatives will instantly call for tax reductions.

If the country elects a liberal Democratic President and a Democratic Congress then there is a chance that money spent on the Iraq War may be diverted to help with social measures. However, that would take better judgment by the public than it has shown in the last two elections.

Ironically, money contributed by the public to the OSU Athletic Department and tax money that supports the military serves social ends. Ohio State's Athletic Department supports 20 women's sports teams. That, in itself, is a worthy consequence of the public's buying tickets to Ohio State's football and basketball games. Another is that it brings children of families that cannot afford to support their children's college educations to campuses. In many cases the kids aren't all that interested in school, as opposed to playing their sports, but any learning that does go on is a good thing for the society. One valuable aspect of university sports programs is that they are meritocracies -- it is how well you play, not how much money your family has or what your race or ethnicity is, that determines whether or not you can participate in sports.

The military is another meritocracy. We should not be spending a cent on the Iraq war but money spent on the military in general does lead to minorities, including women, getting opportunities for meaningful careers that they otherwise might not have given the level of prejudice against minorities we have in the private sector. Moreover, a great deal of our military spending on equipment goes to American businesses (I would assume) which hire American workers. I haven't "fact-checked" this last claim but if it is not true, we would be at the mercy of other countries who might decide not to make us any more weapons. The French disapprove of the Iraq War (as do I) and might decide to stop selling us any more Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft were we to be using that airplane. That would put the Bush administration in a mell of a hess.

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Blogger Bilbo said...

Excellent post. You and I seem to think alike across the board. I'm a veteran of 23 years in the military, and firmly believe that it's a great place for people to reach their levels of excellence in as close to a real meritocracy as we have in this country. I wish more "fuzzy headed liberals" understood this, rather than reflexively opposing the concept of a military in general. As much as we might wish it, the world is full of very bad people who would not be at all impressed if we suddenly slashed military spending and devoted it all to social programs...we would find quickly just how useful a good military really is.

8:02 AM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

I agree with almost everything you said. That's a rarity. I'd just like to add that both sides are full of fuzzy-headed people, conservative and liberal, and both likely choose their positions on issues for fuzzy-headed reasons. I believe this is why few people ever get elected that actually perform their jobs as well as we'd like (because they are fuzzy-headed as well) and why few politicians ever make good on their campaign promises (the campaign promises often being made to attract fuzzy-headed people to their side). For the first situation, I'm just making a fuzzy observation of my own based on a generalized intuition. For the second situation, think of "end abortion" promises by anyone running for anything other than the Presidency (because of the power of nomination) or the U.S. Senate (because of the confirmation power). This is of course the most obvious such campaign promise, but there are many others, on both sides.

P.S. I know I haven't stopped by in a while, but it's good to see you're keeping up the blogging habit.

You might be itnerested to know that I am now a licensed attorney (and have been since April), and I'm working for a small firm mostly in criminal defense and veterans' disability benefits. You would be amazed at the (mis)use of language in some of the administrative decisions from Veterans' Affairs.

3:22 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Ah, Bilbo and Kelly. Nice to hear from you. Congrats on passing the bar, Kelly, not that I thought you wouldn't.

I am with you Bilbo. When I opposed the Vietnam war, I was not a pacifist. I applauded Bush's adventure in Pakistan but am horrified that he pulled so many troops out before the job was done to help him invade Iraq. That makes twice we have "fucked up the end game" as Charie Wilson would put it.

8:51 AM

Blogger Rita said...

Happy New Year! You old curmudgeon I'm a little surprised by this post of yours. (& also surprised that I spelled curmudgeon right the first time)
I mean, for you to speak Rush Limbaugh like language. "fuzzy headed liberals"
I'll forgive you though, because it is a New Year & I want to start off on the good foot.

Thanks for never cutting me any slack & even giving me good advice, although i've had to use my brain to find it.

& if you don't answer this comment i swear i'll never talk to you again (I mean it, this time)

12:52 PM

Blogger Anonnymouse said...

Dear language guy, I'm afraid this is not a comment on your blog, but I didn't know how else to get in touch with you.

Could you please re-upload Hammer's Life Lessons? I found them moving - and very helpful - at a rather difficult time last year. But I neglected to download them, hence the request. Please?

I'd like very much to send them on to friends. Especially the one on giving up 'bad habits'.

12:54 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Sadly, I lost them. I had them at mlgeis.com and my registration fee did not pay (didn't know I needed to yet) and some idiot in Germany bought the rights. Then came the deletion. The worst thing is I didn't back them up.

7:29 AM


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