I have a question for all of you who say insist that the Democrats have played no causal role in this government shutdown and impending default (there’s no reason why the US must cease paying its debt service if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, by the way).

(Just to be clear: although I agree with the goals they have sought to achieve, I am in this post staking out no position on the wisdom, from a purely tactical perspective, of what the Republicans have done.)

Right, then. Let’s assume, arguendo, that all of the rhetoric we’ve been hearing is spot on: the blackhearted Republicans, in thrall to the stupid and racist Tea Party, are totally insane, and don’t care who gets hurt; they’d rather see the world burn than put down the guns they are holding to the President’s head. They really mean it: they’ll crash the economy, and they’ll keep the government shut down forever, unless they get their way. Let us assume also that, as the Democrats are fond of reminding us, it will be, in human terms, a terrible catastrophe. A great many Americans will see their savings wiped out as the economy tanks again; many will even die for want of government services. All this unless the President and the Senate majority accede to the House’s demands to accept item-by-item funding, or repeal Obamacare waivers, or roll back the medical-device tax, or whatever. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that these Republicans are evil, criminally insane desperadoes, who have hijacked the benevolent American system for their own foul ends.

So, the question is:

You are a loving father, and a criminally insane desperado holds a knife to your child’s neck, threatening to do her grievous, perhaps fatal, harm unless you hand over something you value greatly: perhaps some precious gift you’ve toiled for years to be able to give to your family. (Your home, for example.) The police are nowhere to be seen. Things are at the breaking point: it is plain that if you don’t act now, the worst will happen.

What should you do? What would you do?

You are President Obama, and you love America and its people (we’ll accept that second, slightly hard-to-swallow premise arguendo, just as we did the first). These Republican mad-dogs are holding a gun to the nation’s head, and they are crazy enough to shoot, unless you make some compromise on your cherished legislation. If you don’t give them at least some of what they want, and they pull the trigger, the nation will suffer terribly, perhaps irreversibly. They will of course be reviled for it, but by then it will be too late.

What should you do?


  1. If you really want to meet the opposition on their own ground, the example has to be something where you are urged to do some harm to those you care about in order to spare them a greater harm (and not simply with-hold a benefit).

    I don’t claim the Democrats have played no causal role in getting us where we are now (though whether they did is not directly relevant, because we are debating whether they are MORALLy, not CAUSALLY responsible for the shutdown — please excuse the pedantry) — no doubt they could have been more accommodating — BUT I think that closing the government in order to repeal legislation you cannot repeal by other means shows rather poor sportsmanship. Comparing what the Republicans did to sabotage is also a bit over the top. The whole thing is rather overblown. What is more appalling is that we have had to go through this every three months. For the good of our sanity if not our country, the two sides need to sit down and hammer out a more lasting compromise.

    Health-care reform is important though. If Republicans realistically want to get rid of the health-care package while maintaining the good will of the more moderate opposition, they better have a replacement plan that can be passed and put in place quickly. I think the attitude among most of my friends when Republicans argue about the various shortcomings of Obamacare is that we have to start somewhere and the alternative of spending another 2 or 4 years with no reforms in place is simply intolerable.

    But the issue between the two parties should really be spelled out like this. I think we both value freedom and human rights (even the right to self defense), just as we both would like, by the way, to do whatever we can do, consistent with our commitment to the former, to benefit those government can benefit (and TRULY benefit). The disagreement is simply about where to make the trade-off. The matter is vague, and assessing the costs is a matter of probability. That, combined with human nature, has made the argument very difficult to resolve, the disputants, intractable.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:15 am | Permalink
  2. To misquote dear Oscar (such a darling boy), in watching the Republican party thrash about in its death throes one would need a heart of stone not to laugh! But, I guess, the GOP is merely a symptom of an all-American malaise. Old values and certainties have crumbled – except in the Left. Saul Alinsky’s acolytes know exactly where they are going and how to get there and because their opponents are unsure, unsteady and unready, they are driving on to achieve their ambitions. Poor America!

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:52 am | Permalink
  3. I tapped out the comment above and then ‘clicked’ my way on round various favourite sites before reaching The American Spectator and an article by Jeffrey Lord which says it all much, much better than me:


    Posted October 16, 2013 at 3:37 am | Permalink
  4. the one eyed man says

    1) The analogy is inapt. The death of a child is irreversible, and any parent would place a greater value on a child’s life than a home. It’s the difference between must-have and like-to-have: your children’s lives are something which a parent must have and would never give up, while a home can be replaced. It’s an absolute versus something which is not absolute.

    The situation which Obama and the Democrats are in is different. They must judge which is the greater evil: the harm which has happened and will happen as results of the Republicans’ hostage taking or the irreversible harm which will come from abandoning the system of governance we have had from the beginning (where a minority party which is unhappy with a piece of legislation waits until it has the votes to repeal it, and does not demand ransom as leverage to extract unilateral concessions from the majority party).

    In my view, Obama and Reid have made the right decision: the collateral damage which is caused by maintaining the essential principle of democracy, as grave as it is, nonetheless is of less value than maintaining the American system of governance.

    2) The notion that the government could pay the interest and principal of its debt, while not paying other bills, without serious consequence is a right wing canard.

    First is the obvious question of who doesn’t get paid: Social Security? Medicare? Soldiers? Shut down the FBI and the Border Patrol? Stop delivering mail? It is breathtakingly irresponsible for people like Rand Paul to suggest that we can continue making debt payments and everything would be hunky dory.

    Second is the fact that your debt service costs will go up enormously (and have started to do so: the yield on short term Treasuries went up 38 basis points in a single day, which is unheard of.) Any creditor would demand a higher interest rate to a customer who can’t pay his bills than from one who is solvent. Would you give a mortgage to someone who can’t pay his car loan?

    Third is that it engenders a death spiral: the economy tanks because of the government shutdown, reducing tax receipts, which causes further layoffs to cover the debt, etc.

    Most troubling is the fact that credibility takes a long time to develop – in our case, 224 years – and it also takes years to regain once it’s lost. The world has placed its faith in American debt, which has made the dollar its reserve currency. Alexander Hamilton paid the debt when a young republic was horribly over-leveraged and Abraham Lincoln paid it during the Civil War. We’re going to throw the whole thing aside – for what? So Congressional staffers can suffer a pay cut and not get the employer subsidy which all other large enterprises offer?

    3) For years, we heard constantly about Solyndra. Solyndra, Solyndra, Solyndra. (We never heard of the other companies – like Tesla – which were able to grow their businesses because of the same federal loan guarantee program, and which cost nothing to the taxpayer. Out of the over thirty companies which participated In the program, its most egregious failure is purported to be emblematic of the whole thing.) Solyndra cost the taxpayers a little under $500 million, while the economic benefits of the program – like the first nuclear plant built on American soil in twenty years – mitigate or exceed what is on the other side of the ledger.

    When Republicans produced the last debt ceiling crisis in 2011, it cost the Treasury $1.4 billion. The cost of the current mayhem will be far higher, perhaps exponentially so. Think of that the next time someone mentions Solyndra.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:04 am | Permalink
  5. ‘One eye’, reference your praise for the Tesla:

    “And with regard to those 4,714 Teslas, “sold” [in California, where else? out of a total of 1.6 million annually!] is probably not quite the right word to describe a transaction that involves a $7,500 kickback from Uncle (who steals it from you and me first) plus another $5,000 kickback from the state of California, which of course has stolen it first from the poor fools out there who continue to buy Corollas and Camrys and so on at full-fare on their own nickel. California also throws in — courtesy of more of other people’s money — a “credit” for installing the high-voltage charging station the Tesla needs in order to take less than several hours to re-juice itself. The charging station costs a another couple thousand for the electrician and the necessary parts.”

    If you call that “growing”, I’d call it force feeding! ‘Still an’ all’, as you say ‘over there’, no doubt it keeps all those Greenie Hollywood stars feeling comfortably politically-correct about themselves!


    Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    Peter, three things (in brief, as I am too busy with work today to participate at length):

    1) Even Moody’s doesn’t think a static debt ceiling would cause a default; the real issue, just as you say, is the rate at which we can continue to borrow, which is likely to become a catastrophic issue as our debt increases.

    2) While reasonable people may disagree about the tactical, or even moral, defensibility of the House’s decision to dig in its heels here, I really do think you fail to understand the extent to which what’s happening here is not contrary to, or an abandonment of, our system of governance — let alone the death of “the essential principle of democracy”. (The word “democracy”, by the way, appears nowhere in the Constitution; the Founders were horrified by democracy.) It is, rather a lawful manifestation of the conflict between the components of government that was a deliberate, intentional feature of the nation’s design. From a recent article by George Friedman:

    The founders did not want an efficient government. They feared tyranny and created a regime that made governance difficult. Power was diffused among local, state and federal governments, each with their own rights and privileges. Even the legislative branch was divided into two houses. It was a government created to do little, and what little it could do was meant to be done slowly.

    The founders’ fear was simple: Humans are by nature self-serving and prone to corruption. Thus the first purpose of the regime was to pit those who wished to govern against one other in order to thwart their designs. Except for times of emergency or of overwhelming consensus, the founders liked what we today call gridlock.

    Friedman continues:

    The founders needed to bridge the gaps between the need to govern, the fear of tyranny and the uncertainty of the future. Their solution was not in law but in personal virtue. The founders were fascinated by Rome and its notion of governance. Their Senate was both a Roman name and venue for the Roman vision of the statesman, particularly Cincinnatus, who left his farm to serve (not rule) and then returned to it when his service was over. The Romans, at least in the eyes of the founders if not always in reality, did not see government as a profession but rather as a burden and obligation. The founders wanted reluctant rulers.

    They also wanted virtuous rulers. Specifically they lauded Roman virtue. It is the virtue that most reasonable men would see as praiseworthy: courage, prudence, kindness to the weak, honoring friendship, resolution with enemies. These were not virtues that were greatly respected by intellectuals, since they knew that life was more complicated than this. But the founders knew that the virtues of common sense ought not be analyzed until they lose their vigor and die. They did not want philosopher-kings; they wanted citizens of simple, clear virtues, who served reluctantly and left gladly, pursued their passions but were blocked by the system from imposing their idiosyncratic vision, pursued the ends of the preamble, and were contained in their occasional bitterness by the checks and balances that would frustrate the personal and ideological ambitions of others.

    Simple virtues, both in the people and its rulers, are necessary for the survival of a free Republic. Liberty under the law must be tempered by self-limiting virtue in the individual man, or the whole system collapses. The virtues the Founders had in mind are the old, plain ones: prudence, charity, self-reliance, industry, thrift, civility, moderation, community, self-sacrifice, and concern for generations yet unborn. And if they are lacking in the people, they will be lacking in their representatives.

    As the old punchline goes: “I think I see the problem.”

    3) It seems to me that in one breath you say “the analogy is inapt”, but in the next you say that the consequences of the shutdown and debt-ceiling freeze will be a “death spiral”. But then would it not be wiser, when confronted with an armed, insane party threatening the worst, to give an inch or two? That’s all it would take, at this point.

    Given your dire warnings, I’d say that the analogy is apt enough.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  7. That is what irks me the most… so many think this borrowing can go on forever.

    Recession = ok, borrow. print money, whatever.

    5 years after a recession (now) = get used to it. this is it baby.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    The Sununu piece was a rousing essay, David. Not likely to persuade anyone on the Left, but good martial music for the rest of us.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says


    If you really want to meet the opposition on their own ground, the example has to be something where you are urged to do some harm to those you care about in order to spare them a greater harm (and not simply with-hold a benefit).

    Why? The perception on the Left here is precisely that the Republicans insist on the nation’s withholding a benefit (which of course, those of us on the Right see as a “poison pill”, as a “benefit” that comes at a terrible cost.)

    The example seems about right, I think.

    If Republicans realistically want to get rid of the health-care package while maintaining the good will of the more moderate opposition, they better have a replacement plan that can be passed and put in place quickly.

    They do have alternatives; the key phrase is “can be passed”. I think it is not unreasonable to suggest that any radical transformation of something so central to the nation’s life and economy should only be undertaken with broad bipartisan support. Obamacare was not; you can see the result. I think there is some moral culpability there, too.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  10. Malcolm says


    Right. The borrowing cannot go on forever. All we can control is the manner in which it will stop.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  11. the one eyed man says

    David: Your point is a valid one. The opposite argument is that subsidizing a nascent technology is a worthwhile investment if the seed money leads to a dynamic and self-sustaining industry. Starting an industry based on new and untested technology is capital intensive and prone to failures. China and Germany are happy to subsidize their green energy start-ups. Are you willing to cede promising industries (electric cars, solar panels, wind turbines) to them?

    If yes: fine, but don’t complain when Chinese and German companies muscle GM and Ford out of the market, as they are left to trying to sell yesterday’s technology. If not, then it becomes an issue of what level of subsidies is appropriate when measured against the potential for gain. The loan guarantee program and the subsidies were launched in a time of economic meltdown, when shock and awe were the only available remedies. The venture capital market was shut down, so Tesla and its ilk would likely have failed by being undercapitalized. Given this context, it makes sense to devote some of government stimulus to entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, who now runs what is arguably the most exciting company on the planet. Tesla has announced plans to ramp up foreign sales, so more and more cars made a fifteen minute drive from my home will be sold in Munich, Mumbai, and Melbourne. If Tesla becomes a global powerhouse which generates profits, hires workers, and moves the trade balance needle to our side, then the initial subsidies to get them off the ground may turn out to be a very good deal indeed.

    * * * *

    1) We are in agreement that tax and spending policy should change to prevent the (rapidly falling) level of deficit spending from threatening catastrophe down the road. However, the venue to do this for budget is through conference committee – which the House has refused to allow – and the venue for tax policy is the normal legislative process. It is not the disruption of government functioning and debt issuance as leverage to bypass these processes.

    2) You are indeed correct that the Constitution has checks and balances in place to prevent things from being done in haste. In order to enact a law, it must be passed by both Houses and signed by the President (or override a veto). However, checks and balances work both ways: they also prevent things from being undone in haste. Nullifying a law must also be passed by both Houses and approved by the President, and one half of Congress cannot nullify existing law on its own. The reason why the hostage-taking of the past few weeks is diametrically opposed to American governance is that it jettisons our system of checks and balances, by allowing one half of one branch of government to dictate terms of surrender to the rest of the government.

    3) I could argue that the proper response to hostage taking is a humiliating and crushing defeat of the hostage takers, as that is what it would take to prevent future occurrences. As things stand now, the only “concession” is to verify income levels of people receiving coverage through the health exchange. This is nonsensical, as the online application asks you to estimate your 2013 income, but eligibility is determined by 2014 income, which you report on your 1040. (I would add that signing up through the California health exchange was far easier than when I initially signed up for my insurance pre-Obamacare. The form was simpler, and when I called to ask a few questions, there was no wait time or voicemail.)

    I’m disinclined to get into a parlor game for parlous times regarding whether it is better to offer a fig leaf to the vanquished party or to insist on a complete capitulation. Some principles are inviolable, and are not susceptible to utilitarian calculations. In the Brothers Karamazov, Alyosha was asked if he would sanction a bargain where all human suffering is eliminated if and only if a small baby was tortured to death. He said no. I think I’ll go with Alyosha on this one.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  12. Malcolm, nothing will convince your Left of anything but perhaps, just perhaps, it might convince some of your soft (in the head) Right.

    Not, I should add, that I am other than appalled at the tactics of the Right. As far as I can judge, ‘Obamacare’ is not just a shit sandwich, it is the most hideously expensive shit sandwich in the history of the world! The GOP should have hollered their warnings from the top of the Hill – but then let the Dems ram it down everyone’s throats whilst standing ready with the sick bags.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    Nullifying a law must also be passed by both Houses and approved by the President, and one half of Congress cannot nullify existing law on its own.

    Ah, but it can, and indeed it could have happened here. This power of the House to control the purse, and to exert thereby whatever pressure it saw fit, was an deliberate feature of the systems’s design.

    From Federalist 58:

    The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink
  14. the one eyed man says

    The Federalist Papers are descriptive, but far from dispositive. They have no force of law, and their musings are superseded by the Constitution itself. Not only are there many of areas of disagreement among its three writers, but their views may well have been out-voted by the other Founders in the grubby deal making which led to the adoption of the Constitution.

    I’ve noted that Madison’s paragraph has been posted on various comment threads by anyone with a C, a V, and a Control key. However, the extrapolation of Madison’s words to the use of appropriations power to shut down the government is at best arguable, as a constitutional scholar suggests:


    Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  15. Malcolm says

    That Madison’s prescription has been posted often hardly reduces its relevance, its prescience, or its wisdom.

    To be sure, the Founders hoped that wisdom, and comity between the chambers of Congress (and between Congress and the other branches) would prevail. But they foresaw also that it oft would not — that “enlightened statesmen would not always be at the helm” — and they preferred that the machinery could be slowed to a crawl, or stopped altogether until comity was restored, to the possibility of a runaway train.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink
  16. Malcolm says

    I think I’ll go with Alyosha on this one.

    In other words: it’s justifiable for the President to risk default, economic chaos, mass suffering, etc., by refusing to budge an inch to compromise his principles, but not for the Right to feel the same way.

    This can only be because you value the Left’s principles, as embodied by the President, more highly than the Right’s.

    That’s fine, of course — we are all entitled to our axioms, and the conclusions we draw from them — but you can see why political discourse is difficult.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  17. JK says

    Seems I’m never equipped to participate in these sorts of discussions but Peter does point out (paraphrasing) “anybody with a c, a V, and a Control key [does a key that only spells Ctrl count? Ignore this, unless this comment can be construed as a “poll” should a mere Ctrl be insufficient].


    But then, anything I might add’ll likely be explained away by One-Eye’s

    “It ain’t my guys’ fault.”

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  18. JK says

    Oh dummy me, might somebody explain to this poor dumb hillbilly what this means (from the link I just used my C, my V and my Ctrl to do)?

    “If we ever get to an actual default, then interest rates are going to spike more than they actually have, …”

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  19. the one eyed man says

    You are eliding the distinction between policies and principles. Policies should always be negotiable. Principles should not be.

    The first principle here is that no law should be enacted (or, in this case, nullified) without the consent of both houses of Congress and the President (or veto override). The second principle is that the full faith and credit of the government should not be questioned. These are not principles of right or left – they are fundamental principles of American governance. Hence it was both proper and necessary for the President to defend these principles with steely determination. If Republicans have an opposite principle – that one half of Congress should be able to dictate terms to the remainder of government – then they should find another line of work, as that belief is antithetical to both tradition and the Constitution.

    As a great American once said: extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice (and) moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Permalink
  20. Malcolm,

    The question whether the health bill is a benefit or a harm becomes somewhat moot, but I see it along the lines of a redress of a grievance — it attempts to repair a harm which would be restored were it removed. If you are conceding things for the sake of argument, you might as well concede that too.

    None of us, I see, have answered your question. I always thought it was a rather strange dilemma. When someone asks for your wallet under gunpoint, would it be prudent to give him your money? Of course. Are you under any obligation to do so? Probably not. But if someone threatens to harm others to whom you have responsibilities, it becomes murky. It’s a version of the ticking time-bomb case: torturing people who may be innocent is wrong, but if there’s a possibility that failure to do so will result in the loss of many innocent lives, it seems like the only reasonable alternative.

    So what then? If the right thing for the Democrats to do in such a case would be to accede to the demands of their colleagues, that still wouldn’t justify their colleagues’ actions. But if the Democrats did not accede, would the Democrats be responsible for the resulting harm? If you refuse to torture the suspected terrorist in the ticking time bomb case, are you responsible for the lives lost when the bomb explodes? One could argue: of course not! The terrorists are responsible. (At worst you are responsible for letting them die.)

    That’s my attempt to answer your hypothetical on its own terms as best I can. I hope I haven’t said anything to offensive. (While there’s nothing wrong with saying something contrary to your interlocutor’s sensibilities, saying something that needlessly offends those sensibilities is a rhetorical sin.)

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Permalink
  21. “… the irreversible harm which will come from abandoning the system of governance we have had from the beginning (where a minority party which is unhappy with a piece of legislation waits until it has the votes to repeal it, and does not demand ransom as leverage to extract unilateral concessions from the majority party).”

    As is his wont, the one-eyed dickhead floods us with a shitstorm of biased opinion in the hope that he can slyly insert false premises.

    The fundamental issue that guided the framers was precluding a “tyranny of the majority“, NOT, as the dickhead would have it, to emasculate the minority.

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Permalink
  22. JK says

    …[E]liding the distinction between policies and principles.

    Isn’t that One-Eye, “eliding” I mean something that’s done in toenail fungus clinics?

    Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Permalink
  23. I really didn’t want to distract from the main discussion but it seems to have quietened down round here now so I will attempt to respond to ‘One-Eye’s point concerning the government back-handers to the already very rich people who are the only ones who can afford the ultra-expensive Tesla motor cars.

    He invites us to suppose that it is the duty of government to take our money and ‘invest’ it in highly speculative new-tech industries lest the Germans/Japanese/Chinese steal a march on us. In fact, it is exactly the same argument put forward many years ago by some politicians that home-grown car producers should be provided either with government subsidies or protected by tariffs in order to keep those pesky cheap and efficient Jap cars out.

    What they, and ‘One Eye’, fail to appreciate is that if foreigners wish to invest their money into cheap and efficient products and sell them to us we should cover them (metaphorically, of course!) in kisses because:

    a) It will make our industries wake up and produce better and cheaper products, or,

    b) We can just let them go broke (they deserve it) and turn our capital and workforce towards things that make money.

    Having digressed slightly, I will return to the main point raised by ‘One Eye’. Given the *possibility* of a brand new technology leading to possibly huge returns (I am reminded of our host’s recent and fascinating post on graphene) the question is simple to pose; which group of people do we want to put up the risky working capital required to exploit it?

    My answer is any private person or organisation who, having assessed the risks and returns, decides there is a future. I wish them luck and if they become stinking rich as a result then I don’t care so long as their product adds to the ‘wealth of the nation’.

    Or, and I want you all to pause at this point and concentrate! – would you rather your local Congressman chose which enterprise to invest in **using YOUR money**?

    I mean, is there anything about your local Congressman that would lead you to believe he understands anything about, say, graphene? Would you say, with hand on head, ooops, I mean, hand on heart that he would make his decision on the business merits of the case and that no untoward, er, pressures will have been applied? After all, REMEMBER, it’s your money he’s using – not HIS!

    The defence rests, m’Lud!

    Posted October 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  24. Malcolm says

    Peter, you in turn are eliding the distinction between enacting a law, which obviously cannot happen without the cooperation of all three parties (both houses of Congress and the President), repealing a law (likewise), and the House’s power to appropriate funds (or not) as it sees fit. The latter is a fully intentional feature of the Constitution, and its adversarial use has ample historical precedent.

    It is also a bit thick to depict the President as a pious defender of the law “as written” when he has unilaterally, and arguably on no Constitutional authority, modified it according to his own whim (for which he may well end up in court).

    Posted October 17, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  25. Malcolm says

    David, excellent comment.

    …would you rather your local Congressman chose which enterprise to invest in **using YOUR money**?

    No thank you! And that’s the point exactly. It’s our money.

    Posted October 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink
  26. Malcolm says

    The question whether the health bill is a benefit or a harm becomes somewhat moot, but I see it along the lines of a redress of a grievance — it attempts to repair a harm which would be restored were it removed. If you are conceding things for the sake of argument, you might as well concede that too.

    Alex, what ‘harm’ is being redressed? The only way I can understand this is in terms of a positive “right” to compel others to subsidize your health insurance, which is hardly an uncontroversial assertion.

    Posted October 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
  27. Malcolm says

    Also, Peter, it’s amusing that you quote in this context that great champion of small government, and implacable foe of socialism, Barry Goldwater.

    I couldn’t agree more that the defense of liberty is worth ‘extreme’ exertions.

    Posted October 17, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink
  28. Alencia Lysander says

    Malcolm, I am not venturing to declare that ObamaCare really redresses a grievance, but I think you understand liberals well enough to imagine what problem they are attempting to correct, and what I don’t understand is why if you are willing to concede other points for the sake of argument you aren’t willing to concede this. If you concede that repealing the healthcare law would be a harm, do you think that changes the moral calculus? If not, I don’t understand your reluctance; if so, I think it makes your analogy less persuasive.

    Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink
  29. By the way, I was also interested in the quote from the Federalist Papers visa via Peter’s comment that our government was meant to or anyway ought to keep the minority from overturning the majority’s vote.

    Of course we all know the founders wanted to protect the people from the tyranny of the majority (or some of them anyway — I recall an Irishman from Rhode Island who was rather more complacent about it), but the paper in question also seems to declare that it would be salutary for the power of the majority of the people, through its organ the House, to increase.

    So I think there is something to Peter’s claim that out founders believed that the will of the majority should be allowed its influence even according to the founders. The only question remaining is whether the healthcare law represented the will of the majority of the people let alone Congress. I think no one who does not believe that will willingly concede it.

    (By the way, it is a tactic of conservatives that always makes me a bit uncomfortable, appealing to the founders — the appeal in such debates seems to me almost as irrelevant as appealing to scripture, because ultimately we are concerned not with what the law is but what it ought to be. I can see lines of thought that make the founders’ opinions more relevant, but ultimately we appeal to them not because they are the founders but because we believe their beliefs to be true, no? It is the truth we are concerned with, I would think, and that the founders had true opinions becomes to a certain extent incidental…)

    Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  30. Malcolm says


    Sure, fine, let’s assume that defunding Obamacare (or delaying it, or insisting that arbitrary waivers may not be given, etc.) constitutes harm. From the sound of the Left’s angry language, though — all about hostage-takers, or holding a gun to the nation’s head, or terrorists with explosive vests, or other metaphors having to do with criminal lethality — we have certainly been asked to see the consequences of a continued shutdown or static debt ceiling as not just unwelcome, but catastrophic. So the question remains: is it worth all that not to budge an inch on healthcare?

    I’m inclined to agree with you about the House; it is intended to be the more majoritarian chamber. The Senate is supposed to serve as a counterweight to the comparatively raw democracy of the House.

    Your question about the Founders is a good one. It reminds me of the divine-command problem in moral philosophy.

    Conservatives appeal so often to the Founders because the Founders appeal to us. We believe that the principles that the Founders thought would be necessary for the survival of the Republic (see my first comment, above) were indeed exactly the right ones, as necessary now as they were then.

    They embodied these principles in the Constitution, which remains the supreme law of the land. We see the Constitution as a mighty bulwark against the erosion of those founding principles — but only if it is not subjected to slippery, postmodernist reinterpretation every time the wind changes. So we stress the importance, in understanding the Constitution’s text, of understanding also the meaning that was intended by its authors. Fortunately there is a great deal of contemporaneous material that makes this easier (of which the Federalist Papers is the broadest and richest resource, but far from the only one).

    The Left enjoys likening us to the Taliban, and I’ll be the first to admit (seriously, I’ll bet I actually am the first to admit) that there is some truth to the metaphor. Like Salafist Muslims, we feel that many of the essential virtues and principles upon which our society was founded have, in modern times, been shamefully neglected — with calamitous results — and so we look back to the wisdom of the Founders (peace be upon them) for courage and guidance. Were they perfect men? Of course not: their key insight was, after all, the imperfectibility of Man. Have we no wisdom of our own? Of course we have, and we must tax it to its utmost. Is the world a vastly different place now than it was at the end of the eighteenth century? Obviously, obviously so, and of course we know that we must live in the world we now inhabit, not some yearned-for golden age that never existed (and this is where the Taliban comparison breaks down). And we do not in any way deny the enormous progress that has been made, since the Founding, on a great many moral issues. May it continue.

    But: has human nature changed? No. Is democracy subject to the same systematic and degenerative weaknesses, the same traps and pitfalls, the same gravitational attraction to tyranny, that the Founders understood so well, and worked so hard to defend the new Republic against? Yes. And so we conservatives return often to refresh ourselves at the source.

    Posted October 17, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Permalink
  31. Re: “appealing to the founders”

    Malcolm’s remarks (addressed to Alencia) are excellent and comprehensive, IMHO. I would only add one thought, concerning Alencia’s assertion.

    I think it somewhat offensive to call an appeal to the Founders a “tactic”. In my view, such an appeal is equivalent to acknowledging that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Nation, which is an incontrovertible fact.

    The Constitution’s interpretation, however, can be argued legally only before the Supreme Court, which is also an incontrovertible fact. But in other discussions, as in this thread for example, I can not think of a more pertinent reference than an appeal to the known views of the Framers. That is not a tactic. It is sensible and legitimate supporting evidence for a debate such as this.

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 2:07 am | Permalink
  32. BigHenry, I accept your criticism, but I can’t help remarking, in that light, that I think it is offensive to call someone a “dick” (see comments above), just as I earlier thought it was offensive to make insinuations about the moral character of the children of one’s interlocutor, both of which are very much out of the way of the kind of conversations I am interested in having.

    Anyway, all I meant by calling it a tactic, or perhaps just meant to have meant, is that it is an argument that is commonly used but which nonetheless carries with it assumptions which are (perhaps) in danger of begging some crucial questions. You are very right, however, to reply some such thing as that we are bound to the constitution and whatever it means by implicit or tacit consent. That is probably what should be said.

    Nonetheless, I always think it is a bad habit people have when arguing about justice and ethics, to begin appealing to what the law is, when the question is really what it ought to be.

    One thing that has concerned me, for instance, is when someone is fired from his or her job for expressing views the employer disagrees with or finds embarrassing. Perhaps employers have a right to do so, perhaps they don’t. That does not concern me. What concerns me is that when one raises the question, whether this is a violation of one’s freedom to speech, it is often replied that the constitution does not guarantee and has not been interpreted to guarantee freedom from such firings. But that is entirely besides the point, to me, because what one is concerned with is what freedoms having a freedom of speech ought to entail, if we believe individuals have it, and the appeal to what the law actually is in such cases is irrelevant.

    Just so in the case of determining what is just, how a country ought to be governed, who is responsible for something: whether it is permitted under the law is not in itself relevant to making that determination, unless one has some further premise (for instance to the effect that outside of what has been made law, there is no such thing as just, etc.).

    So in sum, I do think when it comes to legal matters, one may very appeal to the founders, insofar as one thinks the intention of the writers ofa document determines its meaning. (I don’t happen to think this happens as much as you, perhaps, because I incline towards a more robust theory of meaning, whereby words have their meaning independently of the intentions of the individuals and even the particular generation of individuals that use them, at least to a certain extent — but it is hard either to explain or prove such a theory to everyone’s satisfaction, if one even understands what one believes in the first place.) When it comes to philosophical matters, however, which I think are really what interest conservatives and liberals when they argue (for their argument is not about what the law is but what it should be), I think such appeals carry little or no weight. And of course the founders did not appeal to themselves when they wrote their arguments, but if anything, gave reasons.

    (“Listening not to me but the word it is wise to agree that all things are one.” — Forgive me if I end this diatribe against appeals to authority, by recalling that of Heraclitus.)

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink
  33. By the way Malcolm — neither do I liken the right to the Taliban or the Shariah, nor do I compare the right’s recent actions to a heist. I think these comparisons are too rhetorical to be helpful. From a Machiavellian perspective and given their goals, I think the right did what they had to do in recent days.

    Perhaps we would all be better when we examine these incidents, in the coming month, to think after the manner of Machiavelli, and ask not whether what was done was just, but only if it was expedient. I am not sure if the conflict will reach proportions worthy of such historical comment, but I do hope such a dispassionate view, can keep us all more sane.

    (I wonder — do you think it could be worth sacrificing one’s sanity, even for the sake of what is right?)

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink
  34. Alex,

    Allow me to clarify a couple of notions you have expressed in your “diatribe against appeals to authority”:

    If you had been more familiar with some of the personal interactions between certain visitors to Malcolm’s salon, you would have realized that “One-eyed dickhead” is a term of endearment. There are certain guidelines laid down by Malcolm, and I, as well as others, have been reproached from time to time for perhaps exceeding those bounds of propriety. Shiite happens. If such occasional excess is “very much out of the way”, you are, of course, under no obligation to consider yourself a captive audience.

    BTW, I find it somewhat out of the way to realize you have participated in these discusions under more than one moniker. Sockpuppet much?

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
  35. “… do you think it could be worth sacrificing one’s sanity, even for the sake of what is right?”

    That old saw, “What’s done is done” seems apt. After all, it was good enough for Big Bill the Bard (AKA The Great Spear Shaker).

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink
  36. Malcolm says


    I agree, generally, with the Athenian slant of your remarks: that what should really attract the philosophical mind are the Big Questions: What is Truth? What is Justice?

    When it comes to real-world U.S. politics, though, we have to narrow our scope just a tad, and focus on the third leg of the Man of Steel’s tripod of essential values: What is the American Way?

    The Founders, who were learned and contemplative men, thought long and hard about the very questions you raise. They were in a unique position in history: about to design, almost “from scratch”, a great nation, to be erected upon a vast continent of incalculable richness, in geographical isolation from the harrying and torment of bellicose neighbors that had for so long shaped the course of European history. What they settled upon reflected a deep pessimism about human nature and the weakness of democracy; they also knew that for the nascent Republic to survive would require the persistence in its people of certain essential virtues, which I mentioned above: prudence, charity, self-reliance, industry, thrift, civility, moderation, community, self-sacrifice, and concern for generations yet unborn.

    Many of them had deep misgivings about the long-term success of this venture. I think history has begun to confirm this gloomy prognosis, chiefly due to the erosion of these essential virtues (an erosion that democracy itself encourages, which is democracy’s principal liability). But the best we conservatives can do, at this point, is to lean hard on the Constitution as the law of the land, and so it matters to us that it be understood in terms of the principles according to which it was written — which we believe to be essential if there is to be any hope for the future of the Republic. And so, as a practical matter, we appeal to the intentions of the Founders.

    You are right, though, in broader terms, and in recent years (helped along by thinkers like Carlyle, Hoppe, Kuehnelt-Leddihn and our own inimitable Moldbug) I have come to be deeply dubious about democracy itself. Its inherent vulnerabilities, especially in a modern context of radical skepticism, secularism, low social coherence, and moral/cultural relativism, are simply too great. I think the Founders gave it the best possible chance, and the experiment is now winding down.

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  37. Sadly, Malcolm, I cleave to your gloomy prognosis. My palliative? That penultimate refuge of despondency — derision.

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink
  38. The ultimate? Raging defiance!

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink
  39. BTW, my favorite of the Man of Steel’s multi-pods is:

    “A single death is a tragedy. A million is a statistic.”

    Yeah; yeah. I know you refer to another Man of Steel …


    Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  40. BigHenry — I suspected that was the case. You can imagine how it looks to an outsider. Forgive me for any impudence. As far as the rest goes, ALex Leibowitz is ALEncia Lysander (who is also 李博子,lí bó zî) — but I meant to be Alencia along.

    For the constitution — I do not hold it in the same reverence. Perhaps to some extent it is my ignorance of history, or else it is a personal flaw (I have many).

    I think the founders were intelligent, some of them, but others (Samuel Adams comes to mind) seem to me simply to have been rabble rousers, bad elements whom the British government, had it ruled more prudently, would never have allowed to rule more prudently.

    The constitution itself was almost an act of treason against the previous form of government, which I sometimes think might have been more to some conservatives’ taste (it is interesting to think that the constitution was passed according to its own terms of ratification before it was “the law of the land” — a curious kind of boot-strapping, I think — whereas the strategy was to pass it in just enough states to pressure the rest to join).

    As for our present condition, I am not sure how much the founders intended it. I do not think they imagined America would extend so far across the continent, nor do I imagine they believed it would include foreign conquests (Texas, California, etc.).

    The episodes leading up to the Civil War were themselves, to my mind, prompted by flaws in the constitution. The equality of the Senate and the House, combined with the growing geographical divisions of the country and the representation of the states in the Senate, led to stratification and inevitably to conflict. James Madison would not perhaps have wished to have state representation at all, but this was a compromise required from the beginning without which the whole enterprise would have crumbled.

    Yes, my opinion from what I know is that the constitution was formed under duress and has many problems, due to that fact, which contributed and are contributing to the problems with American democracy we face now. The Bill of Rights and the Declaration are far more admirable (but the former does not fully resolve the problems with the main document, nor does it adequately protect itself from the ravages of partisan government — as evidence, just think of the present day controversies over the 1st and 2nd amendment, not to mention our problems about habeas corpus — but also the Alien and Sedition Acts passed mere decades after the new government was established, the burning of abolitionist tracts and their prohibition by the federal government in the decades leading up to the Civil War, and so on!)

    The Federalist Papers was an effort to make the flaws of the constitution seem like virtues — they are interesting, well written, and noble, but we should not forget they are a sort of advertisement, and we should not allow ourselves to be quite taken in by them when we consider the document itself.

    This controversy must be very old by now. It began with Hamilton and Jefferson (whose dictum, by the way, that the tree of liberty must be watered with blood from time to time, in response to Shay’s rebellion, I find very chilling, maybe even worthy of the modern revolutionaries we deplore) and we are just continuing it.

    Well it is not a history lesson, but it is what I know of history and my conclusions on the basis of what I know. The Romans were also mentioned — I can only say I find it hard to see why the founders thought THEY were so admirable. Good administrators, but very savage and vain — especially when compared to the Greeks (though they had their flaws as well). If we meant to imitate Rome, with the Gracchi and the Civil Wars, I think we have gotten what we deserved.

    The one thing I find myself most at odds with conservatives about is the view of human nature. I do not know how it can be said with such confidence that humans are by nature evil. Perhaps this is believed with more confidence in the light of the 20th century, but for myself, I find it to be very dubious, not that there is a human nature, but that we have an accurate assessment of its moral qualities. For myself I think it would be better and perhaps it is even more Christian (in a strange sense of the word) to believe it is good (Adam does not necessarily decide the matter) — because I think one’s behavior towards the others is determined very much by one’s opinion of them, and of those to whom we would be the best we must have the best opinion.

    And there is a sketch of my opinions, such as they are, and if you want. I am sorry for them, but I think a man’s opinions are like his face — he can have it operated on, but he cannot do very much to change it just by himself — at least, not safely!

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink
  41. the one eyed man says

    David: I think the number of occasions where it is appropriate for the government to provide loan guarantees to facilitate nascent businesses is between Never and Once In A While. The exigencies of 2009 – an economic meltdown, non-functioning capital markets, a promising industry, and a technology which offers the benefit of reducing carbon consumption – is adequate justification for me. It the cost side of the ledger is $500 million and the benefit side is thirty companies which are robust and profitable job creators, then it’s probably a pretty good deal (and one which the Sand Hill Road crowd would have financed if it were possible to raise capital at the time).

    One of the reasons American companies have dominated world markets is many years of subsidies in the form of R&D credits, tax subsidies, and access to research from government labs. GE, Merck, IBM, Exxon Mobil, and many more have led their respective industries in no small part because of a helping hand from Uncle Sam. As a member of the Church of What Works, it seems logical to extend this to the companies with potential to be world-beaters in the 21st century.

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Permalink
  42. Dear 李博子,

    Thank you for clarifying your position and thoughts for me. I do not subscribe to your worldview, but I very much appreciate your honesty.

    I try to be honest in representing my own views, too. If you take me at my word, I will assert that Lincoln said it best for eternity:

    The United States of America, which includes those states that seceded from the union and were brought back into the fold, at the cost of more American casualties than all our other wars combined, is “the last best hope of earth.”

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Permalink
  43. Malcolm says


    This thread is growing long, and digressive, so just a brief remark or two:

    The one thing I find myself most at odds with conservatives about is the view of human nature. I do not know how it can be said with such confidence that humans are by nature evil.

    “Evil”? If this is really what you imagine to be the conservative’s view of human nature, then you haven’t understood us very well at all.

    The Founders knew they were attempting something preposterously, almost unimaginably difficult — to design a stable, self-governing Republic of free men — and they did their best to build in safeguards against two overwhelming liabilities: the inexorable progression of democracy toward tyranny, and the imperfection, and imperfectibility, of Man.

    As democratic societies go, the thing has had a pretty good run — perhaps about as good, and as long, a run as it is possible for a democracy to have.

    But, yes, the Constitution is flawed. What do you expect? Perfection — in wisdom, in government, in nationhood, in morality, in foresight, in justice — is not vouchsafed to us here below. You won’t find it among the Founders, nor in the Constitution, nor in America, nor in Athens, Rome, or Jerusalem.

    There were Anti-Federalist papers too, also written by men of sound mind. Were they right? Were they wrong?

    As for the Declaration of Independence, well, of course it begins with a couple of the most “self-evident” falsehoods ever written down: that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed with “inalienable” rights. (Ask the guests at a North Korean labor camp, if you should get the chance, how that “inalienable” thing is going.) And then there’s this.

    So yes: life here in the sublunary is kind of an iffy business. We muddle along as well as we can manage, and try to work out a way of living that gives us a chance at a little happiness. For all their shortcomings, I think the Founders gave the democratic-republic model about as good a shot as it’s ever likely to get.

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:38 pm | Permalink
  44. Cotton says

    Interesting discussion, but completely off the point of the question posed, which was about surrendering to an armed hostage taker. Take the drama of the daughter out of it and simply imagine your first day in sixth grade at junior high. An eighth grader demands your lunch money.

    Refusing might get you beat up, which is the point of the implied threat. Maybe your lunch money isn’t worth the ripped shirt, black eye, or loose teeth. But you are a complete fool if you think this is a one time proposition. Surrender once means you will be subjected to this type of confrontation forever and by more than oone bully once word gets out.

    In a similar manner, imagine your first day in prison, and you are faced with a pretty bad choice. If you surrender once to save yourself some temporary pain and injury one that day, you will guarantee you will face that same threat every day thereafter.

    It is a very simple concept to understand.

    If you give in to having your daughter threatened hoping to ensure her safety, you will have just now condemned her and any other children to constant continuous threat of rape or death, while you cave to the same threat over and over.

    That’s what the question that was posed was about. I think the answer is obvious to anyone.

    As for who in this political scheme was the knife weilding thug, well, all you have to do is look at pre-planning, the promotion of a shutdown, the money spent on the literature being mailed around prior to the shutdown, all urging a shut down, the signs demonstartors were carrying, urging the shutdown continue, the pols who said a shutdown was mininmally harmful, a pinprick, and renamed it a slimdown, and the elected officials who gleefully proclaimed to any camera that glittered that the shutdown was the best thing that could have happened, and a source of great joy.

    Funny thing, though. When the public rejected the shutdown tactic in overwhelming numbers, the pre-planners and promoters, the signcarriers, the pols, and the gleeful camera chasers who were all on the side urging shutdown all changed their tune and on a dime spun around and claimed the shutdown was a terrible thing, outrageous, and then suddenly they start claiming it was all the other side’s fault.

    That in inself says volumes. If shutdown was a virtuous stand on principle, why do the gleeful promoters not take resonsibility for it instead of now blaming it the leaders of the other party?

    Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:52 pm | Permalink
  45. It’s too bad the shutdown didn’t last longer. It was the next best thing to impeachment, which, unfortunately, is not in the cards. This Senate would never convict. Sigh …

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:13 am | Permalink
  46. Cotton says

    Yes, there you have it. If it didn’t last long enough for some, they care less the about any damage that is done, and care less what more damage will be done, polictics is all that matters.

    Standard & Poor says this shutdown cost us all 24 billion, but let’s have more of it? Fitch says the issue that threatened the rating was not our debt or deficit (which Fitch said was declining)but they said their decision to possibly lower the nation’s credit rating would be based on the atmosphere of chronic political instability that weakens their trust in the US dollar.

    24 billion wasn’t enough? Keep it up longer? Cut the baby in half, Solomon!

    I think it now becomes very clear just who really cares for the baby, and who cares not.

    Wish it would last longer? Go to default? Heck with the costs, it was a good thing? Keep it going? How long? To what end? Does it enhance our international standing, our security? Strenghthen us internally?

    Didn’t last long enough, eh? So why try to blame the other side for what you urged to happen, applauded when it came on, and wish even now for it to continue longer?

    On another subject:

    I have a question for Tea Partiers and Birthers who believe Obama was born in Kenya.
    Why support Cruz for President then, who was born in Canada?

    Oh, but Cruz’s mother was a US citizen they say. that’s what counts, who his mother was. So, then, if (and it is a ludicrous “if”) Obama was born in Kenya, his mother was most certainly without question born in the US.

    The Birther’s entire arguement falls completely apart by their own standards.

    Impeachment? On what grounds?

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink
  47. Impeachment on the grounds of felonious stupidity.

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink
  48. Malcolm says

    Why, yes, Cotton, but you’ve gone and redefined the whole shebang on your own terms, not once but twice. There and back again.

    We’ve been hearing about rough men — “terrorists” — with bombs and guns, seeking to inflict catastrophic damage, but instead you give us eighth-grade bullies coming after our lunch money. On those terms, sure: what responsible adults wouldn’t stand up to gaggle of pimply-faced middle-school brats?

    But then, a brisk about-face: our “lunch money” becomes, first, $24 billion — and then the next thing you know, it’s the death of the U.S. dollar, and a bisected baby to boot! It’s all a bit of a jumble.

    One thing, though, if I may come back to the real world: for those nasty eighth-grade boys, this isn’t about “lunch money”: that $24 billion is a paltry sum compared to the damage they’re trying to prevent.

    We all want to save the baby, you see, each in our own way.

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink
  49. Cruz was born in Syracuse, New York. And though he is a Church of Scientology nut and a so-so actor, I would take him over the Socialist Keynesian in a heartbeat.

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  50. To was default? How long would last who realls credit would becomplet’s mosphers a US dollar.

    Impeachment their try cares very cares very thers.

    The baby to contire long enough? Kenya.
    Why to costs, it end? Does now for in to deficitizen now believe more a US citical internal in Canada?

    Didn’t lower was not.

    I ther was born international stand who was. So was decision was now longer? Go to declining would last less the atmospher’s end? Does for Pres now be baby ther subject:

    I think it that to …

    Somewhere there’s a tampon that misses you.

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink
  51. Cotton says

    Hi Malcolm,

    Here was your original question:

    “You are a loving father, and a criminally insane desperado holds a knife to your child’s neck, threatening to do her grievous, perhaps fatal, harm unless you hand over something you value greatly: perhaps some precious gift you’ve toiled for years to be able to give to your family. (Your home, for example.) The police are nowhere to be seen. Things are at the breaking point: it is plain that if you don’t act now, the worst will happen.
    What would you do?”

    I merely turned your fantasy premise into a simpler form with less drama, the lunch money. Or a threatened prison rape. It is all the same premise as yours with the same easily undderstood answer. Give in and the threats will only increase exponentially.

    The Solomon reference was quite clear to anyone familiar wth the Bible. A baby was the center of dispute, both sides claiming parenthood. Finally a knife was put to the baby. One side said please do the baby no harm. The other side said, destroy the baby.

    In a similar manner we have seen right here today, despite the harm a continued shutdown has already caused and might further cause if it continues, one side said let the harm continue!

    And if you believe the shutdown was a good thing that should continue, and at the same time you say it was the President’s doing, the only logical thing to conclude would be that you believe the president did a heroic deed.

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink
  52. Cotton says

    PS Malcolm, there was no “jumble” or “about face”. There were two seperate posts… one directed to your original premise question, the second directed to the “lets’s have more shutdown” sentiment.

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  53. Cotton says

    Malcolm, one more question, if I may be bold enough to ask you and your readers.

    Can you please explain to me why, when conservatives opposed “hilarycare” they spent years demanding an individual mandate be enacted instead, saying it was the only way to ensure that “deadbeats and parasites on the system would be forced to take responsibility for their own care”.

    Mandate them to buy insurance was conservatives consistant drumbeat response to clintoncare, which they killed because it did not have the mandate idea Heritage Foundation invented and loudly trumpeted.

    The whole basis of obamacare came directly from the Heritage Foundation. Newt Gingrich and others jumped at that idea and it was pushed hard for years by the staunchest conservatives. It was the very basis of Masachusetts romneycare and conservatives did not oppose it then either, then, but praised it’s implementation as solid conservative policy.

    So why the about face?

    If you urge me year after year not to buy a Honda, but to buy a Ford instead, why attack me when I finally decide to take your own advice and buy a Ford pickup?

    I am a registered Republican, I do not like obamacare or the mandate, but I at least understand who authored the whole premise in the first place and just who spent a decade or more selling it to the American public as a solid conservative ideal and the only way to proceed with health care.

    omabacare is heritagecare

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  54. Re: “omabacare is heritagecare”

    “Obamacare will leave many people paying more for their health insurance. The healthcare.gov website is learning to crawl, with additional data trickling in. However, based on information already released by HHS, states, and insurance plans, the claims of savings on premiums for the average participant is a fantasy.”

    Drew Gonshorowski is a Policy Analyst in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink
  55. Cotton says

    Henry, you make my point. Te hertage Foundation now has completely reversed themselves and now oppose what they call obamacare. Quoting their position they at the present time doesn’t nothing to address their previous position held and promoted for well over a decade, pre-Obama.

    One can easily find dozens and dozens of quotes from Heritage Foundation directors,
    as well as many conservative senators and congressmen who repeatedly introduced bills containing the individual mandate.

    Here is just one typical quote from a past Director of Heritage Foundation’s Domestic Policy Strategies, Stuart M. Butler:

    “Element #1: Every resident of the U.S. must, by law, be enrolled in an adequate health care plan to cover major health care costs.

    This requirement would imply a compact between the U.S. government and its citizens: in return for the government’s accepting an obligation to devise a market-based system guaranteeing access to care and protecting all families from financial distress due to the cost of an illness, each individual must agree to obtain a minimum level of protection. This means that, while government would take on the obligation to find ways of guaranteeing care for those Americans unable to obtain protection in the market, perhaps because of chronic health problems or lack of income, Americans with sufficient means would no longer be able to be “free riders” on society by avoiding sensible health insurance expenditures and relying on others to pay for care in an emergency or in retirement.

    Under this arrangement, all households would be required to protect themselves from major medical costs by purchasing health insurance or enrolling in a prepaid health plan. The degree of financial protection can be debated, but the principle of mandatory family protection is central to a universal health care system in America.”

    This quote and others like it can be found still today squirrelled away on the Heritage Foundation’s website.

    The Heritage Foundation concieved this ugly baby but now try to deny paternity. DNA tests show the truth. The proponents of “personal responsibiity” are themselves deadbeat dads, with etchasketch history books.

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink
  56. Cotton says

    Corrections in caps.

    “Quoting their position they NOW HOLD at the present time doesn’t SAY nothing SUBSTANTIAL to address their previous position held and promoted for well over a decade, pre-Obama.”

    Big thumbs, small keyboard.

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  57. “Henry, you make my point.”

    Glad to oblige.

    Posted October 19, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink
  58. Cotton says

    Malcolm, back to the item you invited us to discuss: you had invented a high drama hollywood scenario with an armed thug, a daughter, and some vague prized object the thug wanted to extort from the parent. Something only a screenwriter might experience.

    I simplified your convoluted premise to a simple extortion anyone anywhere might have faced concerning junior high lunch money.

    The bully wanting the money could have offered something his target wanted in exchange: cigarettes, beer, playboy magazines, meeting hot chicks, help with homework, sports help, rides home, social status or anything else a sixth grader might think was cool and willingly trade his money for. Everyone would have been satisfied and no harm done.

    The bully chose extortion. A victim who gives in under those circumstances will only face endless misery and makes it more likely there will be more victims facing the same threat from the same bully and all who follow his successful example.

    The best choice for the victim is to resist at all costs, confront the bully, and say no dice.
    The bully does not win, and might even get busted if he assaults the other kid.

    And as we have all seen so often, a busted bully, thwarted in his extortion, will attempt to blame his target. “It’s all his fault. He had the money I wanted and wouldn’t give it to me. If he had just done what I said, there’d have not been any trouble.”

    “He played a ‘causal role’ in this fight”, whines the bully.

    At any rate, Malcolm, you chose the topic to discuss and I didn’t see much response to that specific topic and simply thought I’d reply to your request to comment on your scenario.

    Posted October 20, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink
  59. Malcolm says

    I simplified your convoluted premise to a simple extortion anyone anywhere might have faced concerning junior high lunch money.

    Right, and in doing so you completely missed, or ignored, the whole point of the post.

    Eighth-grade bullies who want your lunch-money are one thing; armed criminals who take your loved ones hostage and threaten them with catastrophic harm are quite another, and it was in the latter terms, not the former, that the politicians and pundits of the Left had framed this conflict. Yet they seemed curiously willing to let the bombs and guns go off.

    This thread has grown too long already; time to move on.

    Posted October 20, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink
  60. Cotton says

    Extortion is extortion not matter the age of the bully. You had almost 50 responses when I logged in. I was curious to see if anyone advocated capitulation to extortion.

    Furthermore, as with the 8th grade bully, any anyone has a choice to offer something to get what they want.

    We all now what was demanded by those who threatened, and then gleefully did, shut the government down at great cost to all of us. But tell me one thing, anything, was offered in lieu of the extortionist demand?

    If you shut the governemt down at a cost (estimated by non-partisan S&P) of 24 billion and possibly 1 million jobs, the camera chasing ‘extortionists’ lose all credibility to claim they are only concerned about economic growth and jobs and wasteful spending.

    At any rate I was disappointed that no one else bothered to respond to your original premise. So the topic itself was dead on arrival.

    Posted October 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink
  61. Cotton says

    PS The costs of this extortion was staggerring, far more serious than lunch money, so comparisons to Somalian pirates would be a disservice to the pirates. That I compared them only to lunch money bullies was a mercy to these “public servant” extorionists.

    Extortion of lunch money, even by an 8th grader, btw, is indeed a crime. What, then, is extortion of 24 billion? Just politics as usual?

    Posted October 20, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  62. Cotton says

    Here’s the real life premise as it happened.

    The conservative right made a demand during clinton care: give us an individual mandadate, require by law. They repeated this demand for almost two decades, and enacted it into reality Massachusetts. The right wingers cheered it. A universal mandate they said was the only way to ensure personal responsibility in healthcare.

    The left wingers generally opposed it, including Obama when he ran. Hilary Clinton however, after over a decade of rigt wing demands finally agreed with the right, moved more to the center and ran for election supporting the Heritage Foundation mandate. Obama won.

    He then did capitulate to the demands of the Right when as president he surrendered to the insurance companies who also demanded it as the cost of universal coverage.

    So, in your premise, the President already had capitulated to what the Heritage Foundation had said was their starting point requirement for healthcare.

    To no one’s surprise, the demands of the Right, like the 8th grade lunch money bully, and extortionists everywhere, were totally unsatisfied, switched positions and now demanded more, suddenly saying the individual mandate was inherently and constitutionally wrong at it’s very core! “We want something different, your lunch money isn’t enough!”

    Armed thugs is too kind a phrase for such behavior, for people who would gleefully do so much deliberate harm to our economy, after getting what they had been demanding for twenty long years.

    Posted October 20, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  63. Cotton says

    The extortion does not end with Obama. they have threatened and succeded in destroying some of the best conservatives Senators and Congressmen the Republican party has had in half a century.

    Go ask Dick Lugar.

    The Tea Party (like the Iranian loving traitors who formed the AIP) doesn’t have the strength to form their own party structure and run on their own. Like Somali pirates, they seize someone else’s boat, one they could not possibly constuct themslves. And one by one throw good men overboard.

    They have done more damage to the Republican party than they hope to ever do to Obama.

    Posted October 20, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  64. the one eyed man says

    “They have done more damage to the Republican party than they hope to ever do to Obama.”

    Schadenfreude: it’s a beautiful thing.

    Posted October 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink
  65. Cotton says

    Hi One,

    I take it your are the malingering, malevolent wandering ghost of Joe Vogler, who hated America so. The “Original Maverick” he called himself.

    The man who boasted “I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions”, and “The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. And I won’t be buried under their damn flag.”

    He was the Godfather of the Tea Party.

    Posted October 20, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  66. Cotton says

    Hey, One,

    My sincere apologies. I spoke out of line by calling you a Vogler. I misunderstood your intent.

    I have now read your earlier post:

    “The first principle here is that no law should be enacted (or, in this case, nullified) without the consent of both houses of Congress and the President (or veto override). The second principle is that the full faith and credit of the government should not be questioned. These are not principles of right or left – they are fundamental principles of American governance. Hence it was both proper and necessary for the President to defend these principles with steely determination. If Republicans have an opposite principle – that one half of Congress should be able to dictate terms to the remainder of government – then they should find another line of work, as that belief is antithetical to both tradition and the Constitution. ”

    I agree with you fully absolutely in that statement.

    Again, I humbly apologize. I mistook you for one of the hijacking parasites who, unable to succeed with building their own party have become a cancer on mine. They are an anti-American pernicious cancer of bitter nihilists,disguising themselves firs as “patriots” then as “Republicans”, a threat to the entire country, from their false history of the Revolution, to their willingness to burn the whole house down, just because they cannot have their own way legitimately.

    Posted October 20, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink
  67. The monocular-one has been joined by cotton-mouth. If they could only hook-up with deviated-septum they would make a great Halloween mask.

    Posted October 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Permalink
  68. Cotton says

    Gee, Henry, wasn’t it Ronald Reagan who famously remarked, “Sarcasm is the body’s natural defense against stupid” ?

    Posted October 21, 2013 at 4:42 am | Permalink
  69. I always say, “Strike while the irony’s hot.”

    Posted October 21, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink
  70. the one eyed man says

    Cotton: no problemo.

    Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

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