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Convincing statists

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Eugene Posted: Sun, Oct 2 2011 3:09 PM

Until recently I used both utilitarian and deonthological arguments when I tried to pursuade statists. Recently I stopped using utilitarian arguments because they just seem irrelevant to me. Why should it even matter what are the unintended consequences of government regulations if the regulations themselves are ugly threats of violence on a peaceful population?

Most libertarians though tell me that I should use utilitarian arguments as well. So what do you think?

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I was convinced based solely upon Moral grounds. That it is always wrong to Initiate Aggression.

I might be the odd man out, however.

 

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MaikU replied on Sun, Oct 2 2011 3:26 PM

Appeal to their sense of morality. If a person is abusive psychopath, he won't be a "good anarchist" anyway, so try to understand where they stand morally and show the immoral and violent nature of the state.

"Dude... Roderick Long is the most anarchisty anarchist that has ever anarchisted!" - Evilsceptic

(english is not my native language, sorry for grammar.)

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James replied on Sun, Oct 2 2011 3:42 PM

It depends.  If someone's making a very specific empirical claim, and you happen to know it's nonsense, and you can source your counter-claim if need be, then it makes sense to go ahead and do so.

But this isn't going to convince someone of anything other than the particular factual point that was under discussion.  Even if you can convince them of the empirical veracity of your position on this particular point, they will take this new information and interpret it through their underlying ideas and ideology, which is a form of cognitive bias.  Events are the result of incredibly complex, largely unseen processes which must be interpreted with ideas - hopefully, correct ideas.

That's why I think deontological arguments are better, unless you're setting about the task of writing a book concerning a rather specific subject matter.

The socratic method is good.  It helps avoid getting off the point, and it helps you avoid discrediting yourself by making a weak assertion, because you don't make any assertions.  You just ask questions.  If possible, you make them destroy their own position through interrogation.

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Eugene:
Why should it even matter what are the unintended consequences of government regulations if the regulations themselves are ugly threats of violence on a peaceful population?

Because you just said your purpose was to pursuade people.  It's entirely possible many people you meet will not share your same moral construct.  It's even more probable that they just won't be appealed to on moral grounds.  Even if they do share the same beliefs about what "should and shouldn't" be done to people, many times they feel like appeal to morality is appeal to religion.  And it turns them off.  And even more often than that, appealing to morals is almost completely useless becase you're talking to people who already hold contradicting (or at least logically inconsistant) beliefs to begin with.

Just because you might get someone to admit that taking money from people without their permission is wrong, even if you promise to do good things with it, doesn't mean that they'll have some huge epiphany when you point out that that's exactly what taxation is.  Just watch Jan Helfeld's interviews and you'll see person after person after person either say "well that's different", or (believe it or not) try to claim taxes are voluntary.

Statists are statists because it's all they know.  And you're literally talking about questioning the entire social construct which they've lived their entire life by.  That is not an easy thing for people.  If something has always been there, people have an incredibly hard time imagining it not being there...To a point at which they question how the world would even function otherwise.

Moral arguments are useful and important, but many times they are not the slightest bit effective.  And again, you just said your whole point was convincing people.  So, if you'll forgive me, it doesn't really matter what you think is irrelevant or what matters.  To go on as if your reason for agreeing with libertarian principles is the only valid reason, and that people not only have to agree with you, but they have to do so in the way you think they should is just asinine and quite arrogant.

I could not give a shit if someone follows NAP because they think a flying spaghetti monster told them to and they feel like it's a good idea to do what he says.  So long as they abide by those principles, it makes no difference to me.  And I do not see why it should make a difference to you.  Is it really not enough that people become ancap?  They have to do so for the reasons you want them to?  They have to reach those conclusions in the way you think is most relevant or logical?  The whole point is what works to help other people see the light.  And for most people, they're ultimate wants are the same as ours and everyone else's: better living conditions for everyone, more prosperity, more abundance, less hunger, less violence, more peace, et cetera.  And if you can demonstrate to them that those ends are not achieved through the methods advanced through "conventional wisdom", and that you reach much more favorable outcomes through freedom, it can be very appealing and convincing.

It is much easier to get someone to agree that one thing works better than another when they can see the results.  It is much more difficult to convince someone that their entire moral outlook is inconsistant and confused.

 

 

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James replied on Sun, Oct 2 2011 4:12 PM

But as long as one thinks that the government is trying to do the right thing, they're bound to think that they would have a better idea of how to achieve it than you.

If the government was trying to do the right thing, and if these capitalist postulations and anecdotes were indicative of the fact that a completely free market and polycentric legal order were the most appropriate system of social organisation by which to achieve such a policy, why then the government would have sat down and abolished itself by now, surely. :) 

You're not saying that the most succesful people in the world - our lords and masters - are too stupid to figure out what you've figured out, are you?  Why on Earth did they never hire you to tell them that they should be abolished? :p    /s

I worry that if one doesn't make a moral argument of some kind, they seem crazy or disingenuous, because it implies that the species as a whole is functionally retarded if government, with all of our money to spend on research and academia, hadn't figured this shit out by now, assuming that that they'd even been trying to do the right thing.

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Relevant

Thoughts on this?

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It sounds like you're making several points there James.

 

1) People will not believe that better outcomes are achieved when more freedom is involved.

This is one thing in economics that can largely be shown through emprical evidence.  Yes, it's not perfect, but it's enough to appeal to the average person.  (There are many instances where evidence doesn't even need to be the forefront, as simple economic and mathematical laws can be used...for example the notion that minimum wage laws cause unemployment.)

2) People will ask why government hasn't abolished itself if things are so much better without it.

If there's one thing statists understand it's greed and corruption.  "Politician" is already a dirty word and it has been for centuries.  There is a reason for this and it does not take much to help people realize why someone in power would not be inclined to give up that power.

3) People will think you are suggesting that you are smarter than Paul Krugman.

It doesn't matter what people think you are suggesting or implying, so long as they see the facts.  Again this is not supposed to be convincing in itself.  It is a manner of doing the convincing.  It is an approach; it is an aspect of the persuasion process; it is something that will shake people up and get them to begin to consider things from a different perspective and ask questions they would not have otherwise considered...or at the very least, hear support for arguments and ideas they have probably never heard before.  Like in this situation.

4) You need to appeal to morality because if you don't, you seem crazy.

As I pointed out earlier, for many people, the exact opposite is true.  You appeal to morality, it seems like you're appealing to religion, and someone considers you crazy (aka "religious nut").

5) If you don't appeal to morality you are implying that the human species is retarded.

I could say something similar: "I worry that if one doesn't make a logical argument of some kind, they seem crazy or disingenuous, because it implies that the species as a whole is evil and corrupt, and the government, with all of our money spent on welfare and aid, hadn't actually been trying to help anyone, otherwise, people wouldn't be starving anymore by now."

 

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James replied on Sun, Oct 2 2011 5:18 PM

for many people, the exact opposite is true

Yes.

Look, if possible, I let them do the talking.  It's about what they believe, and why it's ridiculous.  They are perfectly capable of revealing that themselves with the right prodding.

But if they believe, for example, the official government conspiracy known as "9/11", what can I do?  Argue about the melting point of steel?  Jesus.  They'll invent hidden mechanisms to explain whatever is that they see if they refuse to countenance the possibility that this might have involved some element of conspiracy on the part of high-level government agents and officials.  Real, honest-to-God scientists do it all the time when there isn't even anything political at stake, with their warped and twisted magnetic fields making sunspots appear black, and their dark matter, and their black holes that can't logically be perceived, and all of the various wonderous things that are supposed to make the ice caps melt and the atmosphere turn into exhaust fumes.  Ockam's Razor just fails to them, because an alternative hypothesis involves throwing out too much of what they've come to rely on in order to make some sense of what they perceive.

I could say something similar: "I worry that if one doesn't make a logical argument of some kind, they seem crazy or disingenuous, because it implies that the species as a whole is evil and corrupt, and the government, with all of our money spent on welfare and aid, hadn't actually been trying to help anyone, otherwise, people wouldn't be starving anymore by now."

 
Hey, you've figured it out! :p 
 
Anyway, why do you think a moral argument isn't a logical argument?  If something isn't logical, it isn't an argument.
 
It's not "I think this wrong", or "God says this is wrong" - those are just assertions - the point of a 'moral argument' is to find out (assuming is often good enough) what they assert to be 'moral', and blow the living shit out of it by appropriate analogy and reductio ad absurdum.  Take away the symbols and and leave the political interaction intact, and you put the onus on them to show that your analogy is inappropriate.
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 the point of a 'moral argument' is to find out (assuming is often good enough) what they assert to be 'moral', and blow the living shit out of it by appropriate analogy and reductio ad absurdum. 

Haha, well put! yes

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James:
Why do you think a moral argument isn't a logical argument?  If something isn't logical, it isn't an argument.

Excuse me...an "argument that appeals to empirical evidence and outcomes and not morality."

 

It's not "I think this wrong", or "God says this is wrong" - those are just assertions - the point of a 'moral argument' is to find out (assuming is often good enough) what they assert to be 'moral', and blow the living shit out of it by appropriate analogy and reductio ad absurdum.

And my point is that if someone already holds contradictory beliefs from a moral perspective (e.g. it is not moral to take money from someone against their will, but taxation is moral), then analogies and reductios are not going to do much.  The purpose is to penetrate their current line of thinking, and if someone is already using those kind of gymnastics, simply pointing out logical fallacies is not going to be very effective.

Again, remember you're also usually dealing with people who hold science and math in high regard.  These are the people who defer to "experts" and feel like whatever the guy with the white coat and the beard and the PhD says, that's the way it is and they're not smart enough to question it. 

But the point is those smart guys didn't reach those conclusions by saying "this is moral".  And your argument is that that is precisely why it's what you should be doing because there's no way you could challenge the scientists in their own realm...they're all smarter than you so there's no way someone would believe they're wrong and you're right, so you have to go with another angle.  And I say that's naive.

 

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James replied on Sun, Oct 2 2011 8:29 PM

I suppose I am being a bit defeatist.

Since we are talking about something as vague and subjective as 'persuasiveness',  you'll probably find that you'll need both... :/ 

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I still feel that employing the elenchus can be a useful method.  There are many people who hold contradictory beliefs without realising it, and who, if they were to realise that their beliefs are in fact contradictory, might attempt to rethink them.  I'm sure many of us have held contradictory beliefs without realising it, and perhaps still do.

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