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Posts tagged Ed Clark

Contrarium sequitur

In logic, a non sequitur is the fallacy of asserting a conclusion which does not logically follow from the premises.

Usually when somebody commits a non sequitur, it happens because the conclusion somehow seemed to follow from the premises even though it does not — for example, if it follows only when some controversial but not-yet-mentioned auxiliary premises are added to the premises already on the table, or if the conclusion follows from a distinct claim which has been confused with the claims that the premises actually made.

But life and politics being what they are, sometimes a label like non sequitur just isn’t enough. For example, there’s an extremely common argument, supposedly a refutation of anarchism, which holds that anarchism may be ideal for a society of angels, but that, in the real world, people are nasty and untrustworthy and will relentlessly exploit and violate each other given half the chance. The conclusion the statist then expects us to draw from these premises is that we should all agree to give a small handful of these admittedly nasty and untrustworthy creeps monopoly power to force their will on other people without any significant outside constraints from the rest of the populace (!). Or consider Naomi Klein’s repeated recent efforts to point to the failures and massive government violence against free association and peaceable assembly that attend government outsourcing, government transfers of forcibly expropriated resources to legally-privileged monopolists, and other forms of government-backed privateering — and then to use these as evidence for an indictment of those who argue that the government should keep out of people’s peaceful economic arrangements (!).

In cases like these, just pointing out that the conclusion fails to follow from the premises is not really enough here. I’d like to suggest a new name for a certain sub-set: the contrarium sequitur, or perhaps contra-sequitur for short. It’s the fallacy of asserting a conclusion which is exactly the opposite of the conclusion you ought to draw from the given premises.

Examples aren’t hard to find in this modern world. Consider, for another example, the recent miserable failure of the Barr/W.A.R. ticket.

The Libertarian Party leadership hamhandedly foisted Bob Barr and his crew on the party because, as they saw it, the things holding the Libertarian Party back are the fact that many libertarians don’t have much practical experience in electoral politics, and the common perception that libertarians are weird, kooky, or extremist in their positions. So instead they decided to try a new tack of nominating non-libertarians. Their favorite, ex-Congressman Bob Barr, promised that, what with the benefit of his political experience, and with his attempt to repackage watered-down libertarian and smaller-government conservative views as mainstream, he’d be able to deliver millions of votes and tens of millions of dollars in fundraising. Of course, even if he had gotten that, his Presidential campaign still would have been a miserable failure, but a bit less miserable than the past several miserable failures by LP Presidential candidates, which in the world of LP internal politics counts as something like success. But, be that as it may, when it came down to it, Barr made no significant fundraising inroads and picked up just over 500,000 votes out of about 126,000,000 votes cast, coming in at 0.40% of the popular vote. That makes his miserable failure even more miserable than the miserable failures of Ed Clark in 1980 (1.06%), Ron Paul in 1988 (0.47%), and Harry Browne in 1996 (0.51%).

Thus, Barr, the mainstream libertarian and professional conservative politician, failed even more miserably than a gold-bug politician who ran on abolishing the Federal Reserve and unilaterally withdrawing the U.S. from the Cold War, and who took time out of his campaign to give long interviews about the Trilateral Commission and the secret manipulations of the international bankers. And both of them failed even more miserably than an investment consultant whose main campaign planks were to completely abolish the IRS and to use the presidential pardon to immediately release nonviolent heroin and crack users from prison, and who spent the 1970s publishing self-help books about tax evasion, his unconventional sex life, and defending against invasion under libertarian anarchism.

When this miserable failure is pointed out, the response from the political realists and the Barrbarians has been to insist that libertarians need to do even more to sacrifice radical appeals in favor of making mainstream pitches and attracting professional politicians:

We can (and will, undoubtedly) yammer endlessly on about how and why Barr failed, but what did (and always will) infuriate me was that a pragmatic approach was asked for one friggin’ time, once!, and we couldn’t get the Church Members to stop howling long enough to give it a shot.

The Angry Optimist, comment on Where the Libertarian Party Went Wrong, 17 November 2008, 3:40pm

The LP needs to start marketing and building the party. Part of this means they have to stop with their purity litmus tests. Stop scaring off voters by insisting on the right to own nukes. Sheesh. While I myself may be a radical minarchist, I am not so naive as to believe that anarchists/minarchists will ever be a sizable minority. But we can get significant buy-in on smaller less intrusive government. Let’s aim for that goalpost for a while…

Brandybuck, comment on Where the Libertarian Party Went Wrong, 17 November 2008, 3:57pm

The Libertarian Party is a joke, and libertines are its jesters. It’s fun to navel gaze from the comfort of the parents basement, but out in the real world politics are the art of compromise.

ellipsis, comment on Where the Libertarian Party Went Wrong, 17 November 2008, 3:58pm

The Libertarian Party insists on doctrinal purity and has no plans to open its tent. Given that reality, people who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal will continue to stick with the major parties. The LP doesn’t really represent them anyway. Until the LP becomes practical and realistic, it will remain a protest party. Having seen the last convention, it looks like a reasonable LP ticket is impossible, and as such, a strategy focusing on a few Congressional seats also seems unlikely.

— Lamar,Where the Libertarian Party Went Wrong, 17 November 2008, 4:26pm

Or, for another example of the contra-sequitur, consider this recent exchange at The Distributed Republic, where Kyle Eliason objects to some common feminist claims about male dominance in conventional heterosexual relationships, and insists that forcable [sic] rape is the only time women don’t control sex. When challenged, the evidence he uses to defend his claim that women, not men, control sex is that in his experience lots more women than men complain that they’ve been pressured into having sex when they don’t want to:

[How Many Men] Have you heard complain that a woman was pressuring them into having sex too soon or that a woman was just using them for sex?

— Kyle Eliason, comment on Where Do I Join the Women Approach Men At Bars Feminist Coalition?, 29 October 2008, 9:24

What does it say about the state of our society, and public debate, that you really need a name with which to pick out contra-sequiturs? Well. I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

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Cops are here to protect you. (#6)

Cops are here to protect you by stopping an upset man from cutting himself with a knife by shouting at him in a language he doesn’t speak, then, after he fails to obey commands he couldn’t understand, by tasering him, firing pepperballs at him, and then shooting him dead — with several shots fired after he had dropped the knife.

All for his own good, of course. It became necessary to kill Odiceo Valencia in order to save him.

Cops are here to protect you by pulling you over if your car seems suspicious to them and then, if you want to know what you were pulled over for, pulling you out of the car, getting up in your face, and shouting, Ever get smart-mouthed with a cop again, I show you what a cop does, threatening to arrest you for some fucking reason I come up with, bragging that they can come up with nine other things to arrest you for, insisting, when you tell them that their conduct is being recorded, shouting I don’t really care about your cameras, ’cause I’m about ready to tow your car, then we can tear ’em all apart, and then proceeding to give you a ten-minute lecture on how you should properly address your public servants.

Please note that Officer James Kuhnlein’s dash cam tape from that night was inexplicably missing when Brett Darrow filed a complaint with the St. George police department. Actually, I don’t think it’s particularly difficult at all to explain what happened to the tape.

Cops are here to protect you by pulling you over for possibly speeding and then arresting you on a 10-year-old dog violation. Then, since they just can’t be bothered to wait half an hour until your sister arrives, leaving a 15 year old girl and a 7 month old infant stuck alone in a car on the side of the road at 11 o’clock at night.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.—A Grand Junction woman says a state trooper left her baby and her teenage niece unattended in her car for 25 minutes one night when he took her to jail after a traffic stop.

Keio Saupaia said Trooper Jeffrey Vrbas pulled her over at about 11 p.m. on April 28 when she had her 7-month-old daughter and 15-year-old niece with her.

She said Vrbas contacted her sister to come get the children, but that he didn’t wait for the sister to arrive before taking Saupaia to jail.

If that was me, I could have been charged with child abuse, she told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

Colorado State Patrol Capt. Ed Clark confirmed to The Associated Press Monday that Vrbas had arrested Saupaia. Clark said he doesn’t dispute Saupaia’s account but declined to discuss specifics of the incident.

Clark said the matter had been handled internally, but he declined to say whether Clark had been disciplined or to give any other details, citing confidentiality rules covering personnel matters.

I just ask the public to trust that we would handle this appropriately, he told the AP in a telephone interview.

— Denver Post (2008-05-19): Woman says trooper left her baby, teen alone in car at night

But why the fuck would anyone trust them to handle it appropriately?

Trust is earned, not bestowed, and in the case of out-of-control cops like Trooper Jeffrey Vrbas, there is no empirical evidence at all to justify putting trust in the police department administration to do a damned thing about it, beyond possibly ripping him for causing a P.R. problem. When every fucking week brings another story of a Few More Bad Apples causing Yet Another Isolated Incident, and the police department almost invariably doing everything in its power to conceal, excuse, or minimize the violence, even in defiance of the evidence of the senses and no matter how obviously irresponsible or dangerously out-of-control the cop may be, it beggars belief to keep on claiming that there is no systemic problem here, that cops ought to be given every benefit of the doubt, that the same police department that hires and trains these goons ought to be trusted to handle it internally (which means secretly), and that any blanket condemnation of American policing is a sign of hastiness and unfair prejudice. The plain fact is that what we have here is one of two things: either a professionalized system of control which tacitly permits and encourages cops to exercise this kind of rampant, repeated, intense, and unrepentant abuse against powerless people–or else a system which has clearly demonstrated that it can do nothing effectual to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

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