Saturday, February 9, 2013

Real Time With Bill Maher: Counterpoints (2/8/13)

Hey, guys. Back in action after a week's worth of fatigue and sickness. I missed last week's show, which was a real shame because it had good guests and good dialogue. But today's show was good too so let's get right down to it.

1. Argument by Lawrence Krauss: "government shouldn't have the authority to murder people"

That's what he actually said. It was in response to the legal memorandum issued by the Justice Department justifying the use of lethal force against American citizens if they are suspected to be terrorists and can't be easily moved stateside to await trial.

Maher shut him down pretty hard on this, but it bears repeating. This guy's opinions are dangerous in the fact that he can't imagine that he lives in a world that is far more cruel than whatever cloistered upper middle class community he calls home.

2. Argument by Lawrence Krauss: Government policy would work better if we measured policy against empirical evidence.

This guy again. And the problem with this kind of simplistic thinking is that government policy, unlike a scientific experiment, can't be measured in a vacuum. There are hundreds of millions of people and hundreds of thousands of different organizations all pushing and pulling in their own direction. It becomes extremely hard to measure one specific policy's effectiveness when you have to consider the entire system.

There are no do-overs or retests in politics. What appears to work in one era might not work in the next. Because there are billions of factors at play and we can't control for all of them. To suggest that if we simply went with what worked that government would be a better place is foolish because we simply don't know what works. At best we have educated guesses.

In politics, everything can be spun. And everything can be explained after the fact. That doesn't make it right. And it doesn't make it possible for people to truly know what causes what. The guy is a naive fool who never possessed executive authority a day in his life.

3. Bill Maher says Republicans believe in supply side economics like religious dogma.

This isn't true. What the Republicans actually believe in is letting people keep more of the money that they earn. That individuals are better suited to making decisions about their own lives than the government is when it comes to their own money. Now, you can always find instances of people foolishly blowing through all of their money (the professional sports world is littered with such instances), but this is a country that believes in the rights and freedoms of individuals.

What Maher neglected to mention was how the Californian economy was doing. It's terrible. Unemployment is still at 9.8%. And businesses and individuals do respond to tax incentives. A regressive sales tax does disproportionately affect lower income groups, but it's also more effectively enforced. State governments don't have the same resources that the Federal government has. That's why local governments rely so heavily on property taxes (houses can't move). Why state governments rely on sales taxes (it's hard for businesses to move). Only at the Federal level can you effectively enforce an income tax.

Given that just about every state government is suffering from a fiscal crisis of some sort, it makes sense that the states want the most cost-effective (from their point of view) ways of raising revenue.

4. Infrastructure this, high speed rail that, in Europe they have whatever.

A big portion of the discussion devolved into a leftist circle jerk about all the things that America does wrong. When it comes to the power grid, we're a third world country. When it comes to transportation, we're inferior to the Europeans. When it comes to people, they believe in stupid things.

It was incredibly aggravating to watch these people obsess over these "problems" of ours when they can't understand that they're taking the tragic point of view in life. That everything is always wrong and must be corrected at once, without delay, and with no consideration as to the cost.

The reality is that we live in rather privileged circumstances. Energy is cheap and, barring extraordinary circumstances such as what happened in the Super Bowl, it's on 24/7. People like having their own cars. And traffic, although at times unbearable, gets along fine for the vast majority of the time. Life is good in the US.

And sometimes that means people aren't necessarily in a hurry to do something better. Because change can be either good or bad. But when you already have things going rather swimmingly, what's the rush to improve? This is the type of inertia that drives public policy types mad because they see a system that could be better without realizing that many people within the system are already extraordinarily happy with what they currently have.

It's that inability to see another point of view that has people shouting past each other when it comes to politics. Because we can't possibly see what the other person is seeing. But we mistake that for the other person's stupidity, naivete, or ignorance. And that is the fundamental difference between progressives and conservatives.

5. Richard the III, really?

Much ado about nothing.

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